Clinton, S.C., Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 4:57 p.m.
Maybe tonight’s Truck race on the Eldora dirt has made me more attentive to the rustic.
I had an appointment this afternoon and decided to have an early supper. I’ve got three of the peaches I bought on the side of road left, so maybe tonight I’ll cut one up and mix it with the rest of the cottage cheese. Fresh peaches and cottage cheese are a smooth combination. Today I’ve written part of a short story (the first two installments are posted at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com), mowed my mother’s yard, paid some bills, and completed some travel plans, and I’m feeling good about myself. Myself feels good, too, because I’ve been outside and sweated. The lady at the doctor’s office said I was good to go, so I didn’t feel too guilty about trying the smorgasbord at Trotter’s.
Trotter’s used to be about a mile from my house. That was when it served as the restaurant at the Holiday Inn, which became the Howard Johnson’s and then the Clinton House (and something else similar), and is now a half-torn-down eyesore that looks exactly like it would on the Gaza Strip.
The new Trotter’s, located in a building of its own, has been open a while, but it’s sort of out of the way for me, and I just hadn’t gotten around to trying it.
The barbecue joint closed a few months ago, and I miss it, but it’s good to have Trotter’s open again because every Southern town needs a place where a man can reliably find country-fried steak, squash casserole, steamed cabbage, and what we are fond of calling macaroni pie.
Outsiders tend to rename our foods. Growing up, I never heard of chicken-fried steak or pulled pork. We had country-fried steak, and our barbecue joints offered the pork options of chopped and minced. No one really ever pulled pork since health departments got so prominent. It’s chopped. Country-fried steak is a little different from chicken-fried. In Texas, they batter and fry the cubed steak (that’s the steak that’s been run through a cubing machine), cover damn near a whole plate with it, and pour gravy (here we call it “sweet-milk” gravy) over it. Country-fried steak simmers in a covered skillet, in the gravy, before it is even served, and the gravy is generally brown instead of gray.
I like them both, but I like our style a little better because that’s the way I was raised. Ditto our mustard-based barbecue. For twenty years, I traveled all over the country, homesick for South Carolina barbecue, and damned if Hickory Hills didn’t close down a year after I got back.
A friend once told me that I could never like what everybody else likes, because, if everybody else started liking it, I’d stop. I think that’s just indigenous to my native state.