When I was in Florida for Christmas this past year, I had a lot of good food. I don’t know what it is, but something about home-cooked Southern food is totally awesome. It’s not just the taste of the food, it’s the whole “ambiance” that goes along with it. A real Southern meal implies things more than just good eats to me. For one meal, I was invited over to Bob in Florida’s house. His wife had prepared a honest-to-God Southern meal, and it was totally awesome. It was a fine meal, fine to the point of inspiring me to write about it in detail.
On the menu was a roast, a tossed salad, some red potatoes, and some green beans Of course, also present were the requisite “greens.” I don’t know about you, but being a Florida transplant from the west originally – I hadn’t ever heard the term “greens.” If you’ve never heard it, greens are the leafy parts of all sorts of stuff, and Southern people love ’em. They cook up greens with all sorts of interesting flavors, and then put hot pepper sauce on ’em before eating. Kinda like a warm leaf stew, or something. Thing is, I’ve never liked greens before. They tend to be bitter and kinda slimy – and I always passed on them. But man, we’re these greens awesome. I even used the hot pepper sauce like a true Southerner. I had like three helpings.
Anyway, we sat and ate and talked. Long leisurely meals are appealing to me, as long as the company and conversation is good. My family always used to talk at dinner, it’s where we’d catch up on everyone’s day. We always sat down and ate together, every night. I actually remember looking forward to dinner time when I was a kid. My mom would plan out the week’s meals in advance, so she could do the appropriate shopping. She’d also “post” the week’s meal itinerary on the fridge each week – I guess her way of keeping us informed about what we were having. Probably it was more of a reminder to her in case there was prep-work she’d have to do or something, but I always thought it was so neat to be able to “look forward” to a meal later on in the week. Thanks mom.
Here’s a long-winded story that eventually ties into the above rambling. I was a junior in college and my friend Kyle was in the Air Force stationed in Abilene, Texas. One winter, we cooked up a scheme where I would come out to visit him. However, being a broke college student, I opted to take a Greyhound bus from. Yeah, a Greyhound bus halfway across the country – 36hrs. I was never what I consider to be a “real” smoker, but throughout college I would occasionally indulge with my smoker roommate. I enjoyed a social cigarette with him quite often as a way to wind down in the evening, or to compliment a few beers and an evening out. The only time I ever bought cigarettes though, was on this particular Greyhound trip.
I mean, I was on a bus guys, for 36 hours. The only time the bus stopped was for a few minutes every few hours, for… you guessed it – a smoke break. At the first stop, I just got off the bus and mingled with the smokers. By the second stop, I was so compelled to get off that bus for some reason, I actually bought a pack of cigarettes and started having one each time we stopped. Normally, I hate smoking. I’ll have a cigarette and halfway through wonder: “Why am I doing this?” I hate the smell, they give me headaches, and they are just nasty all over. But for all their bad points, they can be extremely “rewarding” in their own way. They do promote a feeling of “ahhh,” and relaxation in some cases.
Anyway, back to the story. I arrived in Texas and met up with Kyle, who had been a smoker for a few years. For the entire week, we smoked like smokers. We took full advantage of the smoking sections in restaurants, sitting down for long meals while tugging on smokes and laughing. We smoked in the car, we smoked at the barracks, we smoked after meals and before meals. And for one week in my life – smoking ceased to disgust me. In fact, it became something supremely enjoyable. I remember fearing that I was liking it a little too much, but upon getting back to Florida – it once again became the occasional vice. Something about kicking back at a table, having just enjoyed a fine omelet, and breathing deep from a lit cigarette while discussing random events… I guess it only makes sense in Abilene after two days in a bus.
That bus trip was fun though. Sleeping on my suitcases in Dallas overnight so no one would steal them, playing poker with four old black guys on the floor of a bus stop in Louisiana. My bus leaving Dallas for Tallahassee was so late that, out of frustration, I ended up sneaking onto a bus for Atlanta and pretending to be asleep with they came by and asked for tickets. I figured, at least it’s closer to Florida than Dallas. It all worked out, but man oh man was that an experience.