There are a lot of reasons to love Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe: country fried Southern hospitality, campy 80s aerobics feminism, a setting so real that you can actually feel the humidity. But the biggest reason is the family at the center. No matter how you read this book—although, frankly, I think you’re a little bit blind and possibly willfully obtuse if you’re reading Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison as just friends—it’s about two women who figure out how to make their own kind of family when the traditional ways are just not right.
Idgie and Ruth have one perfect summer together in 1930s rural Alabama before Ruth goes off to marry a terrible man. And, a few years later, Idgie saves Ruth from that terrible man and brings her back to Whistle Stop, Alabama. There, the two of them, plus Ruth’s (now their) newborn baby, open up the Whistle Stop Cafe, the hub of this tiny town on the edge of the railroad tracks.
We hear about all of this from Mrs. Cleo Threadgoode, an old Whistle Stop native who meets a middle-aged housewife named Evelyn Couch in the visiting room of a nursing home in Birmingham. Evelyn has her own problems—she’s in a slump, feeling stuck in an uninspiring marriage, feeling useless after her two grown children have left home. She’s lived the life she was supposed to, but the script has run out and she’s not quite finished. But, by getting to know Mrs. Threadgoode and Ruth and Idgie, Evelyn figures out a way to be her own person.
Also, yes, it’s a movie called Fried Green Tomatoes.