What's travel without food? Despite the fact that we took our meals at the conference center cafeteria, there was still plenty of opportunity to observe and try new foods.
Being in the south, the cuisine was definately different from up here in the northern midwest. Every morning, without fail, we were offered bacon, sausage, eggs, biscuits and grits (biscuits and grits are what differ from elsewhere). I took the grits every morning as my "carbohydrate". Decorated with salt and pepper, they were an excellent side kick to the eggs and bacon.
I noticed we had people on both sides of the great divide in our group -- those who put sugar and butter on their grits and those who stick with salt and pepper. A similar war is waged in Scotland over the correct topping for porridge. I happen to be on the sugar side of that war.
Grits aside, there were also some other things that appeared on the menu: fried okra -- I first tasted this in Uganda when we stayed with some missionaries from the south; fried anything and everything (some form of fried meat was available at every dinner), sauteed apples (I think these are meant to go by the name fried apples too, but they looked more like apple pie filling with out the crust); sweet as can be sweet potatoes with brown sugar topping; and one day there appeared a great pan of butter beans.
It was then that I heard a friend utter the phrase, "The very nectar of heaven," as he sat down at our table, his plate more than half covered in the pale, cream-colored beans. "What's the very nectar of heaven?" I asked, eager to learn about some new, wonderful food. "Butter beans are the very nectar of heaven," he repeated with relish. And then proceeded to launch into a weighty argument with another friend about the truth of this statement, all arguments based on the principles of apologetics.
By the time lunch was nearly over I was ready to get past my dislike of most forms of beans and give the butter beans a try. I remember being served some type of huge bean in Scotland which was actually so soft and melting that I didn't mind it. Perhaps the butter beans were the same. So, I tried some. "I'm not sure these qualify as the very nectar of heaven," was my verdict. My friend assured me that, while these beans were very good, they didn't compare with the butter beans his grandmother could make in her pressure cooker.
The next day, while sitting in the airport awaiting our flight home, our friends happened to walk by. We decided we'd all sit together to wait the time out and our friend excitedly declared, "We're going to have Carolina barbecue for lunch. Now THAT is the very nectar of heaven." Somehow I believed him a bit more than I had with the butter beans.
We waited all morning for the lunch hour, sitting in front of the Carolina BBQ sign.
And then it was finally time to order: barbecue, hush puppies, greens, green beans, coleslaw, mashed potatoes and even a fried pickle.
This time I had to agree -- this food was good, even if it was served in an airport. Imagine the taste if our friend's grandmother had made it!!!!
The barbecue had flavor, was not dry, and appropriately covered in coleslaw, was delicious! And cooked greens -- so good!!! (Maybe that's how my friend felt about the butter beans.) Not to mention everything else.
So I really did get to have something authentic while we were away!!!