I live in Louisville, Ky. It's actually got some things going for it as a large town, small city. I actually moved here from Seattle in the late 90's so the culture shock might have even been greater than from So Cal. The culture here is mostly a stifling mix of Southern and Midwestern status quo, with a small but visible progressive community. Still, as you say, there's just something alien about the South that I'll never get used to.
Wow, I wish I DID live near you. There's something magical about lentil soup when it's made just the right way. I grew up with a Greek grandfather that loved to cook with plenty of olive oil, grape leaves, lentils, feta, goat cheeses etc. I wish I had more time to cook - I'd definitely go back to a more mediterranean diet.