At this point, feeling bloated and delirious, we reached the moment I dreamed of many times since the announcement of this journey, the legendary meat-and-three combinations. Prior to the visit to Sylvan Park, I had never feasted on the cafeteria style legends of the south. Ecstatic and enthralled with the atmosphere, imagine a bus load of foodies salivating over the smell of fried goodness seeping through the main doors and the "normal customers" reactions to this unnatural unbridled enthusiasm. Unintentional hilarity at its finest! And considering we entered here at the peak of lunchtime, packed would be an understatement to describe this southern-fried joint. So, we had to double up with other roadfoodies in a snug booth. They were a lovely middle-aged couple residing in the Chicago suburbs, so we had a lot to talk about concerning food in our area. Reluctantly, I admit that their names escape me, but you could not have asked for more decent company. They started roadfooding back in the late 1960s and bless their hearts, they continue it today. I viewed it as an honor to break the roadfood bread, well more than that in this case, the roadfood fried okra with them.
All four of us ordered a meat-and-three combo. Carly and I shared the catfish and sides dish seen above here. The catfish had a light sauteed fry to it; not too rich with heavy breading, but enough for there to be some glistening on our forks as we gingerly teared itself from the filets to our metallic tines. The mac and cheese, which we have all heard before is a vegetable in the south, had a delightfully bland taste that matched its looks with a texture beyond the soft creamy pasta found at your franchised Olive Garden. The biggest disappointment went to the fried okra. Not crisp, very malleable, as if it had just been nuked in a microwave. Its flavor dripped with grease, instead of the vegetable's innate flavor. At this point, I felt bummed about my first meat-and-three dealio. But, then I sampled the turnip greens. Talk about flavorful! These leafy bad boys emanated a rich porky essence that opened my taste buds to the glory of vegetables stewed in porcine parts. The large portion of greens seemed way too small. I wanted to take a side of greens to go, but imagined that might not be the best idea considering we had three more stops to make today. To this point in the official trip, that bowl held the best item in my opinion.
At this point, the German film crew found Carly and I. We were probably the only serious foodies under 30. They interviewed us for ten minutes about our passions towards food and travel. Both of us had great soundbites, so maybe we will make it into the film.
Carly brought to my attention the homemade banana pudding with handcrafted vanilla wafers. Since we were the last to find a table, we were the last to find a server after an unusually tedious wait. We had to take the banana pudding to go. After being the last few people left not on the bus, we paid and ran to the coach. The picture above shows the second before she sampled this sinfully sweet dessert. Honestly, this pudding was crazy tasty. The crumbly vanilla infused the banana flavor. Traditionally, banana overtakes any meal, but with this vanilla sprinkled in through mashing, it was not overpowering; we were besides ourselves. Honestly, tears almost came to my eyes with the feeling of euphoric bliss on my lips, tongue and throat.
I heart Tennessee and all of its culinary contributions.