Fridays in Florala

Some Friday if you find yourself near Florala, on the (get it?) border of Florida and Alabama, you could do worse than stop at Sara’s Big R, “Southern Cooking at its Best,” for the Friday seafood buffet. For $11, heap your plate. First of course the fried offerings: shrimp, catfish, chicken (a sort of fish, apparently), stuffed crab, hush puppies and fried summer squash so sweet it seems a fruit. Then the creams and mashed: potatoes, cauliflower, corn, rutabaga, corn grits. There’s beans, corn, corn on the cob, spinach and greens, green beans. Then the salads: corn and corn salad, pickles, huge tomato slices, hard boiled eggs, relishes, canned fruit (of course), cottage cheese, bean salad, potato salad, more, more salads. A sort of pudding cake we didn’t try. Go back for refills (Maurizio did). All good. Southern cooking at its best, just like Sara says.

I believe it was Sara herself whom we saw when we came in, talking to an older gentleman who suffered from reduced lucidity and mobility. He was going on at some length about his troubles. Sara leaned close to hear him and said several times: “Hon, you just tell me what you need and I’ll do it.” Our waitress, a teenager who loves basketball and hates computers (“I bet you never heard a teenager say that”) means to go to community college for her associates, then U. of Florida to begin her journey to ob-gyn. “It’s what I always wanted.” I’m sure she’ll get it.

We’d been looking for some time for a place to eat and put off by the last few establishments’ odd couplings: “Chainsaws and hot dogs,” said one. “Milk shakes. American owned.” Then you find Florala, a lovely little town of deep porches, huge trees and a wide, wide lake of the state park. Stop at Sara’s Big R. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

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“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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