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Tom Chaney: R746, Re-Review of Eating Your Way . . .

Of Writers and Their Books: . First published in Hart County News-Herald 21 January 2007. This is an updated re-review of a book by Gary P. West, about a field in which Tom Chaney has unchallenged expertise: Eating. His editor, Robert Stone has updated information on some of the entries, including The Depot and adds a note that Cave City's superb steak house, The Oasis, is On Trend and is a True Oasis, to use a Sunday with CM euphenism. A Columbia note: The Circle R Restaurant, Columbia, KY, is reviewed in the book, but not in Tom Chaney's review of the book. He does review Sulphur Well's famous Country Ham Restaurant, now called The Lighthouse - EW
The next earlier Tom Chaney column, R745, A Philosopher surveys his country

By Tom Chaney

"Or what's a heaven for"

Gary P. West was ensconced at the Frankfort Book Fair last fall slogging his latest book. You may recall that his last book was a biography of legendary Kentucky basketball legend, King Kelly Coleman. To match Kentucky's passion for round ball, his latest deals with yet another Bluegrass obsession - eating.

Eating Your Way Across Kentucky: 101 Must Places to Eat (Acclaim Press, 2006) is an unabashed tribute to the legacy of Duncan Hines, the Bowling Green "hospitality guru" who guided the development of our taste in food from 1930's to the 1950's.

In those days of pre-interstate travel Hines led us from one delectable meal to the next -- suggesting places to eat on or near the beaten path.

With the coming of the interstate highway system, we tended to get in a hurry to get from here to there with little awareness of where "there" was -- noshing at the same eatery found in Cave City, Columbus, Cincinnati whether the arches were golden or the colonel had a white beard.

West is among that fortunate band of eaters who have decided to slow down a bit; to give thanks for I-65 because it takes traffic off of our favorite 31-W; and to seek out those places to eat favored by local folk where the food is distinctive and the price is reasonable. "It is time," he says, "to get you off the interstate and onto the wonderful back roads of Kentucky where there are mighty fine people to meet and mighty fine food to eat."

The book is organized by region: Western, Central, South Central, Northern, and Eastern. Where ere you may be, 'taint far to a place Gary likes.

Local folks will be pleased to see familiar places. In Cave City, Sahara Steakhouse gets the nod for its steaks, its vegetable beef soup, and the salad bar. But there is no mention that the Sahara is now a true oasis in the dry desert of Cave Country.

I have not been to Sulphur Well and the Lighthouse since the Porters operated it in the 1970's and 1980's. For a fix of Penn's country ham, it was, in those dim dark days, a treat indeed. West finds it still a fine place to eat, complimented by the sulphuric water across the road at the gum.

Another regional place upon which we agree is the Depot in Glendale. West confirms that a trip up 31-W is still worthwhile. Tony York has created one of the best dining spots in the state with a menu that features fine, fresh vegetables and entrees which are a blend of traditional Kentucky fare with a broad array of seafood with wonderful sauces. [The Depot was heavily damaged by fire and has been followed by Tony York's on Main. -RHS]

Two places West takes us to fill me with nostalgia.

Gary, Duncan Hines, and I share one stalwart favorite -- The Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg. For more than ninety years the Dedman family have been serving elegant meals in this columned ante-bellum oasis. The gracious service and splendid food make a drive to Lexington via U.S. 68 really the only way to go. I like to arrive early for dinner and sit for a while in a rocking chair on the broad veranda before entering the dining room. One must take pause to contemplate the evening's choice. Will it be the perfect fried chicken or the two-year-old country ham? One can always rely on the corn pudding. I've eaten there for more than half a century. It is always a treat.

Another nostalgic eatery is more prosaic. While a student at Georgetown College in the 1950's a gaggle of us always drove out the Lexington Road (U. S. 25) to the county line for late night studying at Sam's Truck Stop. It had all the virtues of a truck stop in those pre-interstate days. Good burgers and fries; breakfast at any hour; and coffee by the gallon. We ate and told stories. We smoked and complained about professors. Sometimes we did study for that exam. Often we perfected our academic procrastination into the wee hours. What a delight to find out from West that Sam's is still there -- almost to Fayette County -- and that it rates a place in the hundred and one.

These are not the only places to get good food in the commonwealth. But they provide a start. One of the hopes of the western world is that one need not be condemned to an eternity of fast food. Searching for the out-of-the-way places where local folks gather may be the closest we can get to heaven in a forest of Burger Biggies and Ticky Tacky Tacos.

I am still uncertain about just how to deal with the contents of this book. A guidebook to interesting places to eat makes for fine reading. But I am tempted to take to the road; to visit some new establishment in Owensboro or Midway or Middlesboro -- towns where I have dined well in cafes no longer in business -- and to seek out new places to put on the list.

Makes me think of the poet Robert Browning.
Ah! That a man's reach should exceed his grasp Or what's a heaven for?

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73/111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney

This story was posted on 2012-01-22 03:04:52
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