Some people get to travel to interesting or fun cities/countries for work. I am awesome enough to get to travel to…south Georgia. Living in Atlanta can sometimes make me (almost) forget I live in the south. Traveling about 250 miles south will quickly snap one back into the reality that, yes, there is a real south and yes, it is a different beast entirely. I’d never thought I would say this, but visiting the unfamiliar expanse of mostly farmland and broken down shacks that dot the land make me really appreciate having a multitude of Starbucks within a five-mile radius.
Anyway, since this was not my first rodeo driving down practically to the FL-line, I have, for better or worse, become somewhat familiar with that particular stretch of mostly empty-freeway on Interstate 75. And, having a particular interest in food, I couldn’t help but notice on previous trips the multitude of billboards promising farm-fresh produce, pecans, candies, meats and other foodstuffs on nearly every exit. I’ve only ever stopped once before, at a small produce stand located next to a dollar store parking lot where I scored the unbelievable deal of 25 pounds of roma tomatoes for the bargain-basement price of $12. Elated by my find I picked up a fresh flat of quart jars on my way home and canned half the box that very day. (Those canned tomoatoes formed the basis of my husband’s tasty sauce made in honor of the commencement of football season to excellent result).
Anyway, feeling lucky from my previous find, this time, on the trip down, I scribbled notes of exits promising particular tantalizing goodies. Peaches (the season’s last!), fresh sausages, pecans, etc., vowing on the way back to finally stop at each place. A culinary tour of south Georgia, as it were. Except it was the tour that wasn’t. An unscheduled stop at a honey farm yielded the best find – local honey purchased, in cash, in the barren entry-way of a trailer where a kind and deaf elderly woman sat, alone, waiting for lost food-enthusiasts (foodie, if you must, but I wish you wouldn’t) to stumble her way. (By way of further illustration, I was still in my court clothes, minus the jacket, when I stopped – I’m sure I made as little sense to her as she did to me). The other highlight was Carroll’s Sausage and Meats (3! convenient locations in places you’ve never heard of and would not visit unless forced by circumstances) where I got more sausage than I know what to do with very cheaply (made with local pork, thankyouverymuch). And what we’ve tried has been pretty good, as well (but, sadly, probably not worth the trip).
The rest of the “tour” was, sadly, unsatisfactory to downright disappointing. Mostly tourist attractions disguised as Varhallas of fresh local produce. Some sad little roadside stands, some outright Disneyland-like attractions parading as orchards. I hit all the exits on my list and then, because I’m nothing if not a sucker for advertising, especially when food is involved, I continued to stop at each exit on my way home, thinking “maybe this time it’ll be worth it.” It never was. I purchased a large bag of pecans out of pity for the old man manning the both, after dismissing a large bag of Vidalia onions and past-their-prime peaches. And a few tomatoes from another place, after dismissing their hard-as-rocks under-ripe (“tree” ripened my non-southern ass) peaches. (Tomatoes were barely serviceable, by the way).
Overall, it was a let-down. At least I was able to satisfy my curiosity. And please don’t take my rant as a knock against South Georgia farmers, in general – this is a lament about the tourist traps parading as local farmstands that fail to deliver. Maybe I need to veer further off the interstate. Although I’m pretty sure that’s how most horror movies start – young female “big-city”* attorney, traveling alone, lured to the deranged redneck’s shack by the promise of seasonal fruit. Probably directed by Eli Roth.
*I live in Atlanta but my office is a small law office located in the suburbs. No matter, anywhere outside the perimeter I am considered one of those outsider “Atlanta” attorneys, stereotyped in ways I don’t fully understand except to know, in general, those folksy “small town” layers (many of whom make more than I do) find me suspicious. My Japanese car tuned to the local NPR station I always manage to find must give me away.
Last note – I am, probably to the detriment of my mental health, hosting not only my family but also my in-laws for the winter holidays this year (ok, yes, Christmas, dammit). I’ll be hosting 2 big dinners for a crowd of 11-13. I have, of course, been pre-planning since we decided to take on this endeavor. I am now starting to plan at earnest (sneer away at that, please). It’s been suggested I blog the process, similar to my Thanksgiving-themed blog and I find this agreeable, finding blogging not only as an effective way to vent my crazy but also useful for organizing my thoughts. But I’m stuck on a name. Ideas?