Food: Trip cut short leads to enticing find

Kate Lawson
The Detroit News

Long car trips are not the recommended vacation travel for someone suffering from extreme lower back pain; I learned that lesson last week. What was to be a two-week road journey to Nashville, then Memphis with stops along the Blues Highway to New Orleans and finally Austin, Texas, was cut short when the co-pilot finally confessed that his back pain was unbearable; 11 more days of car travel was out of the question. My plans for barbecue and blues took a turn south.

We’d made it to Nashville on the 4th, and the city was teeming with folks waiting for the huge fireworks display while trying to stay dry from the continuous dousing of rain. That was when we decided to cut bait and head home the next day. But first we treated ourselves to Tito’s martinis (bruised with a twist) a medium-rare ribeye the size of a catcher’s mitt and lobster tails at the Fleming’s next door to the hotel. That beats fireworks any day in my book.

The eight-plus hour ride home was uneventful until lunchtime rolled around. A small red sign on I-75 near Lexington caught my eye: “Red State BBQ.” So we pulled off, made a few turns and found ourselves outside a small red and white barbecue shack that was in need of a coat of paint and with very few cars parked outside. Once we stepped inside we knew we were in the right place; it was the menu of my dreams: pulled pork and chicken, brisket, corn pudding, beer cheese grits, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes, collards and more, oh, and ice cold beer. The staff was impeccable and so friendly. It took me forever to make up my mind and we smiled all the way through the meal.

I love fate: If we’d continued on our trip we would have flown home from Austin, missing this wonderful place for all time. Granted we missed out on Memphis barbecue, New Orleans beignets and Austin music but we’ll get there –soon – and we’ll fly.

I have to say, it’s nice to be home. And even though my barbecue doesn’t come close to what we had in Kentucky, we are fortunate enough to have a son-in-law nearby who can smoke meats and chicken like a champ. Of course I will try to re-create the incredible corn pudding and beer cheese grits the next time he prepares his famous brisket, but meantime, this avocado, bean and corn salad I prepared to go with some of his beer-can smoked chicken he recently prepared reminds me that no matter where you are, when the food’s good, life’s good.

Kate Lawson is a retired Detroit News food writer. You can reach her at

Avocado, Bean and Corn Salad

Recipe from Kate Lawson

1 medium ripe avocado

1/4 cup white onions, chopped

1 can chickpeas, drained

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 ear of fresh corn, kernels removed

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons lime zest

Juice from one lime

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

Sea salt and coarse-ground pepper to taste

1/3 cup fresh cilantro

Begin by slicing avocado in half, carefully scooping out the inside, and dice the avocado into 1/2-inch cubes. Place in a bowl with beans, onion, corn and tomatoes.

In a blender, combine all the ingredients for the dressing and pulse until well combined. Toss with avocado/bean mixture. Chill until ready to serve. Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 230 calories; 10 g fat (1 g saturated fat; 39 percent calories from fat); 32 g carbohydrates; 11 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 415 mg sodium; 8 g protein; 9 g fiber.