BOOK EXCERPT

Two for the Road: Our Love Affair with American Food

We ate until blissfully satisfied, and as we rose to pay at the cash register, a man also walking up to pay his bill stood aside, tipped his cap, and politely allowed Jane to proceed ahead of him. His harshly lined farmer's face and sweat-darkened mesh work cap had seemed ominous when we entered, but this courtly gesture and his soft "Morning, ma'am" made us realize how off-base our fears had been.

Out in the street, three other men were staring at our license plates. "Connect-tee-cut," one of them said out loud, impressed by the jawbreaking complexity of our home state's name.

"That is some fine vehicle," another said to Michael, who repressed the urge to sell him the Suburban on the spot.

"Thanks," Michael said. "And that's one nice café you have here.

Good breakfast."

"You come back soon," they said as we got in and turned the key in the ignition.

We looked at each other and smiled. The biscuits and country ham had left a glow on our taste buds, and our spirits had been warmed by the community of people we had stumbled into. We gazed at the map of the U.S.A. with the squiggly route we had drawn all over it. The long line no longer seemed like a daunting task. Now it was a wide-open door.

Hungry for more, we drove on.

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