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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Breaking Out For a Trip to Speed's Kitchen

I am ready to climb out of this funk that has enshrouded me for days. My knee and back are still painful, but I have learned that pain medicine makes me constipated and does little else. My knee hurts every time I put weight on it. Walking is a chore, but no manner of rest or ice has proved to change the situation. I am weary of sitting on my ass as it grows wider by he day. 
Today, P and I are going to drive up to Shellman Bluff to eat at Speed’s Kitchen, my favorite place in the world for fried shrimp and crab stew. We will take the Old Coast Road to Darien, passing through the marshes where centuries ago, rice plantations thrived, driven by slave labor. We we will ride up Highway 99, through Ridgeville with it’s clapboard antebellum homes that sit back from the road, fronted by wide lawns lush with azaleas and dotted with ancient oaks. 

We will pass through Meridian and a few miles down the road, we will turn east at Carnigan toward the Tolomato Spanish Mission Ruins. There lies a rookery populated by Wood Storks and Ibis (glossy and white) and Egrets (great and small) and other herons, like the Great Blue. We will pull out the binoculars to peer at them and speak in hushed tones as we take photos.

The tiny communities of Valona and Cedar Point and Crescent dot the road on the way to Eulonia, where we will reconnect with the Old Coast Road. From there it is  only a few miles north to the turn-off for Pine Harbor and the hard left that takes us to Shellman Bluff, one of the oldest fishing villages on Georgia’s coast. We will drive through the piney coastal plain with mobile homes and churches scattered along the roadside. On a Sunday there will be gatherings for preaching and dinner on the ground, with ladies dressed all in white - right down to their shoes and stockings. And they will all be wearing hats.

In 1976, when my brother, John, introduced Clint and me to Speed’s and we began traveling the forty-or-so miles up the road from Saint Simons to eat there, Shellman Bluff was a sleepy little fish camp, not even a hint on most maps. But fishermen knew where it was, and they launched their boats into the Broro River there. A few cabins were scattered about and there were two restaurants - Speed’s Kitchen on Speed’s Kitchen Road, just past Shellman Bluff Baptist Church, and Hunter’s Cafe in downtown Shellman Bluff, across the road from the river.
We used to have to walk through the kitchen to get to the dining rooms, comprised of two trailers hooked together to form a T. Today, there is an addition on the front where the main entrance is. Even the “new” room feels like a mobile home. In the first “old” room, there is a photo on the wall of Clint and “Miss Virginia,” taken by Kay on the night of Homer's 60th birthday dinner. Miss Virginia took care of our rowdy group that night, and the spirit of that evening lives on. On my last visit to Speed’s, while I was still living in Macon, I borrowed the picture, took it home and had it reframed and mailed it back.
The menu, for as long as I can remember, has been printed on a blue and white paper place mat. On the side of the menu, you will find this statement:  “Shellman Bluff. Not a place for Fast lane folks. Ain't got no red lights.” And they mean it. If you order broiled flounder stuffed with crabmeat, the girls will prepare and stuff that fish to order, and it can take as long as 45 minutes to an hour to be fed. It was Clint's favorite food in the world, and we always enjoyed the wait. 
Loosen your belt when you sit down. Have a cup of crab stew and some slaw while you wait for your meal. If you order a fried dinner, it will be out fairly quickly, and you will be amazed at how delicious it is. As I mentioned above, broiled dinners come out more slowly, as do crab au gratin and deviled crab, but they are more than worth the wait. I can taste the crab au gratin right now. Oh, and the hushpuppies…sweet with onions and crunchy as fried chicken. Kay Nelson taught me how to peel a hushpuppy and feast on the crust, dipped it in Speed’s incomparable tartar sauce. 

And take your checkbook or be certain you are flush with cash, because they don’t take credit cards. If you want anything hard to drink, take that with you, too. They don't sell alcohol, but they're happy for you to brown bag it.
So, I am off to shower and dress for our outing. The anticipation of the drive and the wonderful food have me excited and hungry. It will be my second trip to Speed’s since Clint’s death in 2009, and I expect to shed a tear or two when I see his photo on the wall. They will be good tears, though. He will be there with us, not like old times but like new times, better times.

Copyright 2014
cj Schlottman

1 comment:

Sue said...

I hope you had a delightful day! You deserve it.