I had lunch with a girlfriend the other day. We drove up the mountain to Blowing Rock, stopped at the Storie Street Grill for lunch and had fried green tomatoes as an appetizer. She’d never tried them before and found she liked them a lot. I’d only started eating them after the movie came out. Now I make them all the time.
As the movie begins a phantom train with its ethereal whistle blows up the leaves on the tracks into a ghostly plume. I think of this scene several times a day now because there is a coal train that goes through our town to bring coal to a nearby power plant. I’ve never actually seen the train, but I hear the whistle all the time. It’s a distant sound and strangely haunting and peaceful all at once. Always the same, it resonates between a moan and a cry, as if the train was calling out for help rather than a warning.
But why? Why do we all love train whistles? I have no real history with trains other than an arduous cross-country trip which included, in part, the California Zephyr (before it shut down and then reopened.) I wasn’t comfortable because we didn’t have a sleeping car, and unfortunately some of the best scenery was obscured by clouds and darkness. I’ve also taken a few train trips in Europe, back in the ’60’s before trains became huge, double-deckered, and fast. Most of Europe back then had compartment cars, and we sat sideways, changing seats often to get the crick out of our necks. I remember the trains, and I remember the trips, but I can’t remember ever hearing the whistle while I was in the train.
Is this because of the doppler effect, or is it because I have a mind like a sieve and can’t remember much about what used to be so important to me? Maybe it’s a combination of both. But there’s still the question of why I love train whistles so much. I guess it’s simply because I love the movie Fried Green Tomatoes. Who doesn’t?
My easy fried green tomato recipe: Slice hard, green tomatoes 1/4″ thick; dip in whipped egg white and then Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs. Fry slowly in olive oil until tender. Whip equal parts of mayonnaise and milk, adding fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, and chopped dill to taste. Drizzle over tomatoes; sprinkle with more lemon zest. This is a great side dish or appetizer, and I usually serve it with fish.