Phyllis and I had a five hour drive back from Milledgeville to the Myrtle Beach area where she and Art live, which we did last Friday. We were on main roads but rural ones, dotted with Baptist churches: Piney Woods Baptist, Second Beulah Baptist [implying a nearby First Beulah Baptist], Primitive Baptist, and so on. Milledgeville had a Catholic Church, as did Savannah, but there weren’t any out in the hinterlands and not much call for Presbyterian, Episcopal, or Methodist houses of worship or synagogues either. You may remember from Driving Miss Daisy that Atlanta has a longstanding Jewish community, but they have not wandered out to rural Georgia it seems.
We might have been just over the state line into South Carolina when we decided to get gas and have a bite of lunch. Since we were agreed that fast food chain restaurants were not our thing, we were happy to find Truck Stop 44 — pink Truck Stop 44, loaded with burly truckers getting gas. As soon as I saw “Best Liver and Gizzards in Town”, I knew we were on to something.
My Iowa cousin Bob once challenged me to eat turkey fries, which were fried-up turkey gizzards on saltines — and I did. Honestly, if Bob York were still with us I’d have gotten the gizzards, just to send him the pic of me eating them. I think he would have responded with something like, “Well by God you’re a York after all.”
I got a burger with truck stop chips — home made potato chips — and Phyllis got a sandwich and a side of stewed squash. Our server asked if I’d like malt vinegar with the chips, which both Phyllis and I think of as a New England custom. I asked for ketchup, but said I’d try the malt vinegar — which seemed to please. Another server brought the food and the vinegar, and watched while I sprinkled it on, cautioning me not to use too much or it would leave a bad taste. Both ladies seemed happy when I said I liked the combination just fine.
The second server had pink hair and tattoos, and seemed to want to chat. She grew up in Wyoming but came here with her father when her parents divorced. She’s been local for 11 years, and works at Truckstop 44 and at Sonic, where she has made it her business to try all the Slushie favorites. She steered us away from the Green Tea Slushie, which she said tasted nasty. I asked her if she liked small town Southern living — “town” being a stretch for as far as the eye could see — and she said it was about as good a place as any.
Truck Stop 44 offered decent food, pretty cheap, and there were two single women there eating the $4.99 lunch special, which came with fries and a drink. On Thursday nights, quite improbably, they have an Indian buffet. I think at a place like this were I there on Thursday night I’d stick with the gizzards.