A trip south
Two or three times a year, I make a trip south, always for dual purposes. The main reason is to go see my boys who are living in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Michael teaches a 5th grade history class at Waymon Tisdale performing arts elementary school in Tulsa and Will is job searching after retiring from Bank of American after 10 years. Although Oklahoma did not fight for the south in the Civil War, it is considered a southern state by the U.S. Census Bureau because it is south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Itís also notable for having many confederate soldiers move there when the Civil War is over. Arkansas, of course, is pure southern with all the southern traditions you find in other southern states which always makes it fun and unusual to visit.
The second reason I make the trip is for some good old southern cooking that is difficult if not impossible to find in Nebraska. Thatís what I was raised on when I was growing up and you never forget those early years of fried pork chops, sweet potatoes, watermelon, homemade chicken fried steak, every pie imaginable and shelling pecans every Sunday afternoon as the family sat around our kitchen table and conversed for hours while we attended to our duty.
We are all creatures of habit and I had gotten into kind of a rut in terms of the food I was eating when I went down there to visit so I decided to change things up this time. That was helped by Willís wife, Erika, revealing to the family that she was pregnant with the baby due in late March. I sort of jumped the gun before I left McCook with the news because I was so excited about the new addition but was quickly chastised because she didnít want anyone outside family to know until she was certain it was going to be a normal pregnancy. She found that out last week after her bloodwork so then is became permissible to tell the world. We didnít put any pressure on either one of them to have children because we wanted it to be entirely their decision, even though we were getting older and time was running out. I was afraid I would have no one to pass along the Hendricks name and bloodline but now I can at least hope I will, even though Will and Erica donít want to know what sex it will be until itís born.
I spent the first three days at Will and Erickaís house because my express intention was to attend one more tailgate party before an Arkansas football game and I got to do that. The people we attended with were life-long friends of Will and cooked up some barbecue ribs and Cole slaw that you just canít find in restaurants anywhere. The food was delicious and the company was fabulous which made it a very enjoyable afternoon. Of course, it didnít hurt that Willís best friendís dad had just purchased a half-million dollar motorhome that looked more like a mansion on the inside than a vehicle. Two bedrooms, including a Master, two baths, living room, and rec room, outfitted to go anywhere you would want to go. His dad just retired from an upper-management position at Tysonís who evidently pays really, really well.
I went from Willís to Lindaís, my ex-wife and the mother of our children and the first place we ate was a Japanese steak house called Sumoís. This featured a chef preparing your meal in front of you and when he brought out my food to be cooked, I knew I was in over my hear. There was enough there to feed four people and thatís what I got. Chicken, rice and noodles were the main ingredients and I knew there was no way I could eat it all, even if I took it home, and my feelings were correct. Linda got on to me for biting off more than I could chew but that was to be expected.
Later that week, I had been hearing a lot about Cracker Barrelís new southern style chicken dinner and was anxious to try it. Linda was on a self-imposed diet so I picked up an order just for myself. When I got it home, it was obvious to me that people making menu decisions at Cracker Barrel had no experience with southern cooking. The chicken was comprised of two boneless chicken breasts covered with white gravy and a true southerner knows you do neither of those things to southern fried chicken. Southern fried chicken always comes with the bone-in because southerners like to suck on the bones after the meat is gone and never is gravy poured directly onto the chicken. So that was a major disappointment.
The final place I ate was at Michaelís in Tulsa where I spent a day on the way back home and we ate at a chain restaurant called Twin Peaks. I had eaten at the Denver location a couple of times and liked what I had so I thought I would try something new in Tulsa. I ordered the Chicken and Pancakes meal and it was the best food I had had on my entire trip. The chicken had a spice to it that I had not tasted before and the waffle had syrup that had already been applied in the absolute perfect amounts. It was the only meal I had while gone where nothing was left when I finished and I canít wait to go back.
If you find yourself in the South in the near future, try the food I liked and avoid the food I didnít and it will elevate your trip significantly.