June 26, 2009: Louisville KY to Knoxville TN

Bottom of the Barrel

John here.  It has fallen to me to describe our lunch today.  On our way from Louisville to Knoxville, we decided to stop at a Cracker Barrel in London KY off I-75.  Cracker Barrel: regular people food, always busy, cute gift shop, what could go wrong?

Well, let’s see.

Mary ordered grilled catfish with baked beans and coleslaw; I ordered chicken and dumplings with turnip greens and fried okra, with cornbread and coffee for both of us.  Good Southern fare, food that we’ve had on occasion over the years.

The catfish was cooked properly; so was the chicken in white sauce.  Mary’s coleslaw was OK.

Things went downhill rapidly thereafter.

The baked beans lacked seasoning, despite being cooked with what looked like pieces of ham.  (How is this possible?)

The fried okra lacked any crunch or texture.  (Not enough time in the oil?  Oil not hot enough?)

The turnip greens had been cooked past death, just a stringy mess without much taste.  (Grrr…)

The dumplings were large and thick.  Most of them were not cooked through leaving large pockets of gummy flour paste inside.  (I suspect this is a serious felony in the South.)

But the absolute worst was the cornbread: dry, grainy, salty and greasy, with no hint of either sweetness or corn taste.  It was as if the salt, sugar and baking soda components had been replaced with salt, salt and more salt.  (This has got to be a capital crime in the South, with the offending cook’s grandmother obligated to mete out the punishment.)

Oh, and the coffee was weak.

On the way out, we noticed that the menu cover was emblazoned with the phrase “Good Country Cookin'” (note the apostrophe).  We should have known that the food gods would slap us down for violating one of our cardinal rules of road food.  (See the Mom’s Cafe post from earlier this trip.)

Suitably chastised, we continued on to Knoxville, where had to drive through one of the most intense patches of rain that we have encountered in a long time on the way to a perfectly decent dinner at Puleo’s Grill.

Tomorrow: on to North Carolina!

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