One of the benefits of my many years in book publishing is that if I ask nicely enough, I can often get a book before it’s available in stores. Today the UPS guy arrived with a wonderful surprise: the new revised edition of Roadfood (in bookstores April 12), which I’d requested long before it was even printed. I don’t know about you, but Roadfood is something of a bible for me.
On our first-ever trip together, S and I rented a car and drove around Virginia and North Carolina a few summers ago, using a beat-up copy as our main guidebook. We’d point the car south each morning and drive towards whatever food piqued our interest. Later on, when we got engaged, we acknowledged that trip as something of a turning point: the fact that we were both Roadfood people—the type who didn’t need reservations or even a firm itinerary, just a desire to seek out the tastiest, most authentic experience possible—left little doubt that we were right for each other. The highlight of the trip was a two-hour drive, entirely away from where we’d been touring, to Keaton’s in Statesville, NC, for barbecued fried chicken. That’s right, I said barbecued fried chicken. I don’t care where you live—it’s worth a trip of many hours and grueling obstacles just to taste this wondrous, so-good-you’ll-lick-the-tablecloth creation. Cuz really, what could possibly be more delicious than pan-fried chicken, crispy and ever-so-slightly greasy, that’s dunked in a vat of spicy, robust barbecue sauce seconds before it hits your table? I swear to god, it’s been almost two years and I still dream about this chicken. And we never would’ve found it without the guidance of Jane and Michael Stern.
So, back to Roadfood. Now that we own a car, we keep that battered book in the backseat, its pages marked up with asterisks and exclamation points. Between our mid-south trip two years ago, our honeymoon in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, and even little day trips here and there, it’s seen a lot of use and never let us down. The only disappointment has been the lack of listings for Western Massachusetts, as we discovered on our recent trip to the Berkshires. But this new edition does have one spot added, a Mrs. O’s in Lanesboro. We’ll have to head back up there, just to try it. And by the time the next edition comes out, hopefully we’ll have sampled some of the Midwestern entries, and the Great Plains, and the Southwest…
What’s that I feel, down in my big toe? Must be my driving foot, getting itchy.