This time last year, I was eating my way through middle Georgia. No kidding. I started in Macon and chowed all the way down to Hawkinsville, and then back around again just for good measure. Armed with a printout of Back Road Georgia Gems and outfitted in stretchy pants, I was a woman on a mission. Taste as much of central Georgia as possible—no foods barred and all in the name of book research. Would I find some tastes and textures, recipes and culinary traditions that I could use in my book? I sure was willing to find out!
I kicked off my quest in Macon at a hole-in-the-wall joint that served up an amazing fried pork chop sandwich that was succulent and juicy on the inside, salty and crispy on the outside and with just enough heat to balance the coolness of the lettuce and tomato–all stacked on a hard roll smothered in a zesty blue cheese cream sauce. Oh yum! I’d keep that one in mind for a lunch while my characters discuss the story’s suspects—assuming they can keep their minds off something besides their taste buds.
Down the road, somewhere in Peach County, I stopped at a family-owned restaurant for what was supposed to be the world’s best corn fritters. They weren’t exaggerating. Shallow fried, starchy sweetness with bits of corn kernels throughout, served with your choice of fruit jam or honey. This was southern cooking at its best! I couldn’t wait to prepare that recipe for my own fictional family’s Sunday breakfast.
But what southern food research would be complete without fried chicken? And in Cordele, I found a chicken shack that did it right: juicy, melt-in-your-mouth, dark meat cloaked in a perfectly seasoned, paper thin crust and paired with crisp slaw and a buttery roll—a bit of heaven! Did I mention that I wore stretchy pants? Good thing. Because I rounded off the day with my favorite dessert: peach cobbler, made fresh daily at one of Fort Valley’s largest orchards. Rich and gooey, sweet and tart, crumbly, buttery, and just a wee bit sinful, it was served hot and topped with creamy, melting ice cream, and was probably the single tastiest thing I’d ever eaten. Now this confection would definitely make it in my book!
Calorie overload? Yes. An extra pound or two on the hips? You know it. But I believe no sacrifice is too great when it comes to getting my facts straight. And one thing for sure, the characters in the first Georgia Peach Mystery, Peaches and Scream, know how to eat. Whether it’s a slice of pecan pie at Red’s Diner, peach scones from Sugar’s Bakery, or a simple glass of sweet tea out on the front porch, readers can enjoy eating right along with them–calorie free even! Just be careful, though. Because all the good food in Peaches and Scream is served up with a side of spicy mayhem and a generous dollop of murder.