As many of you know, Jonathan and I are on a cross country road trip. Were traveling for 6 weeks, camping, eating, visiting major cities and driving through some incredible American landscapes. Check out the map above to see our route!
Our first strange and interesting food stop was in Virginia, in a place called Penn Laird along Interstate 81. I had read about this place, Gayles Country Ham, in Saveur magazine a few years ago. The description of the ham sandwich sold there was so compelling, I put it on our list of must-hit spots along the way.
Before I write any more, let it be known that I am truly a New Yorker. I would say that I have grown up in a bit of a bubble, being born and raised in Manhattan. I don’t have much experience with driving, small towns, country roads, and American oddities.
That brings us to Gayles. Gayles Country Ham is a small, old, slightly dingy road-side store selling snacks, some random dry goods and hardware, and a ton of ham products. Smoked hams, ham trimming, little ham nuggets from an unknown part of the pig, bacon, sliced country ham all these are packaged in vacuum sealed plastic and displayed on wooden shelving throughout the store, something that seems common in this part of the country but which I’ve never seen (I guess curing, smoking and vacuum sealing eliminates the need for refrigeration, we didn’t always have refrigerators but… we do now)
Keeping strongly in mind the rave review of this sandwich, I approached the slightly unapproachable woman behind the deli counter and awkwardly ordered two country ham sandwiches on white bread with cheddar, mayo and mustard. As she was making the sandwiches, this lady asked me at one point whether they had enough ham (they did). When we went to pay, they charged us by weighing each sandwich. Despite the fact that they each weighed about half a pound, they were $4 each.
We ate these monsters in the car out straight out of the plastic wrap. This was the American southeast in a bite. The ham was on the border of too salty, but was offset by the almost brioche-like 2 thick slices of white bread, the copious amounts of mayo and the quarter inch thick cheddar. This sandwich was delicious, but I also had a hard time eating it without considering the effects it was having on my arteries. Unsurprisingly Jonathan finished his in one sitting, whereas I guiltily snacked on mine throughout the rest of our day.
Overall Gayles was worth the stop, both for the (somewhat kooky) experience and the quality sandwich itself.
Follow us on instagram @jonnymeats and @jessicafaithmeter and stay tuned here on Bite Sized for more adventures to come!