The curse of the cornbread - Joel Hall

After nearly 10 years of hoping, and two years of planning, I finally got a chance to take a trip to Savannah, Ga.

Coming from a coastal community in Virginia, I've long felt the need to dip my feet in the waters of the state I now call home.

The trip was not only a chance for me to relax and get away from the occasional insanity of metro Atlanta, it was also a chance for me to diverge - if only for an extended weekend - from a self-imposed diet of low cholesterol foods.

For the last few months, I have drastically altered my diet in an effort to get my cholesterol down 50 points, and it has paid dividends. In that time, I have lost about 20 pounds, simply by eating more whole grains and cutting out things like butter, fast food, and microwave dinners.

However, I had four days to take advantage of every savory, southern-fried square inch of Savannah, and I decided to indulge myself.

The first place I decided to go was "The Lady & Sons," the fabled restaurant owned by culinary celebrity Paula Deen. I had no idea that trying to sit down for the Sunday buffet would be as difficult as entering Buckingham Palace uninvited.

Initially, I was turned away, but after rounding a corner and coming back, a concierge handed me a pink ticket, and told me to run as fast as I could to the waiter inside. Like Charlie getting ready to enter Willy Wonka's factory, I entered the buffet, completely unaware of what I would have to pay.

From the buttery hoecakes, to the triple-glazed yams, everything in the buffet looked and tasted like diabetes, but in a good way. By the time I had finished off the banana pudding, I received a $40 bill for a two-person lunch.

While I was thoroughly satisfied, I've paid less to eat at the lunch buffet at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. The ticket included one free entree at Paula Deen's brother's restaurant, Uncle Bubba's Oyster House, so in an effort to get the most for my dollar, I made the seafood restaurant my next target.

Uncle Bubba's was the last "fancy restaurant" I ate at before heading back to the Atlanta area. I ordered the crab cakes and along with them, came a delicious basket of bite-sized cornbread muffins.

My girlfriend, who was with me, warned me that, perhaps, I was taking my indulgence too far. Unfazed, I took a second order of cornbread muffins along with me for the ride home.

That was when weird things began to happen. Before getting on the road, I had snacked on five of the bite-sized muffins. Once on the highway, there was an odd incident to account for every muffin I ate.

· Driving along Interstate 16 for about an hour, I soon became hungry for real food. I decided to pass Metter, not realizing that the road from Metter to Macon is an endless expanse of farmland and armadillo carcasses. I was starving by the time I got just south of Macon.

· After leaving Macon, and getting onto Interstate 75, traffic was snarled for hours on both sides, due to a six-county chase led by an Albany man in a stolen truck.

· After getting out of the traffic, I decided to stop at the Tanger Outlet in Locust Grove to look around and shop. Unfortunately, I locked my keys in the car, prolonging my trip by several hours.

· Upon leaving the Tanger Outlet, after waiting hours for a tow service to open my car door, an elderly couple traveling beside me drifted into my lane, forcing me into oncoming traffic. Fortunately, nobody died, and I was able to make it back to I-75 unscathed.

· After finally getting back to the Interstate, I spent the rest of the way back to Clayton County stuck behind a foul-smelling cattle truck.

The lesson I learned from the experience is that one shouldn't let even the buttery goodness of Paula Deen's, or Bubba's cooking stand in the way of one's goals. I'm going back to bran muffins for awhile.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.