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Jun 23rd, 2012
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Deep fried turkey

I have a confession to make. I love American people.

I have never met an American who isn’t a thoroughly decent, charming and wonderful person. So they are not very good at picking politicians, but neither are we. The ordinary people are just lovely.

I knew I was going to love Kentucky long before I got there. Jase (Jason Horger), business partner, writing partner, and keeper of my horrendous comma splices (Mel, hunny, prepare to be drowned in commas)… Well Jase is the little brother my parents never got around to giving me.

I love him unconditionally, and his lovely, wonderful, loving wife, Angela… and their adorably naughty, and clever little girl, Kate.

Even the annoying debacle in Chicago could not dampen my enthusiasm.

Coming in to land, as the plane banked you get this vista of beautiful rolling green fields, and white fences. Everything you ever imagined the horse capital of the US would be is right there in front of you.

The place is just beautiful. Even the airport is small, quiet, dignified and beautiful in its own way.

Stepping out into the warm spring air, the surprise is the lack of pollution. This is the nation of the gas guzzler, or so we are led to believe in the UK media. Not so. Well not in Kentucky anyway.

Jase and Angela had quite a programme planned, first of all, the tastes of Kentucky. The first night was Tex-Mex, and I was really introduced to the concept of the take home box. I had burritos with two different kinds of sauce… delicious.

That’s the other big thing in the US. Service is service, with a side order of warmth and friendly charm.

Never more apparent than at Cracker Barrel, the old-fashioned country store where we had breakfast in the morning (more take home boxes, does anyone ever clear their plates?). I had the sampler breakfast. Oh my… a breakfast for champions… I failed dismally. Mind you, I now know for certain that grits without copious amounts of garlic and cheese (exactly as Angela makes them) are a travesty of a dish, and that sawmill gravy looks sorta weird (and gravy isn’t the most breakfasty of substances) but tastes great, especially on nice crispy bacon. Eggs sunny side up (thank you, Tom).


Breakfast over, we headed to the Horse Park.

I came home.

I haven’t ridden for almost twenty years. Horses were my anchor to sanity growing up. Especially after my father passed away when I was 12. Up close and personal with them again, my soul knew it before my brain caught up. I miss everything about horses and riding.

People will think I’m crazy if I say this. Just the feel of that coat beneath my fingers, the smell, the strength, I’ve always loved big horses the same way I love big cars. All that power beneath you. It’s magic. And I’m just me, not Sj, or the happy face that I put on to a world that doesn’t care, just the basic essence of  me and the horse. I have no need to be anything other than me. Believe me there is no better feeling.

So wave of nostalgia carried me over. I floated out of the park on a euphoric high. Which was neatly followed by Windy Corner, and the BEST BURGER  I have ever eaten. Wow. Burger, medium rare… that was actually MEDIUM RARE. Soft, juicy, yummy and completely wonderful. All washed done with the local special Ale-8-one… known as Ale-8. This beverage was so delicious and an utterly refreshing change from Coke. I fell in love  with it. I have since discovered that, for a smallish consideration, 24 cans of it can be mine, delivered to my door. I am saving for that right now.

This leads me to alcohol. To those who know me well, I am a beer girl, and I can be a serious wild party animal when I don’t fear driving home. Kentucky is also famous for bourbon. So we had to do a distillery tour. Fascinating stuff. Especially when we got to barrel storage and this scruffy, tatty old ginger cat wandered by. Turns out he’s the most photographed thing in the distillery. Ooohs and aaahs, and much snapping of pictures, and he wandered on his way, utterly unconcerned by the attention he received, in the way of most cats.

So having experienced the wonders of Woodford Reserve, Jase’s step-dad Rick (who is an aficionado of Bourbon) held a tasting at his house. I can say with confidence that the powerful 140 proof nearly blew the top of my skull off. Holy moly! The others were more to my taste, and apparently I have got something of a palate for this, because I correctly selected the second one as the best one of the bourbons on offer. Jase’s mother, Helene treated us to a wonderful dinner for a second night.

The trip to Ashland, Kentucky was tremendous. A special deep-fried turkey event was laid on specifically for my benefit. It is an event. A gas ring, open flame, and a dirty great cook pot with four gallons of boiling oil hovering just above it. Like opera it hovers gloriously on the edge of catastrophe, and like barbecues, this is an event that requires a team. One man to cook, and two men to hang around, hand the beer out and move cars about.

Beer and barbecue

And beer. Beer. You will have to forgive me if some of my memories of this incredible experience are a tad hazy, because I was a long way past plastered. I know that I had 8 beers. That was a definite. I may have had a glass of wine, I’m none too sure of that. But I partied like I had not partied since…. well since about 1999. All I can say with any degree of certainty is that Angela’s parents, Katie and John are lovely, delightful, warm, welcoming people who also made me feel part of the family, that Angela’s brother Zeke made me laugh, and his wife Lori is a beautiful, sweet person.

That summed up my trip in a nutshell, having a wonderful party time amongst good people with love in their hearts.

I loved every single moment of my trip. And I came away feeling more loved and cherished than I have for a very, very long time. In the simple things I found some peace, and that in my life is greater than gold.

To Rick and Helene (Jase’s parents), Katie and John (Angela’s parents), Zeke and Lori (Angela’s brother and his wife), Jeff (Jase’s brother), guys you just made my trip perfect and I love you.

Jase and Angela, I miss you guys so much, thank you for giving me the best time of my life.


1 Comment

  • Mel

    Brings back many memories of my Nashville days, where I discovered Gin and Pineapple as a beverage, and mastered the art of the Mint Julep!

    Looking forward to tackling those comma splices. 🙂

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