Friday, December 24, 2010

21 Southern Dishes and a Roundhouse, or, Why 24 Hours in Savannah Was Not Enough

While bicycling along the tree-canopied streets of the city that was Abraham Lincoln's Christmas present in 1864*, I stumbled upon a railroad museum that rivals that of Sacramento.

(An example of a beautiful old Savannah home. I am a writer, not a photographer, OK?)

The Savannah Roundhouse Museum is an antebellum railroad repair center that has tons of stock on display, in addition to loads of information about the railroad's role in the South, and the Central Railroad of Georgia. You can climb around and explore the facility to your heart's content, especially when you are the only visitor, as I was, and the only other humans there are two old men planting a garden in the same place that railroad workers used to keep theirs. There are photos of the men showing off prize-winning veggies proudly after their annual competitions.

(A steam locomotive from 1859!)

The site is also home to the Coastal Rail Buffs Society, who keep an amazing model railroad there, and have an informational video about their tireless activism to pressure the local government into developing a decent rail transit system in the city, and plans to build an expansive new multipurpose community center in the old buildings there. This is how rail fans work to enrich our lives, people!

Finally, came the moment that I had been anticipating with childlike excitement for so many hours.


I got in line at Mrs. Wilkes' and immediately befriended ten other hungry gluttons, who adopted me as their leader as I was alone and drooling most impressively. We were seated at a huge round table in the homey dining room plastered with pictures of generations of cooks, glowing reviews, and photos of Barack Obama eating there mere months before. I follow the President's culinary footsteps very loyally apparently. Upon close inspection of one photo, I realized that our very waitress had served him his sweet tea! In rapid succession, millions** of steaming dishes were placed before us, many of which I still would not recognize in a line up, but all of which seemed to be sufficiently salty, sweet, fluffy and/or fatty respectively. The fried chicken was a favorite, as were the sweet potatoes, which one presuming diner kept stealing from me. I did not feel the need or ability to consume anything else for a very long time after that meal, let me tell you.

Afterward, I rolled*** into the Historical Society, where I looked at beautiful old maps and read about an amazing Polish-American patriot called Count Casimir Pulaski. He met Benjamin Franklin in in Paris in 1777 and was so inspired that he came to to Georgia to help fight in the Revolutionary War, and was killed in the Siege of Savannah in 1779.

(One of many reasons to bike in Savannah)

I ended my tour in the city's creepy, haunted graveyard, and promptly hopped onto the evening northbound train, in search of some snow. Little did I know, it would get a bit closer than I would have liked, and sooner than I thought.


*After his famous March to the Sea, during which General Sherman made a habit of burning railroad ties, melting the iron tracks, then somehow picking them up and tying them around tree trunks and telegraph poles, he sent a telegraph to Lincoln on December 22nd saying, "I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton."

**21 actually, I counted; Contact me personally if you would like a complete list organized in order of which dishes I liked most. I expect to be flooded with emails regarding this issue.

***Literally and figuratively at that point.

Post Script
I failed to find a proper place to incorporate this into all of the impressive things I learned about Savannah in such a short period, but:

1. The first steam ship to ever cross the Atlantic Ocean was the S.S. Savannah in 1819 and,

2. Juliette Gordon Lowe founded the Girl Scouts here in 1912.

Just thought you should know.

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