World Chefs: Southerner finds culinary gems in diners

Tue Jun 14, 2011 6:52am EDT
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Travel writer and food critic Morgan Murphy believes to get to the heart of Southern fare and Southern folk in the United States you've got to pull off the highway.

So the Birmingham, Alabama native hopped in an old Cadillac and tooled 10,000 Southern miles in pursuit of back road diners and out-of-the way dives cooking up regional wonders.

His book "Southern Living Off the Eaten Path," serves up 150 recipes from 75 of his favorite restaurants, along with amiable dollops of local yarns, country wisdom and roadside curiosities.

Murphy, 39, spoke to Reuters about ferreting out the best of the Southern cuisine in the most out-of-the-way places.

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: "I was travel editor and food critic for Southern Living magazine for eight years. I always wanted to do a book on my favorite restaurants. I've eaten at thousands."

Q: Which interest came first: traveling or food?

A: "Both. Food to me is the way you get to know a place. If you really want to understand a city, you have to eat its local food. You can go to its museums, you can take a walking tour, but when you put their food in your mouth you will understand the history of a place. And you'll understand the people.   Continued...

<p>Morgan Murphy is seen at the Colonial Pancake House in Hot Springs, Arkansas, 2010. REUTERS/Southern Living Off the Eaten Path/Handout</p>