Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Georgia's Historic Restaurants

Around my house, we love Sundays. Sunday afternoons are our family time, and we try our best to limit the chores we feel obligated to do. Now that our church has started an early service, we're home by 10:30 am, clad in our pajamas, ready to read newspapers, eat homemade salsa, and play with Fat Baby all afternoon long.

The Carnivore read out loud a snippet from an AJC article about their food writer attempting to sample all of Alabama's "100 Things to Eat in Alabama Before You Die" in seven days. That reminded me of a cookbook, Georgia's Historic Restaurants, that my mother had found for me at a yard sale a few months ago.

While The Carnivore made quesadillas for dinner, and while Fat Baby pushed his walking toy in countless circles around the island, I stood at the bar and read out loud from the cookbook. We were thrilled to find recipes from The King and Prince in St. Simon's, from The Cloister at Sea Island and from Harry Bissett's, right here in Athens. Bissett's has long been one of my favorite local restaurants, and I was tickled to see that they had included the recipe for Maque Choux, my all-time favorite side dish. Alas, their recipe for Crawfish Etoufee was not included.

Bissett's has been the site of many memorable occasions for me, and I cannot think of the beautiful New Orleans style restaurant without thinking of the people I've spent time there with, and of course the fabulous food we shared. There were office Christmas parties all those years I worked at a certain copy shop, brunch with friends the morning after The Carnivore and I got married, celebrating a friend's FINAL graduation from UGA when he received his Doctorate of Entymology (I have odd friends), a few birthday celebrations with my mother, and those Friday nights when I would meet The Carnivore there for a "date" after a long day at the accounting firm during the grueling (shudder-to-think) tax season.

After finding Bissett's, and the Georgia Barrier Island spots that we're familiar with, I started at page one and began reading the cookbook cover to cover. For every restaurant, and there are 50 of them listed, there is a page or so dedicated to the story behind the area, the building, or just the restaurant itself, and it is truly fascinating reading.

I got intrigued when I came to the Nacoochee Valley Guest House . When The Carnivore and I lived in town, on Nantahala Avenue, the road that ran next to our neighbor was Nacoochee Avenue. It was clear that most of the street names in Normaltown were Indian, but I always wondered what the story was behind them. According to this book, Nacoochee was the daughter of a Cherokee chief who fell in love with Sautee, of the Chickasaws. The tribes were enemies, and the lovers met tragic deaths at Yonah Mountain (Yonah Avenue was only a couple of blocks from us). I read this out loud to The Carnivore and we were hooked. I have post-it notes stuck to half the pages now, to signify recipes I want to try, and we both look forward to reading more of the history of these great restaurants.

And I plan, when Fat Baby is ten or so, and no longer gets cranky after riding in the car for long periods of time, to travel around the state and try the restaurants I've now read about but have never had the chance to visit. After all, I would much rather eat my way across Georgia than Alabama.

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