Sunday, January 15, 2012

Return to Alabama

Last week I returned to Alabama for the first time since I left in August. I was there for a week and had a pretty good time.

Over the last five months, when I've told people that I lived in Alabama for the previous two years, they're quick to point out the obvious: "living in New York City must be a lot different than Alabama."

Well duh.

But the differences are not what people think.

The major difference between a small town and a big city is that in a small town almost everything shuts down by 10:00 PM. While there are still some places open past 11:00 PM and even as late as 2:00 AM, there are few late evening activities. Even if you're not going out much late at night, the fact that you cannot affects the feel of the whole town -- it feels more sedate.

The other major difference is that in places like Montgomery you cannot walk anywhere. Even a drug store you have to drive to. When you consider the fact that drug stores provide life saving medicine, it's pretty remarkable that in Montgomery you have to have a car to have access to this resource.

Another difference is that the cost of food, especially produce, is actually cheaper in New York and Philadelphia. At a place like West Side Market of Fairway, produce runs about 50% cheaper. Even Florida citrus is cheaper in New York.

Further, in Montgomery, the 10 percent sales tax applies to food. Having to pay not just tax on groceries, but 10 percent, is easily one of the top 3 craziest things about Alabama.

There were a few food products that seemed to be cheaper in Montgomery. One was wine -- prices were several dollars less than New York and Philly -- and Chobani yogurt, despite the fact that Chobani is made in upstate New York!

One thing New York and no other major west coast or northeast city has is Southern cooking. I did a lot of eating during my trip, and the highlight was my favorite restaurant: Red's Little School House. Their fried cornbread is amazing, as is the fried chicken livers and gizzards.

I also made it to another favorite restaurant -- Micheal's Table -- where the "WTFOMG Fillet of Beef" (five-year gouda grits, potato latke, bacon, olive oil poached egg, hollandaise sauce, garlic greens) was back on the menu after a year-long absence. Sadly, I only had time to swing by El Ray's for a margarita (which are better than most up north).

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