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Veggie Across America: Food from the Heartland


the coop #1

the coop #1

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Hugh and I were determined not to eat a steady diet of fast food, trail mix, and protein bars from Atlanta to Los Angeles. Currently in Las Cruces, New Mexico, we have somewhat fulfilled this mission, though I admit I am writing from a diner with pancakes, eggs, and bacon sitting right next to my laptop.

In each state we've traveled through, we have managed to sample some incredible local cuisine. We've found that unassuming storefronts can contain incredible food. Below are a few of the dishes we've eaten and restaurants where we've dined along our journey.

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the coop #2

the coop #2

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Pictured at left is The Coop in Tuskegee, Ala. They made the plate pictured at the top of this article, plus a few breasts of simply incredible fried chicken. It was definite southern eating and though our arteries hardened a bit, and the drafty restaurant wasn't too inviting on a freezing night, we thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the food. The ambiance was basic--rustic, even--with a TV blaring local news and a few cafeteria-grade tables and chairs soaking up light from exposed bulbs. Cigarette smoke curled around a corner as the cook took a break from her kitchen duties. But who cares when you're biting into perfectly fried chicken after a long day on the road?

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AL Riverfront restaurant

AL Riverfront restaurant

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In Selma, Ala., just west of the Alabama River and across the famous Edmund Pettus Bridge, a waterfront restaurant sits and quietly churns out incredible southern cuisine. Its faux-wood paneling, sagging drop ceiling, and worn carpet belie the magic coming from the kitchen. The fried catfish tasted as if it had been caught that day, and the accompanying hush puppies were also cooked to perfection.

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This morning in Carlsbad, New Mexico, Hugh and I decided to forgo Micky D's and instead ate an authentic Mexican breakfast at Rojas. Strong coffee, chorizo, huevos rancheros, and a gut-busting breakfast burrito (I don't know how to say that en Espanol) filled us to capacity, and the waitress even brought us dessert on the house. We each ate one bite of the rich, fried cinnamon concoction and promptly waved the white flag.

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Hugh & Colin

Hugh & Colin

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What good is great food if you don't have a friend to enjoy it with? That's Hugh Dorsey on the left, doing his best to look cheerful right after he told me he'd kill me in my sleep if I ever made him pour smelly vegetable oil into a car in 29-degree weather again. All joking aside, he's been an awesome friend and assistant on this journey.

Despite his post at a prominent New York City law firm, Hugh is not the citified type you may think, having completed study abroad programs in countries as distant as Africa and China. He can kill and cook a chicken himself, thank you very much, and has done roadside repair on dusty Land Rovers in the African desert. He likes the idea of recycled and renewable fuel, and to prove his interest he has jumped in and lent a hand with everything from filter changes to refueling the old Benz wagon. Not to mention, he has been indispensable as a co-pilot, giving me a chance to rest when fatigue sets in.

Upon completing the journey, Hugh and I will be back in the gym double time, trying to work off the destruction wreaked by all of the fried food and so many days spent in the saddle.--Colin Mathews

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