Regular Tummy Time readers might be surprised to know that Pam and I have stopped off at the McDonald's chain of restaurants at least a dozen times on this road trip. They have great restrooms. At Maccas, no-one bothers you if you walk in, visit the restroom, then walk out. Fab places, with lots of locations. Recommended for swollen bladders everywhere. We haven't got a clue what the food is like there, as we haven't bought any. But I do think they deserve a generous plug for their excellent facilities and we can recommend Maccas to all road travellers searching for a comfort stop.
However, when it comes to buying roadside meals at lunchtime our strict policy has been to look for the little places, and they haven't let us down yet. Last Sunday, in the middle of our long 300-mile drive from Charleston up to Atlanta, we were feeling quite hungry by the time we arrived in sleepy Bamberg in South Carolina. Now, you'd be forgiven for not knowing where Bamberg is, but it has some famous neighbours. About 20 miles up the road there is Denmark, and north of Denmark there is Sweden. A bit further north is Norway, and not far to the east of all these is Finland. Got your bearings now?
This photo of Rusty and Paula's was taken as we were leaving (and we were some of the last to go) but when we arrived there were cars everywhere, and that's the road sign that says "eat here".
Though you probably can't read the lettering on the door, it says Rusty & Paula's is open from 5am to 2.30pm each day. Catering for the workers, they are. On Sunday it's open 11am to 2.30pm, and when we walked in the joint was full of well-dressed people in their Sunday-best, fresh from Church, including the local church official in her fine black, gold and red robes.
Inside, Rusty and Paula's was all red check plastic tablecloths. We didn't know it was a buffet ($9.95, all you can eat, including desserts) and so the friendly waitress just said "help yourself, folks". And so we did.
One feature of the buffet was the number of vegetables on offer. Right front is black-eyed peas; left front is string beans; next row is corn (right) and a dwindling pile of spinach (left); at the back is another green bean (right) and collard greens (left).
Pam chose the sliced turkey and loaded the plate with vegies plus rice. Those little round green beans on the plate look a bit like the innermost bean from a peeled broad bean and were just as delicious, but they're not broad beans. Turkey? Yum.
Of course I went for the Southern Fried Chicken, and I loaded my plate up with vegies plus a dollop of potato salad. Such a guts! For a moment I got excited at the little offally looking ring-things with my black-eyed peas. I asked the waitress: "Are these Chitlins?" and she smiled at the foolish boy and said: "No, honey, that's fatback. We do sometimes have Chitlins here, but not today." (For the uninitiated, Chitlins are also called Chitterlings, and they are cooked pig's intestines. So it looks like I've missed out on trying Chitlins this trip. Not sure to be disappointed or to feel lucky, though). Oh, what's fatback? It's a piece of pork rind added as a flavour-booster for the Black-Eyed Peas. Same goes with the Collard Greens: these have bacon in them. They are chopped-up leafy greens a bit like silverbeet leaves which need to be cooked long and slow, and at Rusty and Paula's they were very delicious indeed. The fried chicken was up to the usual high finger-lickin' standard, of course.
Finally, as a farewell to Southern food, this old menu on a wall is not from Rusty and Paula's restaurant. It's a decoration in a pub in Savannah, Georgia, at the Crystal Beer Parlor. These days it's a lively, trendy pub selling designer beers (plus some nice wines) but the original building has long been part of the hospitality industry, and this wall menu is from the old days. While the reflections from the lights blank out one or two choices, we were fascinated to see menu items such as "Liver and Gizzard Country Barbecue". Menus were simpler back then, but the southern love of eating the whole animal has been alive and thriving ever since man looked at his livestock and said "hello, breakfast".
So that concludes the Southern Editions of Tummy Time, folks. We're heading for the Big Apple now, and we're sure there'll be something of interest up there,. However, the Weather Channel says the forecast temperatures for New York are down in the 50s and 40s (°F) for the next few days, and rain is falling, so it seems our love affair with American sunshine might come to an end when we step off that train in Penn Station in Manhattan. But I'm sure the love affair with American food won't skip a beat.