Monday, December 29, 2008
This is a tiny little dock that shoots directly off the road that leads to the Islander. I was on the road and did not once trespass. If you ever wondered where the location of the highest concentration of No Trespassing signs are in the known universe, it's on the Islander road. Just in case you were wondering. Now, if you were wondering what this has to do with the title of this post, you can rest assured that there is absolutely no connection whatsoever.
And now we move to the unrelated topic of cafeterias.
I've eaten in a lot of high-end places--the Inn at Little Washington; the Prime Rib in DC; the Chop House in Chicago--but none of these is as memorable as the cafeterias of my youth.
The Chesapeake Bay Family would gladly and willingly drive an hour to Newport News on a Friday night to then in turn wait in line FOREVER, half-starved, at the Piccadilly Cafeteria in Coliseum Mall. The chicken croquette and the banana pudding with the vanilla wafers were to die for. Also, one precious time, one of the servers looked at Middle Sister and said, "Serve you, sir?" and that just made me want to devote the rest of my life to the Piccadilly establishment, because they had done in one brief moment what I could not accomplish in years as a big sister - humiliate Middle Sister and provide me with a question that I gleefully flung at her at every possible opportunity.
But this story is not about that. Nor is it about the Hot Shoppes, which were only the best cafeterias ever. Ours was in Newmarket South, also an hour away, and when they closed their doors for good, I cried for weeks on end. It's still a very emotional subject for me. Pardon me while I take ten to grieve. Thank you.
The Mathews High School cafeteria, while not the Piccadilly or a Hot Shoppe, was not at all a bad place to eat. In fact, I loved it. Never in the history of bread has there ever been a finer yeast roll served: light, fluffy, billowy and like a bed of warm feathers waiting to swallow the butter right up. They were the cotton candy of rolls - they'd practically melt right in your mouth.
One poor person, David H., who was/is a genius, loved those rolls so darn much he'd buy about 10 at a time - nothing else, just an arm full of rolls. We'd all wait for him to leave the checkout stand and when he came towards the table, the whole cafeteria would holler, "ROLLLLLLLLLSSSSSS!!!!" Poor guy. But he did have good taste.
One fine day, we had chicken. Fried chicken, one of my favorite foods, right up there with All Food, which is also my absolute favorite. Anyway, one particularly clever and hilarious individual, named Robbie R., picked up his chicken. Just as he was about to devour it, he paused. He studied it a little more carefully. He pursed his lips and furrowed his brow. Something was amiss.
Robbie took this chicken and marched over to the long table all the teachers congregated around. Our principal, Mr. Harry Ward, was among them.
Robbie went over to Mr. Ward and showed him the piece of chicken.
"Harry Ward?" Robbie said. "Meet Hairy Chicken."
Sure enough, his piece of chicken had feathers coming out of it. Not just one. Multiple. Feathers.
Robbie was a hero in my eyes from there on out. I laughed until I thought I would die. It probably wasn't even that funny to other people, but I didn't care. He received a perfect score of 10 in my book for bravery (confronting the principal) and quick wit (he came up with this in less than seconds it seemed).
For the record, though, I didn't let a few feathers deter me from eating. There's not much that can.