I’ve heard it said often – most recently in a football program ad – that it’s not just the destination, it’s the journey. Lots of truth in that, especially when it comes to road trips.
When I took Son to Ole Alma Mater, the journey north left limited opportunities to stop and smell the proverbial roses. Because we had an appointment at the destination, we only stopped once to exercise another sense, the taste of a breakfast biscuit. The journey home, however, was another matter altogether.
There are certain things Son may need to know should he choose to become an Ole Alumnus, too. He can ride up and down the main drags and see for himself all the eating places with the flashy signs. He can cruise the Square to find the finer dining. He doesn’t need me for all that. But someone needs to give him the inside scoop on the stromboli at Pizza Den, the barbecue and crinkle-cut fries at Handy Andy’s, the hamburger and fried pickle spears at Phillip’s Grocery. That is my responsibility as his father.
After lunch at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, we went on another kind of chicken run, this time for chicken of the salad sort. (Another important lesson to pass on: keep a cooler in the car.) We started at the Chevron just off the Square on North Lamar. This is where my old friend Mr. Mistilis sells his feta cheese salad dressing and chicken salad, which I tend to speak of often. His chicken salad is finely chopped – almost like a spread. Just down the hill a little is James Food Center, where we picked up some pimento cheese and their version of chicken salad (slightly chunkier), which was once listed as one of 100 Southern things to eat before you die.
Next we headed south to Water Valley, and the BTC Old-Fashioned Grocery Store. The BTC has received a good bit of press lately, and also published their own cookbook. They carry lots of local produce and harder-to-find items, including – yep – chicken salad. I really didn’t stop for the chicken salad, which was super chunky and included basil and parmesan, but I thought three varieties from three different makers would make a nice taste test. If you are expecting me to pick one over the others, though, you are out of luck. Three different consistencies, three variations of flavor, three great chicken salads. Next time I’m up there and want to buy chicken salad, I’ll buy them all again.
BTC gave us more than that, though. The item that had us oohing and aahing the most was ice cream. Actually, it was gelato, but we’ll get to that in a minute. It was made by the Sweet Magnolia Ice Cream company in Clarksdale. There’s only about a dozen places you can get this stuff, and none of them are in Starkville. Something needs to be done about that. I took a look in the freezer, saw what it was, and perused the flavors. Then I sent Son over to check it out, with the instruction that he, too, should pick a flavor and see if it was the same one I picked for us to share. (It’s important to note here that my cooler was not a Yeti. It was designed to keep boudin cool on the way back from Louisiana, and was perfectly sufficient for chicken salad and feta cheese dressing. It was not cold enough for ice cream. We were going to have to eat it immediately. It was a burden we were willing to bear.)
Son is a good ice cream chooser, as it turns out. I think they call that “being teachable”. An essential quality for a future college student, right? He picked the same one I did, Peanut Butter with Cookies-n-Cream Gelato. That’s my boy. It wasn’t excessively sweet, and it had a goodly amount of Oreo-like cookie pieces in it. But those were not the most impressive traits. Son and I also agreed that this was the smoothest ice creamish dessert we had ever put in our mouth. I would go so far as to call it silky. And after a little Googling, I found out why.
I kinda wondered what the difference is between ice cream and gelato. Generally speaking, I learned that gelato has less fat, less air churned into it, and usually less egg yolks (if any at all.) Churn speed can also vary, as does the ideal temperature for consumption. (Gelato is better at a slightly warmer temperature.) Gelato is more dense, more milky, while being less creamy or buttery, according to my source. But enough with the facts. What you need to know is this: if you are heading for the Delta anytime soon, you need to take a good cooler with you. Otherwise, how will you bring any back for me?
Despite the fact that we polished off a pint of gelato between Water Valley and Bruce, we still stopped at Buck’s One Stop in Calhoun City for a couple of pieces of caramel cake. If you must know, we did not eat them right away. We waited until we got home and shared them with the family. Most importantly, I wanted Son to know where to find it, and just pointing as we drove by did not seem respectful to the man who makes the cakes.
By the time we got to Walthall it was getting close to dinner time, and I hadn’t had a Real Deal sandwich at the Quick Stop in many moons. So we stopped and saw Ms. Audrey and got ourselves one. Really, it was just one – we shared it. Honest.
So now Son knows the way home, and he won’t go hungry, either. In the meantime, I got a new cookbook and discovered Mississippi gelato. Journey accomplished.