Saturday, July 7, 2007

600 Miles to Heaven

Let's see it's Saturday so that means that it is Hattiesburg Mississippi tonight. Last night we ended up watching "What Not To Wear" until midnight. You know this show, cute girl and tall slightly effeminate man help misguided girl friends from across the U.S. find their true fashion self. I don't know why but I'm strangely attracted to this show. Maybe it's the transformation angle; last night's theme was helping a woman lose her "skankyness" and find her true beautiful self. Or maybe, God forbid, I actually am interested. Whatever the case I learned several things last night:
  1. Skankyness is a real term
  2. "Boobs" are referred to as "Girlfriends" in sophisticated company
  3. Slightly Effeminate Man is 6'4' according to PD1..
  4. ....and he just loves to break up suits! Yay!

Anyway, all this is to say that we were up until midnight and then rose at 5:30 to begin our 600 mile sojourn to the Mecca of Mississippi BBQ (blasphemous, I know). Amazingly, we made the trip in just about 9 hours which included a stop at our new, favorite breakfast place; "Waffle House".

Not "The Waffle House" or "House of Waffles" or "Bob's Waffle House", just plain old Waffle House spelled out in yellow block letters. Amazing places, these Waffle Houses. Each one has a MacDonald's like consistency to them right down to the glass windows with the curiously steamed windows in them. I say curiously, but I probably should say invitingly steamed windows because, and I know this is bizarre, but those windows speak to me. True fact, they're saying "come in , yes come in, our waffles are so moist and wonderful that our window just done steamed up".

And so we did, just outside of Lake Charles Louisiana. Oh boy these babies were good. Great buttermilk flavor; PD1's were augmented by the choice requisite for all 15 year olds, chocolate chips. Another critic might say they were too heavy and cakey, an that critic might be right, but sitting there in that wonderful little shop, with the steamed windows and the pony tailed manager with the gauged ears, they were as good as any in America my friends. And did I mention the hash browns? Fried to perfection, they were with cheese (American of course) onions and ham mixed in. After we finished, we sent our waitress off for another order.

Our destination, Hattiesburg, appeared in the distance around 3:30 this afternoon. We exited, stopped for a Starbucks and then checked into our hotel, the local Holiday Inn. A quick half hour in the gym, and we were ready for some que. Tonight we set our sites on two of Hattiesburg's finest, Leatha's and Strick's.

Leatha's was our first stop, and to be honest the only one we should have made tonight. Initially we had a little trouble finding it. You see, we could see the Leatha's sign, but all that we could see was new RV's! "Maybe it's out of business" PD1 suggested. I gave her a stern look and muttered, "enough with the negative waves, man" and we pressed on. You see, behind those RV's is a ramshackle sort of building, and yes, the scent of smoke. Whatever that primitive sense is that BBQ touches in man, lit up like flare on the fourth of July I tell you, Leatha's appeared to be everything we hoped for.

As we entered, I realized I had forgotten may camera and told PD1 to wait inside while I returned to the car. "What should I do?" she asked. "Just stand there, I'll be right back" I said. When I returned PD1 had a big smile on her face and led me to our table. It turns out, Bonnie, one of the family had come right over welcomed her to Leathas and made her feel right at home.

This was to be the subtext for our entire stay. You see, Leathas is run by a family and each and everyone of them works to make sure you're having an enjoyable stay. During our dinner, we must have been approached by no less than 6 of the family and either welcomed our asked if we were enjoying ourselves.

And enjoy ourselves we did. Was it the best BBQ I've ever had? No. The ribs were too tender for my taste, and I prefer a heavier smoke on my meat. But don't get me wrong folks, this is some mighty fine stuff. PD1 was in heaven over the pulled pork, and I really thought that Leathas has a way with beef ribs; tender meat, smokey crust and a latent texture that pleases the mouth in a way that few meats ever do. One note for Leatha: Make some real Baked beans, we were certain that what we got was Bush's from a can. None-the-less, we left Leathas content, happy and committed to returning again someday. Our friend Syd, is lucky to be so close to this wonderful, welcoming place.

As for Stricks (I'm always tempted to call it Snickett's; a sign?), not much to report except that if Leatha's is closed you might want to think about other cousines. 8pm on Saturday night and the place was empty, our pulled pork was over cooked (and here's a trick - oddly fuzzy!) and the fried okra both over cooked and tasteless.

So that's all from Mississippi. Hard to believe our sojourn is nearing the halfway point already. Tomorrow it's Memphis, Elvis, Bozo's, Corky's and Leonards.

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