Across Tennessee. By Kia.
As all food critics know, sometimes it is worth doing a big round trip for the sake of a good meal.
I gun the Kia into life, the massive supercharged beast under the hood exploding in a throaty roar. We pootle off at a steady 40mph, heading out on the highway, looking for adventure and whatever comes our way – in this case being a gastronomic experience that Jay Rayner, Michael Winner etc would die for.
The USA is a bit funny about food. Its restaurants are about a grillion times better than ours in every respect, if you are looking for any type of unpretentious family dining experience, preferably including steak, chicken or ribs. But they have this bizarre concept called ‘fine dining’, which essentially means ‘anything not steak, chicken or ribs – but could be steak, chicken or ribs, just cooked by a chef with a name.’ The idea that adding some broccoli means that a restaurant is now ‘fine dining’ is not a concept that I’ve got to grips with yet.
But it is time that I showed the LTLP some culinary flair. We head north and cross the state line.
I am a bit disappointed in the state line. I know about the state line from the Dukes of Hazzard, and as far as I was concerned it was this sort of magical thing that made you invulnerable once you crossed it. You could do a bank robbery and blow up the sheriff and insult his dog, but as long as you got across the state line in a car chase accompanied by banjo music before he caught you, you could basically just stand there and blow raspberries and there was nothing that he could do about it except go ‘gooogeeegooogoothemdukesthemduuukes.’
There is just a small sign as you enter Kentucky. I thought they would have made a bit more of it.
As we leave the big interstate road and head across country, the area becomes more poor and run down, sometimes quite depressingly so. The rural poor are a forgotten people. We pass old derelict shacks and abandoned cars. ‘TV is the Gateway to Hell’ informs a sign outside the local church, reassuringly.
“Wasn’t that the motel?” asks the LTLP, as we speed past a motelly-looking building.
“Ooops,” I say. “I’ll turn round. Didn’t it seem to have a couple of broken windows? Or was that just me?”
I turn the car around and we retrace our steps.
“Yes. It has broken windows. And somebody has set it on fire,” I confirm.
We head off to a different motel.
I hope Mr Obama is able to help rural America a bit, as the people – especially in the South – are just so damn nice. I chat to the man in the gas station, who switches the pump on especially for me, as I am English. I chat to the lady in the news store, who sells me a copy of ‘Backwoods Home’ magazine as a gift for Mrs Short Tony, and ‘People Waving Guns About Monthly’ for Short Tony. I chat to the girl at the motel desk, who confirms that business has picked up immensely since the other one mysteriously burnt down.
We eat simply, and get an early night. Tomorrow will be the culmination of our 300-mile round-trip for lunch.