Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Road Trip to Georgia

I never considered myself much of a Southern sympathizer. I grew up in the border area of Kansas and was a Jayhawk all the way. However, over the years I came to appreciate some Southern history. I learned my mother was born in Arkansas, I married into a family with some roots in Georgia, and I found that a Frenchman in North Carolina started one leg of my family. When I reread Gone with the Wind as an adult followed by a read of Margaret Mitchell and John Marsh: The Love Story Behind Gone with the Wind, I had a real hankering to drive across some of the South. It took me two years but recently made the trip.

Georgia was a pretty state, but I found much of the terrain similar to the rolling hills of Missouri. The abundance of Southern crepe myrtle started here and was lovely. Kudzu was in evidence of course. There were not the lovely roadside wildflowers of Missouri though. Two famous battlegrounds were on the route, Shiloh and Chickamauga. Both were beautiful settings, and it was hard to imagine the carnage that took place there. Visitors were quiet and respectful in both battlegrounds; the trees were tall and stately, silent to the horrors they had seen well over a hundred years ago.

Although I saw what was left of the home of John Ross along the way, I was severely disappointed to find New Echota closed when I got there. This was the last capital of the Cherokee Nation before the Trail of Tears. Although I cannot trace my own line back far enough to see where they started on the Trail, ALL Cherokee came from somewhere near these Southern points. Oklahoma is not the native land for any Cherokee.

I was also disappointed that Flannary O’Conner’s home, Andalusia, was not open on Labor Day when we passed through. However, we did visit Milledgeville, and I could picture the writer visiting the quaint stores and homes there during her lifetime. (I was to learn later in the trip that Milledge was a name that meant “grits cutter” or miller.) We saw the Episcopal Church where Sherman lodged his horses during the Civil War. He had his soldiers pour molasses down the pipes of the church’s organ so that signals could be not sent to Confederates.

While that day’s agenda seemed to be a failure, all was not lost. By moving on down the road, we made Social Circle, Georgia in time to have a lovely supper at the famous Blue Willow Inn. It is a lovely old home serving meals on Willow plates and decorating the walls with Blue Willow dishes. The grounds are lovely, landscaped with flowers and shrubs, including a small koi pond. The menu is served buffet style and all the foods are Southern favorites. It was my first sampling of fried green tomatoes, although I remember hearing that my grandmother made them years ago. I sampled turnip greens, not a favorite. I liked my first piece of peanut butter pie, although I was so full by then that the pie did not get its due! Other foods like crooked neck squash, macaroni and cheese, apple salad, corn muffins, sweet potatoes were side dishes I make often. I might be more of a down-home Southern cook than I thought!

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