Required Reading

“Youth is wasted on the young” George Bernard Shaw

 

Eleventh graders around the country read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

They should not

They are too young to know the true meaning of pining for the green light across the water

They have not lived enough to know that we truly do beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Ceaselessly

Ceaselessly

Ceaselessly

Ceaselessly

Hear the sound of the water lapping against the gunwale?

They have not lived enough to know careless people like Daisy and Tom Buchanan who, to quote Fitzgerald, smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness.

They have not seen the studied ennui of Jordan Baker crafted as mask and persona

They have not been buffeted by time enough to know the sadness of Owl Eyes crying out to Nick Carraway, “They used to go there by the hundreds”

They don’t hear their own voices that may, like Daisy’s, be full of money

They don’t know the desperation of Myrtle Wilson

They have no point of reference to understand that there are, indeed, men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything after savors of anti-climax

All of this assumes that you, Dear Reader, have read The Great Gatsby

I read the Jazz Age masterpiece in the 11th Grade, like most high school students

I read it while the biggest problem of the day was how to  sneak that bottle of vodka into the dorm to mix with orange Fanta

Or wondering if we would be sober enough to get back to the bus in Boston for the last return to campus

The book should have been seared into my conscience at the time

It wasn’t

Too young

Too youthful

Too inexperienced

 

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“I’m p-paralyzed with happiness” Daisy Buchanan

 

I have memories of the 1974 film of same name, which they made us watch in class one day

The gauzy lenses

Fey beauty

Soft focus

Hazy

Roaring 20’s

I have re-read the book in each decade of life since

In my twenties, it felt a little more familiar

In my thirties, I recognized myself and the broken world watched over by those creepy eyes in the valley of ashes

In my forties, I weep

Every time I read it

Cry like a baby

Racked

Sobbing

Unable to breathe

Like Nick, not everyone has had the advantages I have had.  Really.  They haven’t

But everyone has had the losses

Dreams deferred

Dreams fulfilled

Sickness

Death

Pain

Things not going according to plan

Not being able to see those we love as much as we would like

Only realizing it when standing at a funeral beside other mourners

On the last page, as Nick concludes that we beat on and yet are borne ceaselessly back into the past, my eyes mist over and tears flow freely

Despair for all that has gone and will never be again

Why they teach this tragedy to teenagers is beyond me

It should be required reading

For all of us in our forties

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hizzoner

My first job after Law School was serving as a law clerk to the Honorable Jackson V. Gregory, Judge of the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit of South Carolina.  That Circuit encompasses Beaufort, Colleton, Jasper, Hampton, and Allendale Counties.  It’s pure Lowcountry.  Circuit Court judges travel throughout South Carolina hearing civil and criminal matters.  We traveled all over the state.

Judge Gregory offered me a clerkship in July of 1997, a full month before our third year of Law School.  I was that most obnoxious of 3L’s, one with a job waiting prior to graduation.

I clerked with Judge Gregory from August 10, 1998, to August 6, 1999.

In that year, I got married, bought a house, and learned a lot from the Judge.

He died on April 24, 2019, much too soon

Below are the words I read at his memorial service on April 29, 2019

It was a beautiful day by the river in Beaufort

Absolutely beautiful

He’d have loved it

Thank you, Your Honor, for taking a chance on me twenty years ago.

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The Hon. Jackson V. Gregory, Portrait by Susan Graber, Beaufort County Courthouse

 

For Jack Gregory:

Don’t do crack with Jack

We were in trial in Allendale, South Carolina

A town which had seen its better days

The main industry in Allendale back then was drugs; it still may be.

On trial that week was a defendant charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute a large of amount of cocaine in crack form

Court was held at the old Allendale Municipal Court since someone had burned down the Allendale County Courthouse as retribution for another judge’s heavy sentencing

Judge Gregory, the Court Reporter, Annette Mole, and I decided that we would all go to lunch together at the Village Inn, which was a great old Southern buffet in Allendale

Judge Gregory loved their vegetables

The Clerk of Court, not having access to a safe, asked that we take the main evidence with us, which was a plastic bag, marked State’s Exhibit 1, containing several crack rocks the size of Ritz crackers with us since she, the Clerk, had no way to make sure the crack stayed in the courtroom.  It being Allendale, it probably would not have.  At night, the police would take it back to the safe in the Clerk’s temporary office in a trailer in Allendale.  You can’t make this up.

So, Judge Gregory looked at me and said, “Hamlin, grab that crack and let’s go to lunch.”

Annette Mole, whom we love, said, “Oh, Judge, I don’t think Hamlin can do that…isn’t possession of it a crime?”

Judge Gregory replied, “Well, guess we’ll all go to jail then,” and we laughed and went to lunch.

Judge Gregory, not wanting to be conspicuous, was the only Judge in the state who did not have a vanity tag identifying himself as a Circuit Court Judge.

Well, as luck would have it, he got pulled on the way to lunch after blowing through a stop sign.

The days of Allendale being a speed trap weren’t over yet back in 1998.

So, the cop walks up to the window, and, there, before God and everyone on the dash board is a bag of crack cocaine for all the world to see in the State’s Exhibit 1 bag

“Sir, is that what I think it is?” asked the officer

“State’s Exhibit 1, is what it is,” replied the judge

“Do you work for the Solicitor’s office?” asked the cop

“No, I’m the sitting judge, this is my law clerk, and this is our court reporter, you can call the Clerk’s office to verify.”

“I believe you,” said the cop, “No one but a Judge would be so stupid as to have a bag of crack rock sitting on his dashboard in Allendale”

We then went to lunch with a police escort.  He told us to lock the crack in the glove compartment while we ate and the policeman stood guard.

Whitney was right, “Crack is whack”

 

I’ll Sleep on It

Judge Gregory heard a lot of motions, as do most judges.  As he would always say, “To my mind,” he was really big on “to my mind”,  but “To my mind, I don’t have to be right, I just have to rule.”

During a super long motions hearing where both sides where arguing really fine points of law in a case about insurance coverages related to a multi-car carwreck where some of the folks where uninsured, underinsured, and some in jail, and some in the country illegally, one of the lawyers, who happened to be a female attorney, was totally winning the arguments.  She knew her stuff. She had it down. The lawyers on the other side, all of whom were generally Plaintiffs lawyer types who didn’t do a lot of coverage work, were really blowing it.

Judge Gregory said he needed a break

We went back into the hallway of the Beaufort County Courthouse and he told me that he was going to most likely rule in favor of the lady.  But, he said, he would take it under advisement so as to not embarrass the other lawyers, most of whom had brought their clients along with him

We went back into the Courtroom, and there were a few more minutes of arguments

The lady lawyer was the last to speak

Judge Gregory looked at her and said, “Thank you Miz So and So. I’ll take that under advisement and sleep with you tonight”

At first there was silence in the courtroom

Then, I started laughing

Then, the lady started laughing

Then, Judge Gregory turned beet red and said, “I’ll sleep on it…I’ll sleep on it….”

 

Lewd and Unpronounceable

During my clerkship, Judge Gregory and I were assigned to six months in the Capital City.  Judge Henry McKellar let us his office.

Most of the terms of Court we had in Columbia were criminal terms.

The worst case we had involved criminal sexual violence against a minor.  The defendant was the child’s father.  There was conflicting testimony about who could be believed.  The child’s mother and father had gone through a horrible divorce and conflicting experts took the stand to discuss the minor’s authenticity. One said she was telling the truth.  The other said she wasn’t.  One doctor took the stand to say there had been abuse.  One doctor took the stand to say that there wasn’t.

Beyond a reasonable doubt is the standard

Judge Gregory had me type up all of the jury charges and get them approved by the Solicitor’s office and by the Defendant’s counsel, who was represented by I.S. Leevy Johnson, who was, and is, and old friend of the Judge’s and my father’s.

Part of the charges had the term “lewd and lascivious” in several places.

Every time the judge read that term, he would botch the pronunciation “lewd and lash a viscious” or “loud and laskenvious” or “lute and luscious”

It was horrible

I think he had a mental block as the case was just that bad

After his last “Lou and lashless”, one of the Juror’s stood up in the jury box and said, “It’s lewd and lascivious, Your Honor”

Judge Gregory, turning red, said, “Why yes it is, Ma’am, yes it is, but that’s for you to determine, not me, because I can’t even pronounce it”

 

During my clerkship, I was engaged, there was a wedding coming up, there was a house to buy

Judge Gregory would give me extra time off and allow me to take off some afternoons when we weren’t busy.

I’ll always be grateful

I’m a fairly collegial lawyer, because, as the Judge would say, “You don’t want other lawyers to hate you. You’re going to have to work with them a long time.”

At our wedding reception, the judge came up to me and said that he’d never seen a cooler groom, a more collected groom

In my 20 years of practice, I’ve never seen a cooler judge

I’ve never seen a more collected judge

I only saw him get mad once, at a pro se plaintiff who threatened bodily harm to opposing counsel and his opponent

I would see him in the grocery store in Beaufort, at parties from time to time, and it was like NO time had passed.

We would discuss my family, his girls and their families, his undying love of the Democrat party, with generally no comment from me

We always left hoping that we would see each other soon

So, see you soon Your Honor

And, as you said at the end of each term, Court is adjourned, sine die.

 

 

P.S.  Erin Dean, a damned fine trial lawyer herself, and one of Judge Gregory’s former clerks also spoke in remembrance of the Judge.  Here is what she shared. Good advice all around.

[On April 29, 2019],  I had the privilege of speaking at Judge Jackson V. Gregory’s memorial service. I was Judge Gregory’s second law clerk (‘92-‘94) and he taught me more than just the law. As requested, here are the”Top Ten Things I Learned from Judge Gregory”. Good advice for lawyers and humans!

1. Be humble
2. Be respectful of others, no matter their tone
3. Never pass up an opportunity for a Meat & 3
4. You learn more by listening than you ever do by talking
5. The Clerk’s office staff and Courtroom Bailiffs are your best friends
6. It’s ok to change your mind
7. It’s also ok to admit you’re wrong (still working on that one)
8. Lawyers are public servants, no matter who you work for or where you work, your job is to serve the public
9. Be kind, always…and if you can’t be kind, be quiet
10. The best words uttered in a Courtroom are sine die, signifying the Court term is over and you can head to play golf or go to the beach!

Judge Gregory was one of a kind and his absence in our community will be deeply felt. Rest In Peace my mentor and friend!

Erin Dean, April 29, 2019, repeated here with her permission.

 

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Hamlin O’Kelley and Erin Dean, April 29, 2019. Judge Gregory would have been so disappointed to know that there was only water in those cups…..

 

The Grand Tour

Over Presidents’ Day Weekend, we trudged on up to the Vale of Humility to tour some colleges with our girls.

As one does with 11th graders in the house

Winter break indeed

Drive to Chapel Hill

Getting colder and colder

Rainy and windy

I95

I40

Lunch stop at Smithfield BBQ in Fuquay Varina around 12:30 just in time for the church crowd

Sunday dinnah for a lot of these folks

Overheard:

“I got us this here table”

“Jackson, go warsh your hands, Son”

“Tell your Diddy, I need some hep”

“How you coming along?”

“Good, Granddaddy’s living with us now. He’s 88 and don’t get around too good”

“Used to be a field tech at the John Deere, you know”

“Glad this Brunswick Stew is two for a dollah”

God, how I love North Carolina

Really

For years, the Sandlappers of South Carolina and the Cavaliers of Virginia have called the Old North State the Vale of Humility between the two Mountains of Conceit. Not sure which of the three is being satirized more.

Then it’s on to the Streets at Southpoint

We will stop at a Nordstrom

Screeching stop at a Nordstrom

And a Barnes & Noble

And an Anthropologie

Get out of here and on to Chapel Hill

Venerable and vaulted at The Carolina Inn

Check in

Cookies

So many cookies

Perfect room with sitting area

Go for a walk in the cold mist

Go to the Old Well

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Cold, rainy, perfect

Pass the place where Silent Sam once stood

Not a shred of evidence he was ever there

As we tear down monuments, I am reminded of what David Sedaris said to the graduating class at Oberlin last May.  Really.  Oberlin. The height of political correctness:

“The goal is to have less in common with the Taliban, not more.”

Academia 2019: triggered all the time

Picking up the Daily Tar Heel

Read about more triggering

Pop into the Ackland Museum to escape the bone chilling weather

Amazing vine sculptures out front

Exhibit of Asian porcelain

So much Chinese Export that even David Sanctuary Howard himself might rise on up from the dead for a look see; love me some Lowestoft

Back to the Carolina Inn

Rest period

Supper at the Carolina Inn

Man showing plumber’s bum across the restaurant

We keep laughing

Don’t do crack

Asleep by 9 p.m.

Sleep of the just

The just exhausted

Warm bed under down duvet

Southern Part of Heaven

Breakfast at Ye Old Waffle Shoppe on Franklin Street

Same since 1972

Best coffee

With cousin Hampton

Walk through campus

Run in the Wilson Library just for old time’s sake

To Student Stores for UNC Swag

Back to Carolina Inn to deposit said Swag

Information session in the Student Union

“How many of you are little brothers or sisters being dragged along?”

At least one hand goes up in our row

Tour with guide who was a bit, well, spastic

Super nerdy but so into UNC

“So, if we beat dook or win a big game, we all rush up onto Franklin Street…it’s pretty cool…so one year..it’s called rushing Franklin…..like last year…I was running to Franklin Street and it’s called Chapel HILL for a reason…cause it’s actually a hill…. and it’s all up hill…and I was running…but I slowed way down…and this kid looked at me and said…eye of the tiger…eye of the tiger…and I started running again….and that gave me that last burst of energy…and I made it….and I love the Tar Heels”

Way into Policy…Social Justice…and…South Campus

May be on the spectrum?

“So, my friend made this cutting board in the makers’ space lab in Venables and I totally saw it on Instagram and said ‘Whoa, I would totally pay like $50.00 for that’ and she wrote me back, ‘I made this in the makers’ space in Venables’ and I came and made a box, y’all, a real box”

Speaking of which, she boxed her own ears when she was excited

Boxed

Hit the side of her head

Bless her heart

“Big interview on Wednesday….really really big”

Hope she got it

Standing near one building, I said, “The last time I saw this building, it was kind of a dump”

“What’s your connection to Chapel Hill?”

“I graduated in the Bicentennial class of 1994”

“Are you KIDDING?”

Boxed her ears

“No, ma’am”

Boxed her ears

“That’s SO cool”

Boxed her ears

Finally, she ends the tour at the Old Well

“I just want you to know, that the line to drink from Old Well [guess she has something against articles] stretches forever on first day  [no articles] of each semester because drinking from Old Well [again, she really despised articles] ensures you get A’s”

It actually doesn’t

I know

I tried most semesters

Walk to Woollen Gym to meet new best friend Brian Chacos who shows the girls athletic facilities all while riding in his Carolina Blue and White golf cart

He works for the football crowd

Tour of the new weight room and secret access to Keenan Stadium

Really amazing athletics at Chapel Hill

#beatdook

#dooksux

Thanks, Brian

Thanks, Hampton, for setting it up

Drives us in the golf cart all the way back to Franklin Street.

Ain’t y’all sumpin

To Sutton’s Drugstore for lunch

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I had a charge account….really….may be one of these two will, too, one day

 

Pics of old favorite waitress, Jesse, on the wall

Stories of weekly lunches there at the same table

Burgers

Fries

Sweet tea

Stories of Jesse chasing shoplifter with scissors

“I’m gonna kill you!” she yelled as she ran at the perp

Walk to the Carolina Inn to get the car

On to Winston Salem

Stop off to look at Elon College

“Dad, I don’t think I want to go here.”

Really big red brick buildings with HUGE LETTERING

HUGE LETTERING IS EVERYWHERE THERE

SO BIG

LIKE THEY’RE SHOUTING

ALL THE TIME

Guess their students have bad eyesight

Turning right on N. O’Kelly Ave….should be O’Kelley…..

 

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And, yes, our 2nd “e” is an affectation

 

“We don’t need to stop,” says our Junior

“Thank you, next” quoting Ariana Grande, says our Sixth Grader

On to Winston Salem

The town that tobacco built

 They’re trying to revitalize the downtown

Hipster coffee shop on the corner

Condos in all the old tobacco buildings

Lots of ship lap

Lots of pickled wood

Lots of beards

Lots of railings made out of wires

Lots of AirPods

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Old Tobacky in North Cackalacky

 

To the Cardinal Hotel, in the old Art Deco Style RJR Building that served as inspiration for the Empire State

Rec room in the basement with Ping Pong, pool table, basketball court, bowling alley

Crushed at Ping Pong by the 6th grader

Rest period in the room

Finally summon an Uber to take us to Roosters near the Krispy Kreme HQ

We love the one in Charlotte, NC

This is the one that started it all

For us Charleston folks, we’re always jaded when it comes to eating out in other towns; Roosters never disappoints

Our Uber driver was a major dook supporter

We discuss an upcoming basketball game to be played in Durham and our allegiance to the Tar Heels

“My brother played football for dook”

“I’m sorry”

“Keep talking like that and I’ll put your Tar Heel ass out on the side of the road”

“Y’all are going DOWN on Wednesday in Cameron”

“Zion’s gonna cream y’all, and I really might dump you right here”

I think he was kidding

“Well, the Heels play as a team, so we’ll see”

We won in Cameron, as you may know

And Zion blew his shoe

And is now going pro

So uber

At Rooster’s finally

Lovely waitress

Lovely meal

Back to the hotel and straight to sleep

Or attempt to sleep with the train passing by every hour

And trucks backing up in the middle of the night

Who needs sleep?

Up at 5:30 a.m.

Just like a regular school day

Walk in the cold to breakfast at Krankie’s

Chicken biscuits the size of a baby’s head

With Texas Pete and honey

And strong coffee shop coffee

With a side of hipster irony

Drive over to Wake Forest

Arrive super early and drive to Reynolda Village

Back to Wake where we drive around

Haven’t been there in 30 years since I toured

Beautiful campus

So much brick

So green

Check into the Admissions Office

“Last name is O’Kelley,” states my eldest

“First name, Margaret?” queries the Admissions Officer

“Yes, Sir.”

“You don’t have to ‘sir’ me,” comes his reply

“Oh, yes, she does,” comes mine

Into the auditorium with all manner of folks but without many Southern accents

Hour long info session with an impressive Admissions Officer

85% of the room from Up Nawth or Cali

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Before our tour Margaret remembers the man who came to Ashley Hall and goes back in to speak to him

Atta girl!

Hour long tour going all around the campus

Forgot how pretty Wake is

Where are all the Baptists?

Biggest denomination here, Roman Catholics

Such a big emphasis on foreign study

Wake owns a palazzo on the Grand Canal, a villa in Vienna, and a town house in London

I want to be Peggy Guggenheim’s neighbor for a semester

I want to walk the Ringstrasse

I want to take the Tube to class

I want to go back to college

Tour with Senior from Columbus, OH

Youngest of four who have gone to Wake Forest

Her poor parents; hope they like Alpo

Studied abroad

Impressive

Didn’t box her own ears or anything

“Where are most of your students from?”

“Twenty per cent of the students are from North Carolina.  Then New Jersey is the most represented State.”

Annoying Mom, most definitely from New Jersey, asking Annoying Questions and talking annoying loudly with her Annoying Son then announcing annoyingly grandiosely, “We have to go to catch a flight”

Ok

Go

No one cares

We won’t miss you

See all aspects of Wake

“Is this a jock school?” asks another parent

Um….it’s not Dennison…..

“No, ma’am.”

Super impressed by all Wake has to offer

Self-contained

Self-possessed

Guaranteed housing

Great library

Wanted to eat lunch in the dining hall myself

Sneak into Wait Chapel

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Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth. Ecclesiastes 12:1

 

Back to Admissions office with daffodils blooming in the cold

I40 to I77

Lunch at Chic Fil A in Mooresville, NC

Drive to Davidson with ice pellets falling on the car

Just a drive by at Davidson, since there had already been a tour

Another school we love

So love

Almae Matres everywhere

Or at least in Davidson and Chapel Hill

Driving home in the rain discussing endless possibilities 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Vegetable Section

As we wait for the Good News of Easter Sunday, I give you a memory of Easter past, present, and future.

Alleluia. Christ is risen.

The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia.

The Holy Eucharist: Rite One I, The Word of God, Opening Sentences (To be said from Easter Day through the Day of Pentecost)  

The Book of Common Prayer (1979) 

 

My parents hosted a large friends group for Easter dinner for many years

All ages and stages of these dear friends whom we made into family

Their people are my people

We ate in the mid-afternoon after church

We had the same menu every year

Ham glazed with Dr. Peet’s pecan praline glaze – which deserves its own dissertation

More than one green vegetable of some sort

Biscuits from The Palms in Ridgeland, SC. See Palm Sunday, supra

Usually a seafood side dish because The Lowcountry

Deviled eggs

and

The Star of My Mother’s Buffet: Macaroni Pie

It’s what some refer to as macaroni and cheese

We call it macaroni pie

It’s super old fashioned to call it a pie

Back in the old days, anything baked was in a pie:

Chicken potted

Shrimp

Tomato

Oyster

Vidalia onion

Four and Twenty Blackbirds

Our group would be super excited for my mother’s macaroni pie, which receipt came from Potluck from Pawleys, the old cookbook from the long-gone Cassena Inn on the north end of Pawley’s Island.

This is in the Vegetable Section of Potluck from Pawleys

Most old Southern cookbooks place macaroni pie squarely in the vegetable section

Most Southerners consider macaroni pie to be a vegetable

It should be under Meats or Eggs and Cheese or Pasta

But it isn’t

The ladies at the Cassena Inn put it in the vegetable section, so I will, too

The Cassena had amazing food

I have a super early memory of staying there with my parents and grandparents without a lick of air conditioning

My grandmother’s cousin, Ruth Turner, owned the Cassena years and years ago. Then, Mrs. Hope and Mrs. Hiott.  Then the Prioleau Family

The cookbook is by Mrs. Hope and Mrs. Hiott

This macaroni pie is their receipt

But, it’s really my mother’s at this point

It’s so good

Like SO damned good.

My mother-in-law asks me to make it for family gatherings

My mother always makes it for family gatherings

Mine is pretty good, but, really, my mother’s is much better

As a wedding present, my parents would often give the macaroni receipt to new brides along with a macaroni server in the couple’s silver pattern

We received a macaroni server when we got hitched

Stainless bowl that can’t be tarnished by the eggs in the macaroni.

Right here: Fairfax by Gorham

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Yours Truly reflected in the bowl.

That was an awesome present

Years ago, my mother gave this receipt to a friend who called up after making it to ask what had been omitted as it couldn’t be the same as it wasn’t as good

It was

I recently sent it to a friend who sent back pictures of an empty casserole dish and smiling sated faces

My mother just has been making it so long that she has the touch for it these days

She’s not stingy with the receipt

She’s not stingy with the mountains of grated cheddar cheese that go into the dish

This goes really well with ham and pretty much everything

This is a double making

Just divide in half for a single

You’ll never make another version.  Promise

Serve it tomorrow with your ham or your lamb

 

Yancey O’Kelley’s Macaroni Pie

(or Potluck from Pawley’s Macaroni Pie)

 

16 oz. box macaroni noodles cooked according to package

1 lb. extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated by hand

6 or 7 eggs, beaten

3 c. milk

1 tsp. salt

Pinch of sugar

6 tablespoons melted butter

Heat oven to 350

Grease a 9×13 casserole/pyrex dish really well. With butter. Not with Pam. Butter. Not with margarine. Butter.  Not with olive oil. Butter.  Not with vegetable oil. Butter.  There’s a reason. The butter works on the edges of the pie.  (See below)

Layer half of the cooked noodles in the bottom of the dish. Spread half the grated cheese over the layer of noodles. Repeat. I probably use more than a single LB of cheese.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, add the milk, salt and sugar, and, then, the melted butter which will solidify when it hits the cold egg and milk mixture, which is important.  I use all 7 eggs. The original receipt says 3 or 4 eggs.  More eggs makes it more custard like.

Slowly pour the milk and eggs over the cheese and noodles.  You’ll end up with butter on top of everything. That’s the magic right there.

Bake in a 350 oven for 45 minutes.  Often best to cook this on a rimmed baking sheet as it can bubble over and make a mess in the oven.  If it gets too dark on the top, cover with foil.

Let rest 5-10 minutes before serving.  It’s even better the next day, reheated in the same oven.

The crispy corners are my favorite and those one or two stray noodles on the top that can get a little char in the oven.  The crispy outside comes from the butter used to grease the dish. Buttter liberally.  That’s good advice for a lot of cooking. Butter liberally.

My mother made this for Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and any time anyone requested it in our family.  She’ll be making it tomorrow.  So will I.

If you ever make this kind of macaroni, you’ll never go back to chemically mass produced boxes of mac-n-cheese, which, frankly, may be the bane of my culinary existence

 

Happy Easter to all of you

 

Alleluia. Christ is risen.

The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia.

 

 

 

 

Were you there?

O who am I,
that for my sake
my Lord should take
frail flesh, and die?

Samuel Crossman, 1624-1683

It’s too much

It’s just absolutely too much

Palm Sunday

The Sunday of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ

 

All glory, laud, and honor
to thee, Redeemer, King!
to whom the lips of children
made sweet hosannas ring.

Theodulph of Orleans, 821

 

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
Hark! all the tribes hosanna cry;
thy humble beast pursues his road
with palms and scattered garments strowed

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
bow thy meek head to mortal pain,
then take, O God, thy power, and reign.

Henry Hart Milman, 1791-1868

 

 

Image result for giotto entry into jerusalem
Entry into Jerusalem, Giotto, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy, 1304-1306

 

The triumphal entry into Jerusalem

Christ commanding the disciples to bring the donkey and the colt

Many spread their cloaks on the road

Palms fronds waving in anticipation

Hosanna!

Hosanna!

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

Cleansing the Temple

Prayers and parables

Healing

Anointed with oil in the house of Simon the Leper

Mary, sister of Lazarus, let down her hair

The Last Supper in the Upper Room

One of you will betray me

One of you will deny me three times before the cock crows

This is my Body

This is my Blood

Do this in remembrance of me

Love one another as I have loved you

Then, it all turns

So quickly

So ugly

Agony in the Garden at Gethsemane

Let this cup pass

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak

Thirty pieces of silver

The kiss of Judas

The arrest of Jesus

Living by the sword and dying by the sword

Trial before the Sanhedrin

Suffered under Pontious Pilate

Pilate asking the crowd which man shall be freed

No stutter

No hesitation

“Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Mocked

Stripped

Scourged

Whipped

Carrying His own Cross

And then they came to Golgatha

The place of the skull

Nailed to the tree

Between the two thieves

A crown of thorns

Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews

Casting lots for His robes

Hours hanging on the hard wood

Arms outstretched for the love of the world

They pierced His side

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? (Were you there?)
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
O sometimes it causes me to tremble! tremble! tremble!
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Anon. African American Spiritual. 19th C.

 

O

sometimes

it

causes

me

to

tremble

tremble

tremble

 

 

O

sometimes

it

causes

me

to

tremble

tremble

tremble

 

Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,
that we to judge thee have in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by thine own rejected,
O most afflicted!

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee!
‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee;
I crucified thee.

Johann Heermann, 1630, Herzliebster Jesu

 

Words from the Cross

“Look upon your Mother”

“Eli! Eli! Lama sabachthani?”

My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?

Then, Jesus cried again in a loud voice and gave up His spirit

It is finished

Ma’shelem

Tetelestai

Consummatum est

 

The earth quaked

Rocks split

Tombs opened

Darkness covered the land

The veil torn asunder

The centurion exclaimed

 

Then the burial

The descent into hell

The waiting

The sadness

The fear

 

We, too, wait for the Good News

The men fled

The women returned to care for the body

 

They, and we, will be told by the angel, “Do not be afraid!”

“Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

“He is not here!”

 

That third day will come

 

In the meantime, it causes me to

tremble

tremble

tremble

 

It’s too much

It’s just absolutely too much

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Keyed Up

 

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying by

from

Sea Fever” by John Masefield

 

BENT

We LOVE the Florida Keys.

We just got back.

Third trip in four years.

When I was younger my father used to take me and my brothers all the way to Key West to fish. At one point, we ended up being closer to Cuba than to Key West.  A plane flew over, and it wasn’t one of ours.

Buzzed by a MiG in international waters as we watched hallucinogenic colored dolphins swirling around our baits remains a talking point among my father, brothers, and me.

Buzzed is a good word for the Keys.

It’s crazy down there.  In the best way.

I think every fourth person is in the federal witness protection program.

Three years ago, my intrepid bride decided we would go to the Keys for Spring Break with our faithful and now constant traveling companions, Anne Marie and Jimmy Hagood and their daughter, Catherine.

“You’ve been down there. You know what it’s like.”

“I haven’t been to the Keys since 1993.”

After a few phone calls to our pals, we decided we would hit up Islamorada with them. This Spring Breaks marks our fourth traveling with them. We’d go almost anywhere with Anne Marie, Jimmy, and their daughter Catherine.  Really.  Anywhere.

Any two families that can handle over twenty hours in a car together, well, ’nuff said.

Anne Marie and Jimmy had stayed at The Islander, a Guy Harvey Outpost, the year before and told us all about it. Count us in!

A converted late 1940’s Motor Lodge completed with louvered glass windows?

Sweet sporting art on the coverlet?

You know it.

Because we had children and gear and wanted to use The Islander’s kitchenettes to full capacity, we decided to drive in separate vehicles.

Not a miserable ride, but it’s a long haul best broken up somewhere along I95.

Three years ago, we stopped off in Jupiter, FL, and visited our pals Jen and John Smyth just down the road in Palm Beach. Jen is an Andover pal. We stick close together no matter where we are.

We woke up the next morning for an early mosey on down to Upper Matecumbe Key.

Plan you drive.

Drive your plan.

On they way, we stopped at the Key Largo Fish House upon the recommendation of a friend.

I swear that Carmela and Tony were at the next table.  Made men everywhere.

Fish Matecumbe is a game changer.

Our pals were eating lunch at Denny’s.  Denny’s Latin Cafe.  Not the one of Grand Slam breakfast fame based in SC, but the one of Cuban sandwich fame with bacon fried in peanut oil and the best homemade mojo criollo sauce south of Miami and north of Havana.

Grandest of Slams

We met them there and decided we must come back there for lunch sometime.

Next stop, the Winn Dixie in Tavernier.

Basics supplies gathered.

While waiting in line, we were cutoff by two aggressive old women, one in a Lark/Rascal scooter.  Don’t mess with the elderly in the Keys as they pick up their light beer and laxatives.

Next stop was the Islander.

It has only just recently re-opened, updated for the modern crowd, after Hurricane Irma in September 2017.  We hear it’s way fancier having been injected with insurance money (N.B. Charleston, SC , 1989-1990)

We loved it.  Kitchenettes, large beach, pools, palm trees with iguanas and right across the highway from The Lorelei, beloved hangout of major drunks, tourists, locals.

In 2016, we booked tickets to the Theater of the Sea, a marine mammal park on Windley Key. Located in an old rock quarry used to build the Overseas Railroad, the old rock pits are now filled and used as lagoons for dolphin research and care and to allow the ever popular swimming with dolphins.

What’s behind those white vinyl gates?

Dolphins

Sea lions

Bottomless boat rides

A gajillion stray cats and enough Fabulosa to mask the smells but not really.

They don’t even close for Christmas.

Scooby Doo and crew solved many-a-mystery there. Those pesky, meddling kids. Or so it would seem by looking at the place.

Our girls swam with the dolphins. Goals. Dreams. Wishes fulfilled.

Our youngest came home and made an iMovie entitled “Dolphins are Boss.”

Want to know who else is boss?

Michael Trixx, the resident magician at the The Lorelei.

He’s performed for Presidents!

We love that dude, even if the word on the street is that he was cut from America’s Got Talent after a nanosecond.

Your Lorelei, your Givens, your Hagoods, your O’Kelleys

The rest of the trip was sunning on the beach, swimming in the pool, trips to Bud & Mary’s for t-shirts, suppers at Morada Bay….typical Keys vacation…key lime pie from The Midway Cafe and Bakery.

Dessert at Mrs. G’s Ice Cream, which deserves its own story.

The place has got to be either a human trafficking front or a money launderer.

Straight out of Bloodline.

Don’t be a Kevin.

Our favorite supper was at Chef Michael’s where the fish jumps on your plate.  Best black bean soup ever. Hogfish Heaven.

On the second to last day there, our eldest burned herself good and hid under a large hat.

We did go back to the Lorelei on the last night.  We practically had our own table with our friendly waitress who told us the story of the tragic loss of a child when we asked about her new tattoo that seemed to be weeping.

Despite a 14 hour car ride back to Charleston, we promised ourselves we would return the following March for more fun in the sun.

Over Thanksgiving that year, the venerable old resort, the Cheeca Lodge sent out an email to a couple folks who lived in Charleston advising that they were having a 40% off special the following spring.

Our down the street neighbor, Libba Osborne, called and told MP and our pal Way Way Allen.

From there, things went viral faster than a silly cat video on the YouTube.

Half of Charleston was in the Keys for Spring Break at the Cheeca in 2017.

No.

Literally.

Half.

The same year, JetBlue had amazing deals.

Had those planes crashed, there would be no one left in Charleston to mourn.

So that we could have a suitable beach cooler, I packed myself in a Yeti Hopper to be checked through to the Fort Lauderdale airport.

High-tech-red-neck.

The same airport where a man had opened fire a week or two before our scheduled flights.

What are the chances of lightning striking twice?

Should we drive instead?

Hell no! Then the bastards win. Up yours Bin Laden.

So, we boarded the Fort Lauderdale flight at 6 a.m. with half the town.

Quick flight and then a rented MiniVan.

Down 95 and US1 straight to Denny’s Cuban and the likka store next door.

Again, the best Cubano with mojo criollo for all the adults

The children all had pancakes.

Another drive down US1 past our old pal the Islander into the lush privacy of The Cheeca Lodge with a security gate, a par 3, 9-hole golf course, and, like many venerable older hotels, pictures of the famous on its walls.

And, yet again, half of Charleston.

That year, no Theater of the Sea.

Just The Lorelei, Bud n Mary’s, Morada Bay, Midway Cafe, Chef Michael’s.

Chef Michael’s that year had a large Charleston contingent at one table, of which we were a part. What originally was a table of 8 became a table of 14.

The poor couple who sat near us kept looking over and staring at us all agog at our loudness, familiarity, congeniality. They were just jealous.

Charleston folks have a bad reputation for being aloof, snobbish, and insular.

That’s just crazy talk.

They just don’t make new friends easily, don’t really like outsiders, have no need for others, and travel in packs.

I’m from off, remember?

That night at Chef Michael’s remains as one of the best fish meals I have ever had, even if we did just go back a week or two ago.

That was the year that, being concerned about re-heating any leftovers, one of our intrepid Charleston travelers called The Cheeca Lodge and asked, “Hey…y’all got microwaves?”

Another year of parasailing, snorkeling with a jelly fish sting, going to the secret hot tub in the back of the resort, charging things to the room because, hell, it don’t cost nothing.

That was also the year where a group of us were at The Lorelei when the rains started and that same intrepid traveler called over to The Cheeca and asked, “Is this is the shuttle department? Can you pick us up at the Lorelei? It’s starting to rain!”

The shuttle arrived moments later to whisk us back to our rooms.

The next day, we all spent way too much time in Fort Lauderdale wandering around waiting for our return flight. Nothing like watching the NCAA b-ball tourney in an airport bar.

Go Tar Heels.

Last year, we went to L.A. with the Hagoods, but, that, my dear readers, is a tale for another day.

This year we jumped on The Cheeca Lodge’s deals once again.

This year, seventy five other Charleston folks jumped on the same deal.

Seventy-five!

A pal who works in the Keys said that folks from The Carolinas with quasi-disposal income are their bread and butter. Quasi-disposal. Classic.

So, with our quasi-disposable, we decided to rent a large SUV this year, loaded up and headed South.

Seven for the road.

Let’s do it.

“What’s the smell in here?”

“Are those old Cheetos under the seat?”

“This car smells bad.”

“If we ain’t got it; we can buy it.”

“How many of them Johnnie O shirts do you people own?”

Some of our friends flew down, some flew down private, some drove.

We laughed the whole way down and the whole way back, even with an occasional squabble.

Better manners with another family in the car.

I highly recommend the fried shrimp basket at B&J Steaks & Seafood in Darien, Georgia. They DO NOT accept check or debit from poor Jason Battle.

They DO have a buffet for $9.00 per person including salad bar and dessert.

You know the salad bar.

It has pepperoni, green olives, and bacon bits the color of convenience store pickled eggs.

From there we made it to St. Augustine.

I didn’t lose anything in the oldest European founded city on the North American continent.

As I told a friend, St. Augustine is like Myrtle Beach, if Myrtle Beach and New Orleans had a bastard child.

We had a lovely meal at The Floridian, but we were glad to be on the road in time to hit up Denny’s Latin for another Cuban sammich, mojo, and pancakes.

We were glad nothing changed there from the hurricanes. Same silk flowers on the table.

We pulled into the same lushness of The Cheeca with a renovations in full view.

Old place looked the same.

One thing that did change was the service at The Cheeca. It needs a little work.

Guess it’s too much to ask for full recovery in a year and a half.

Construction noise is a real thing.

So is a lack of water use on some days.

So is a fire alarm.

So is a malfunctioning elevator.

So is a surly bar staff.

But, it was great. Really. It was great. Again.

I’d go back tomorrow.

This year, we rented a boat, too.

Us, the Hagoods, our pals the Givens.

We met up with our friends the Braggs who pulled their own vessel down from S.C.

Oscar, the proprietor of A1A Boat Rentals, expressed great concern for us taking out the boat due to the wind blowing around 20 knots.

Guess Oscar has never crossed the Charleston Harbor on a good day.

We took out the boat and had a great time drifting around the Atlantic waters of Upper Matecumbe Key. It was too cold to go to the Islamorada sandbar, but not too cold to raft up with the Braggs, drink cold beer, eat fried chicken, and act the same way we do at home, just with much clearer water.

I win spring break.

I have my chairs staked by 7:30 a.m. and have my ubiquitous Yeti Hopper loaded and ready to go by 8:30 a.m.

There’s a section of the beach at The Cheeca that should be renamed Charleston South. It’s the section by the bent palm tree, supra, providing the social media backdrop for everyone, including me.

One of our pals speared a snapper and had the chef fry it up and bring it on out for everyone mid-afternoon one day.

I generally remained anchored in one spot with friends of all sorts drifting in and out after parasailing, fishing, snorkeling, shopping at the Publix nearby.

Unfortunately, The Lorelei proved a bust for me this year due to my getting a mess of sunscreen behind my contacts and not being able to see. No Michael Trixx.

That’s o.k. My Publix sub provided enough sustenance along with the liquid bread from the Miller brewing co.

Good meals at Morada Bay and Chef Michael’s again.

However, the revelation this trip was our grace and favor meal provided by the Islamorada Fishing Club. It seems that the yacht club to which I belong and a great number of the Charleston crew belongs has no reciprocity with anyone.

However, one of our number finagled our way into the private club for a meal due to his smooooooooooooooooooooooooooth talking.

The Hagoods, the O’Kelleys, Alice and Ron Givens and their girls, Austin and Walker…off we went to club.

As we waited for the shuttle department, a group of angry Midwesterners glared at us because the 12 year old and 13 year old in our party secured us the shuttle first.

Membership has its privileges. On that note, I highly suggest talking your way into someone else’s private club for a meal. It’s not tacky at all.  Not at all.  Charge it to the Underhills, of course.

Great spicy conch chowder with a touch of sherry.

Wonderful fish that night.

I also highly suggest going to Chef Michael’s before 8 p.m. as they do run out of fish.

“I’m sorry, we are out of triple tail due to the high number of orders at your table.”

“Well, what do you recommend as a substitute?”

“[Fill in name of fish]”

“What’s kind of fish is that?”

“Oh, a light flaky white fish”

Aren’t they all?

I had consumed a number of beers, a martini at the bar, and a glass of rose. Much to his credit, our waiter at Chef Michael’s asked if I would be driving.

“Nah, he just has to walk his drunk behind back to The Cheeca.”

“Oh, well, then, he can have as much wine as he wants.”

This year, no one really sunburned herself.

This year, no one really appeared drunk.

This year, no one got on my last nerve, which could have happened by virtue of the sheer numbers of Fellow Travelers.

This year, the trip to the Keys mirrored a trip to Vegas: what happens in the Keys stays in the Keys.

I omit much to protect the names of the not-so-innocent.

Roasting the guilty over and over again under the tropical sun.

Remember to re-apply sunscreen and disdain every 30 minutes.

The ride home was a 12 hour day after another breakfast at The Midway Cafe.

Stop and go traffic on the Florida Turnpike in Miami made a few of us a little car sick. No emergency but definitely needed a break or two from the misery of

stop

n

go

n stop n go n

stop n

go n stop

n

go n

stop n go.

Some of our crew who left earlier sent us a text advising to get on Waze as I95 turned into a parking lot somewhere around Daytona Beach.

One of us drivers said we did not trust Waze as it was definitely invented by Millennial Tricksters.

Thanks be to God for those little nattering navigator nabobs.

They got us through a closed part of I95 and through 5 p.m. traffic in Jacksonville.

We tried to go to the Chic Fil A in Kingsland, Georgia, but, the lady in the drive thru said they had a long line.

“We just got hit by a bus.”

Welcome to South Jawja.

Stopping at another Chic Fil A in South Jawja let us know we were truly back in the South.

“Hey, y’all, take your order?”

Yes, we’d like to go back to The Keys right now and get the hell out of this country ass place.

But, we didn’t let them know that.

Instead, we’ll call the Shuttle Department.

img_6727
O’Kelleys……or is it O’Keyses?

Palm Sunday

If you ever ate there, then you know how blessed you were.

If you ever ate there, then you know that Lowcountry cooking tops all others.

If you ever ate there, then you know that there were no other biscuits in the world that good.

I’m talking about The Palms in Ridgeland, South Carolina.

The restaurant affixed to The Palms Motel on the main drag, Jacob Smart Boulevard.

img_8529
Lucky you get that Micro Fridge with the Wkly Rate

Thirty minutes from Beaufort, South Carolina.

We went there after church on Sundays.

All manner of Lowcountry folks from Beaufort, Bluffton, Hilton Head, Savannah, Hampton, Ridgeland, Estill, Yemassee, would converge on The Palms on Sundays for the most amazing buffet meals ever.

Situated in the restaurant area of the motel.

Outside there was a goldfish pond complete with lily pads and a small fountain.

To get to the restaurant, patrons walked through the office where Mrs. Patel held court nodding at diners as she chewed her fennel seeds and listened to soft Bollywood music.

The entrance to the dining room was by the end of the buffet.

The dining room glowed with incandescent bulbs dangling from faux bronze chandeliers in the shape of palm fronds.

“How many?” came the question upon walking into the room, followed by a quick, “Well, hey, how y’all been doin’?” from the waitress taking us to our table.

I adored those palm frond chandeliers.  I repeatedly told my parents that I would be stealing one if the restaurant ever closed.

We would go for Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, or other big events.

My grandparents met us there a couple of times.

Our Savannah kinfolk met us there, too.

We loved the place, nicotine stained walls and all.

What was not to love about the white table clothed establishment in the middle of the county seat of Jasper County that served amazing Lowcountry cooking?

Was it fancy? No

Were we there for the ambiance? No

Would it have been #ThePalms? No

Would it have been highly Instragrammable? No

Was it perfectly cooked food in a homey, and somewhat so, homely atmosphere.  May be.

To this day, when I think of a perfect Sunday dinner, I think of the meals at The Palms after church.

The menu never changed.

The same waitresses for years and years.

“May I get you anything?” they would ask as they refilled tea glasses.

“More biscuits, please,” always came the reply from our table and every other table.

My youngest brother would smuggle in his own bottle of A-1 Sauce to douse his meats and, yes, his green beans.

Don’t judge.

What was so great about The Palms?

Everything.

In one corner of dining room was the cooled salad server that provided

Iceberg lettuce with small pieces of radish and cukes, and may be a couple of grated carrots and tomatoes and the rare sliver of purple cabbage;

Waldorf salad;

May be a few pickled beets from time to time;

Fruit salad;

French dressing, blue cheese, ranch.

Balsamic vinegar?

Never heard of it

Up at the front of the room, the main buffet consisted of

Fried chicken;

Roast Beef;

Turkey;

Ham;

Rice;

Shrimp and okra gumbo;

Cornbread dressing;

Giblet gravy with sliced eggs;

Cranberry sauce;

Macaroni pie;

Green beans;

Butter beans;

Stewed yellow squash with onions or squash casserole;

Broccoli casserole or asparagus casserole;

Sweet potato souffle in orange cups with toasted coconut.

In the center of the room on a round table underneath the largest of the palm frond chandeliers were the desserts of

Coconut cream pie with tons of meringue piled high;

Lemon meringue pie with tons of meringue piled high;

Cookies and cream pie from out of the freezer;

Pecan pie with a bop of whipped cream;

Sweet potato pie with a bop of whipped cream.

Each waitress brought her tables basket after basket of the world’s most amazing angel biscuits along with individual gold foil wrapped pats of butter.  The warm biscuit softened the butter pats to perfect spreading consistency.

Some of the older patrons were known to put the butter pats in their pockets to take home.

Channeling Strom Thurmond, all diners wrapped up extra biscuits in paper napkins to take home.

Those biscuits.

The perfect combination of flour, fat, buttermilk, leavening and just a touch of sugar.

Angel biscuits with yeast.

To paraphrase from “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones,” these were More-glorious-than-the-Seraphim and O-higher-than-the-Cherubim biscuits.

Dominions, Princedoms, Powers, Virtues, Archangels, Angels’ choirs, would have all cried out for them.

Ye Patriarchs and Prophets blessed never knew such joy on a bread plate.

They were so amazing that my mother would order pie plates of the uncooked biscuits and deliver them to friends for Christmas.

We would make runs to Ridgeland to fill up a cooler or two close to the big day and deliver to our friends in Beaufort.

“These are NOT biscuits from The Palms?” recipients would facetiously ask.

They knew exactly what they were.

“Oh my Lawd! Y’all should not have,” was another popular retort upon receipt of the pie plate with uncooked biscuit dough.

In addition to the perfection of those flaky morsels, the main meal astounded.

Each Sunday, the fried chicken skin shattered on the first bite.

The beef melted around its cooked carrots and onions.

The gumbo teemed with fresh local shrimp and the perfect amount of okra, spicy but not too hot.

Cornbread dressing that I try to replicate every Thanksgiving served as another gravy delivery system.

Dadgum that gravy!

Perfect gravy with giblets and eggs and just enough salt.

Biscuits providing just that little sumpin to sop up the remnants on the edge of the plate.

Steamed rice with each grain separated awaiting to be covered in either gravy or gumbo.

The dark corners of the macaroni pie with a couple of noodles just a wee bit singed on top to become the tiniest bit crunchy.

Vegetables with pot likker and the piece of side meat to push out of the way with the slotted serving spoon.

The squash, broccoli, asparagus en casserole.  Straight out of the 1950s.  But, so damned good.

The sweet potato souffle in orange cups with the fresh orange juice, a first dessert during the main part of meal, remains my favorite thing about that menu.

No marshmallows here just old school toasted coconut.

All of the hot food heated with the soft glow and addictive smell of Sterno cups.

And to drink:

Water

Iced tea, either sweet or unsweet

Coffee

Soft drinks

The cooks had been there under several owners.

No surprise who the cooks were.

I wish I knew their names.

I wish I had gone back into the kitchen to watch their alchemy.

Who were these culinary Circe’s?

African American ladies who had cooked in the kitchen forever, under the supervision of a succession of owners.

Eventually, a small lady from Thailand ended up making all of the biscuits after taking over from the original biscuit baker.  The original baker’s lungs could no longer endure flour dust.  Baker’s lung is a thing.

Any time we went, immediately upon arrival, I ran for a slice of coconut cream pie on the dessert table as they were always the first to go.

Always.

Can you tell I love coconut?

Regulars had their usual tables for years.

Miss Essie and General Edwin Pollock sat on the left by the window overlooking the goldfish pond.  Miss Essie enveloped us in hugs with her turkey waddle arms flapping generously around our small frames.

“Boys, go speak to Miss Essie and The General,” our mother would say.

“Oh, Jawge, the boys are gettin’ so big!” Miss Essie would exclaim. “Yancey, I know you’re so proud of these young men.”

The Harpers from Estill, and whatever part of their family could join them, were always in the front room.

The Sauls from Ridgeland had that table across from the Harpers.

Always a smattering of Tutens, Clelands, Malphruses, and Lowthers. Jasper County woods are full of them.

We almost always sat near the Harpers’ table.

“Well, hey, how are y’all?” Mr. Harper would nod over to us.

A local lady named Esther Cooler took over the restaurant after a number of years.  She seemed to be always smoking herself a 100 length cigarette.

I would not have wanted to cross Miz Cooler. No, Sir. Never.

One time I made the mistake of asking her for two meets on a weekday. During the week, The Palms proprietors allowed only one choice of meat, which they put on the waiting china.

Miz Cooler just glared at me and said, “Well, Son, I’d have to charge you double for that.”

My mother once asked Miz Cooler about her favorite thing on her buffet.

“Oh, I get sick to death of this food,” she said, “I just like to get me a cheeseburger from Wendy’s.”

Not us.

For the life of me, I cannot remember the name of the man who ran the place before Miz Cooler.

One time my father was at The Palms during the week, and he heard that gentleman toss his head back into the kitchen and inquire loudly, “Ruby! Ruby!……..hey, yea, Ruby!…….is them po’k chops ready yet?”

You know those po’k chops were fried, of course, and only available during the week.

Is them ready yet?

We weren’t there for the grammar, either.

It was mostly on Sundays that we adored The Palms.

Some Sundays we would eat so much that we would have to stop for sodium bicarb at a gas station on the way home.

One time, our friend Hayes Williams laid himself out in the back of his parents’ car moaning in sybaritic satiation.

“Son, you o.k.?” asked his father

“No, Sir. I’m gonna die,” replied our pal.

“No, Son,” said his father. “You just ate too much. Guess we need some baking soda.”

Sometimes The Palms laid us all out flat.

I hate to report that The Palms restaurant closed almost two decades ago.  My children never had the opportunity to eat there.

Like all good things, it came to an end after Miz Cooler retired and the cooks ended up dying out without anyone to take over that old time cooking.

Those of us of a certain age remember well those Sunday dinners.

My pal Robyn Josselson Shirley bemoans the loss of those biscuits.

It has been ages since my family delivered them for Christmas presents; former recipients still complain.

Wish there were a few more to smuggle out in my napkin.

Mark my words: I’m still going to steal one of those chandeliers.