Georgia Trip 2010 Vol. III: Where There’s Smoke, There’s Good Eatin’


I had enjoyed a great game between the great Atlanta Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates. After enduring some delays brought on by torrential (but temporary) rain, the Braves had earned another win of what would go on to be a 9 game winning streak). We had dropped my friend, Bill and his wife, Jenny at the hotel where they were staying. We finally got home around 1 AM. I rang out my socks and lay my head down on my pillow while visions of RBI’s and homers danced in my head.

I spent the next day hanging out with Bill and his wife at my sister’s house. Bill and I caught up on the last 25 years. It was like someone had taken the needle off the record for 25 years. During our reunion, the needle was placed exactly in the groove where it left previously (though perhaps with some pops and a bit of warp). For you young whippersnappers who don’t understand that reference, ask your grandparents what life was like before digital downloading (just speak up when you do).

Bill’s wife, Jenny, was somewhat of a quiet and bashful type. She mostly kept to herself and politely declined any offer of hospitality. That was temporary. Soon enough, my brother in law, Larry began heating up a pot of oil on the outdoor grill to fry some catfish. He also had some ears of corn on the grill. Now THAT got Jenny’s attention. She asked Larry if she could put the battered fish in the grease to fry. Larry happily accommodated her. In addition to catfish, there was a bunch of other fish my Dad and his friend had caught. It truly WAS a fine kettle of fish. Larry then offered Jenny something a little different to try. Larry took an ear of corn and coated it in cornmeal. He then had Jenny place it into the grease to fry. Jenny was like a kid in a candy store. Frying the catfish was one thing. Sampling a fried ear of corn was something else entirely different. This truly illustrates the Mason-Dixon Line of cuisine. Why boil the flavor out of something when you can seal the flavor with cornmeal and hot oil?

More friends and family joined the occasion. We all sat in the living room and socialized while my sister incessantly nagged me to play some guitar and sing a song or 17. According to my sister, I “promised”. My debate over the alleged promise aside, I banged out a few chords. With my Dad’s help we sang some Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash (with a dash of Hank Williams). It was a bit hard on the tendonitis but I must admit I DID enjoy fulfilling my “promise”. It seemed like my vacation couldn’t get much better. The next day would be the icing on the chocolate cake.

We drove about an hour or so east to visit my Aunt Judy in a nice town called Juliette. The last time I remembered being in Juliette was when I was about 14 and did a bunch of fishing with my brother and some uncles. I didn’t do any catching but I did a lot of fishing. Juliette’s main claim to fame is the filming of the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes”. Anyway, I digress. Bill and Jenny live about another 2 -3 hours east of Juliette in Savannah. The plan was that Larry would drive in one car with my niece and her boyfriend. I took the opportunity to ride with Bill and Jenny. Bill planned to drop me off in Juliette then head straight home to Savannah. Bill called on his mother on the way there while we rode. Bill wanted to let his Mom know he was on his way home. “Where’d you go?” she asked. “I went to Marietta to see Shane.” She confusedly replied “…the movie?” Bless her heart; it HAS been 25 years after all.

I introduced Bill and Jenny to my aunts and uncles. They all greeted Bill and Jenny with hospitality and hugs. My uncle Richard asked Bill if he was staying to eat. Bill said that he was planning to head home to Savannah. Richard motioned Bill and me over and opened his smoker. Suddenly we were all inundated with the sight and smell of smoked chicken. Bill decided to stay a spell. Richard can be very hospitable but his smoker is VERY persuasive.

I was treated to good eating and good times. My late mother’s cousin, Jackie was there. I had not seen her in nearly 30 years. She presented me with some childhood pictures of my mother that she had scanned for me. That simple gesture was a great gift. On the other end of the generation gap, my second cousin, Amanda, blessed us all with her beautiful singing voice. Little by little, we all began to depart. Bill and I hugged and promised it would not go another 25 years before we saw one another again. I gave hugs and handshakes to all my family.

As we were pulled out of the driveway to go back to Marietta, there were some horses running in a field. Suddenly, we had to stop the car while two wild turkeys crossed the road. While all of this was happening, “Free Bird” was playing on the radio (if I’m lyin,’ I’m dyin’). You couldn’t have written a better ending to the week (with all due respect to Fannie Flagg).

 

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