Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Fannie Flagg, Homestyle Cooking and General Rambling
Cleaning out my book club box last night started me on this little stream of consciousness. As I dug through the various books I'd read for book club and decided which ones I really wanted to keep, I couldn't help letting my mind wander a bit. Some books are just very evocative. As I flipped through Jane Eyre, I was back in high school again, discovering the Brontes for the first time. With Atonement, I remembered all the most wrenching parts of the story all over again and I couldn't help reliving how frustrated and helpless I felt as an onlooker to this story. Being transported to another time and place isn't always a comfortable journey.
And when I got to Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, all I could think of were my grandma's wonderful fried green tomatoes. Oh, they were wonderful! My thoughts wandered from books to good homestyle food. I was in Alabama last year, and I actually got to eat fried green tomatoes (and lots of other goodies) at the Irondale Cafe, the inspiration for Flagg's book.
I try all kinds of different ethnic foods and I've eaten in some wonderful gourmet restauants. However, I will always have a soft spot for homestyle cafes. Sadly, many of them seem to be disappearing. They're not trendy; hipsters don't hang out among the faded seats and peeling formica of the roadside diners. It's too bad, really, because while it may not be fancy, trendy or designed with the latest diet craze in mind, homey little cafes often have some fantastic food. There's just something about these places that brings back all the happiest food memories of childhood, of big family gatherings with lots of food and even more warmth. I may adore tapas at Jaleo, locavore cuisine at our wine shop downtown or a fine dinner in the city, but they just don't engage one quite as warmly as a humble. comfortable plate of country ham, potatoes and turnip greens.
I've found a lot of good ones, but one of my favorites is in Lexington, Virginia.
The Redwood Family Restaurant isn't much to look at in terms of decor, but the tables are clean and I love the food. When I lived in the valley, this was the restaurant to visit in times of homesickness. Nothing is very expensive, and they serve delicious fried chicken, Virginia ham(moist, not all dried out as I've found in other places), and all kinds of traditional southern sides. The owners serve greens with cider vinegar rather than looking at you strangely when you ask for it, and the black-eyed peas with tomatoes are marvelous. You will of course want to save room for pie when you're finished. I'm partial to the lemon meringue myself.
Though located in a rather nondescript building right off the highway, the Redwood is up high on a hill at the outskirts of Lexington. And who wouldn't want to explore a cute little town like this?
Note: If you're interested in trying out the Redwood, you can find them at 898 North Lee Hwy, Lexington, VA (540)463-2168.