Local Eats: Paschal's, The World's Ambassador of Southern Food
Several of us have spent time living outside of the glorious South, and while serving our time as Southern expats we often practiced a ritual following a trip back that provided one last taste of home before heading north to our jobs. A Styrofoam container filled with fried chicken, collard greens, and mac & cheese from Paschal’s was a fitting end to a Southern sojourn. We may have even carried such a container on the plane a time or two, collards and all; our sincere apologies to any of our former seatmates who may be reading this.
Ahhh, the smell of the South!
You may be wondering why we’re writing a post about food at an airport counter. Typically, airport food is the sort of thing that you don’t really think about, you just eat it because you’re hungry and you don’t really have any good options. But we think it is worth talking about Paschal’s because of its unique position in the world of Southern food. We’re big fans of the work of the Southern Foodways Alliance, and we highly recommend you check out their podcast “Gravy”, which describes the ways in which foods became “Southern” and how they’re linked to cultures both inside and outside Dixie. And, truth be told, Paschal’s probably deserves its own category of foodway. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is the busiest airport in the world, and many of its visitors never even leave the terminal due to its status as a hub for Delta Airlines. They may not even set foot on US soil as they connect between countries. Yet some of them undoubtedly stop at Paschal’s and grab a meal between flights.
Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport serves more than 100 million passengers a year, many of whom never actually visit the South
Think about that. There are people out there who have never seen fit to actually visit the South, and for them, the picture of Southern food in their minds is a tray of Paschal’s (probably with a healthy dose of Paula Deen talking about sticks of butter and saying “y’all” around five times per sentence to nobody in particular). And while we may have our favorite restaurants in our hometowns and beyond that we’d prefer to Paschal’s, we consider it a worthy ambassador of our culture to those who haven’t been fortunate enough to experience it otherwise. No, we’re not likely to go out of our way to eat at Paschal’s if we’re not traveling, as we even have spots in Atlanta that we prefer to the original, non-airport location. But we’re also not going to write off eating there if we do happen to be inside the security gates of the ATL. And we’d certainly recommend it to visitors for an accurate taste of our ancestral homeland.
Paschal’s, located in Terminal B of Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta
So, with all of this in mind, we stopped at Paschal’s for Sunday lunch after a return flight from Pittsburgh, PA. And despite the fact that we’re all living comfortably within the confines of the Peach State again these days, it brought back that familiar feeling of gratitude that we can go out and find a respectable plate of fried chicken just about any time and anywhere we want. It also brought sadness that not everyone can be so lucky. We’re glad, though, that Paschal’s exists to give those unfortunate souls at least a glimpse of what they’re missing.