I’m often asked why I don’t write other commentaries. It’s better to write about things you know about, and it’s easier to do it when it’s something most folks can agree on — like food.
Yeah, commentaries are supposed to be thought-provoking, even controversial. But in today’s politically correct atmosphere, criticism of new policies, programs, taxes or laws lead to NSA surveillance, IRS audits or visits from the FBI, if not the entire Department of Homeland Security.
My criticism of Brussels sprouts, however, didn’t cause a single international incident.
That’s why I write about good memories. Unlike some men, though, I don’t think about — much less share — my memories of old girlfriends. That would be a very short, boring commentary anyway. But restaurants and recipes are capable of invoking fond memories I don’t mind sharing.
One of the first recipes I ever learned was how to make cream-style corn taste like my grandmama made it. I watched her empty a Mason quart jar of that summer’s canned corn in an iron skillet, to which she had already added a blob of bacon grease. She then added a blob of fresh butter, some salt and pepper. All she added after that was love.
No, it wasn’t healthy, but that didn’t matter to a 10-year-old boy. It was perfect!
My wife has since made an adjustment to that recipe, replacing the bacon grease with bacon bits. It’s really good, but it’s not Grandmama’s.
One of the earliest memories of a restaurant I fell in love with was a restaurant called The Dock. It was located just off U.S. 17-Alternate, on the banks of the Cooper River in Monks Corner, S.C. It was expected that our family stop there either going to or returning from our biannual pilgrimage from Camp Lejeune, N.C., back to Thomas County, Ga. The Dock was famous for “all you can eat (fried, whole) catfish” and a special delicacy — catfish stew.
Those folks got nervous when they saw our family come through the doorway. It was sort of a competition between my older brother and I to see who could eat the most catfish. He usually won because I tended to fill up on the catfish stew. Our younger sisters, Mama and Daddy enjoyed that catfish feast as much as we did.
When I grew up, I returned to The Dock with my own family during my annual visits from Fort Bragg back to Georgia. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to come home more often or stop by The Dock. The Army had other plans. Still, if I missed a trip going south, I made a point of stopping by on the way back north. It made me proud the way my wife and our kids appreciated a place that had so long been a part of my life.
Sadly, during a trip one year, we discovered The Dock had closed its doors. That was more than 10 years ago. It was like losing an old friend.
Several months ago, I had an email conversation with Kim Hatcher, public-relations manager with the Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites. We were discussing fried chicken. She suggested Buckner’s Family Restaurant, located right off I-75 near Jackson, Ga. We visited Buckner’s several days ago. I now have a new friend.
I’ve previously talked about Wilbur’s BBQ in Goldsboro, N.C., which has left its mark in several of my arteries. My thoughts of B&J’s Seafood in Darien are always pleasant. I sometimes find myself smiling as I think about their half-pound (Georgia white) shrimp basket with its half-pound of battered fries.
Those are the times my wife thinks I’m thinking about one of those old girlfriends I’ve long-since forgotten.
It’s nice to know I can still be inspired by a great meal, which I can share with others, and no one will be offended.