Daddy-Daughter Drive – SDN Column 5-29-13

The Wife had a business commitment. Son had a Boy Scout commitment. I was committed to the International Biscuit Festival, but didn’t relish the idea of traveling alone. That left only Daughter to make this weekend trip with me. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not as if she isn’t an interesting travel companion. That’s not the reason for my skepticism. This was a food trip. And this was Daughter. The Wife and Son will at least try almost anything I drag before them, sometimes with enthusiasm, feigned or otherwise. Daughter is the one family member who could subsist on plain rice, plain Ramen, and spicy chicken nuggets – thus not the ideal candidate to accompany me to a food-centric event. But I wanted a travel buddy and she conceded (with eyebrows only slightly raised) to go, so off we went to Knoxville.
As I have regularly documented, the fun of a food trip – yea, any trip – does not lie simply in the destination but in the journey. This one held high expectations for both. Our first stop was a multi-purpose pause at a convenience store just past the toll booth outside Tuscaloosa. One of the realities of Daughter’s sole companionship on the trip was that she failed miserably as a relief driver, being only twelve. That meant I would have to resort to nibbling should my eyelids get heavy. I did have my go-to pseudo-caffeine, whole sunflower seeds (flavor-of-the-month: salt and vinegar), but I like variety. At the convenience store I found a share-size package of Snickers Bites that I thought would do the trick. These were even smaller than Snickers Miniatures, and following the same trend as Reese’s Minis and others, they were not wrapped. Naked chocolate, if you will. And since it was a share-size package, they did indeed keep me awake for an entire fifteen to twenty minutes.
Our next attempt at inhaling pure sugar in order to maintain alertness came shortly thereafter. In the initial moments of the trip I had promised Daughter that we would make a stop at Cracker Barrel to get a new candy she had discovered from a friend at school. The Barrel was the only place said friend knew where to get them. (She had already agreed that Cracker Barrel would only be a candy stop and I would not be required to eat there. That would come later.) What Daughter didn’t remember was that this new candy was really an old candy – vintage, even – a candy that was not only one of my favorites as a youngster, but also one I had found at a Fresh Market store last year. At my behest she had tried it then, and forgotten, apparently. No worries. I was happy to stop for ZotZ. A ZotZ appears to be a standard piece of hard candy, but surprises you with a secret fizzing center. If you allow the candy to slowly dissolve in your mouth, the fizzy-bubbly powder gently and gradually seeps out. If you bite it immediately (as I am prone to do with hard candies) and all the fizzy stuff comes out at once, you have to be careful not to look like a rabid lunatic. Fun stuff.
It was lunchtime as we approached Birmingham, so I instructed Daughter to cross-reference the two “100 Things to Eat Before You Die” lists and evaluate our options. She can’t drive, but she can read. Birmingham had multiple listings, but many of them were fine dining and we were dressed for a road trip, not for white tablecloths. We also had an appointment for dinner in Knoxville, limiting our search time for out-of-the way joints along the way. Ironically, Milo’s Hamburgers was the one place that was mentioned on both lists, almost as if it were meant to be. The Southern list suggested the crinkle-cut fries dipped in Milo’s sauce. The Alabama list recommended the burger and a glass of sweet tea. A Mega Meal would take care of everything on both lists, with a fried lemon pie to boot. (We were sharing, for all of you who are still wondering why I am not 500 pounds.)
If you are looking for a burger in which the meat is the star, then I need to let you know that this was pretty much a standard fast-food burger. But wait! There’s more! What makes a Milo’s burger memorable is the total package. It comes on a bun slightly flattened by some time on the grill, instantly upping the flavor ante. The toppings were chopped onion, pickle, and the Milo’s sauce, a secret recipe that resembled a cross between A-1 and barbecue sauce. And the sauce was indeed a worthy dip for the hot, seasoned, crinkle-cut fries. When I took a slug of the sweet tea, I didn’t say “Wow, they should sell this in jugs at the supermarket” (though they do), nor did I say “Ewww, how did this get famous?” It was just good sweet tea, and sometimes that’s enough. I asked the nice Milo’s lady what kind of fried pie I should get: apple, peach or lemon. I secretly wanted her to recommend the lemon, because you don’t see those every day. She said they sell a lot of apple, but when I pushed her on the lemon, she said it had a “burst of freshness” and that settled it. With some coaxing, Daughter even tried a bite – unfortunately, it was still a bit hot. It oozed out onto her lip and she said, “This is burning my face.” After it cooled a bit, she did try again and described it as akin to a hot lemon popsicle. Burst of freshness, indeed.
All in all, it was a good choice and our last food stop before Knoxville. We didn’t want to show up full – the Biscuit Bash was ahead.

Newest (and Most Shy) Member of Milo's Kids Club

Newest (and Most Shy) Member of Milo’s Kids Club

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