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.


Unknown said...

As soon as I saw the word Cafeterias, I knew this was going to be insane!

Please tell me the waiter didn't say that to middle sis! And you used it until you wore it out! OMG, no wonder she has issues.

And poor David H., the king of rolls....HA! You know, he might just be a lurker here.

We have Ryan's and Golden Corral here. Neither of them is great, and the tables so close together that the people behind you have to get up so you can get out to get dessert. I like Home Town Buffet but there aren't any here. It's a great place to take the grandkids and watch them "play" in the dessert section as they make their own sundaes.

Chicken with feathers? that was hilarious! Today his parents would sue the school district.

Kasia FioĊ‚ek said...

I love the photo! I am a big fan of travelling and taking pictures as well so here I my favourite picture from Norway: (during the Christmas time, I recommend it).  I think I will come back here, so see ya later!

Bear Naked said...

I am always amazed at people who can think of a snappy comment in seconds.
My snappy comments always come to me hours later and when I am alone.

Bear((( )))

Mental P Mama said...

We always ate at the B&W Cafeteria in Nashville when we were little. My brother couldn't stand to wait for his food in a regular restaurant. So my mother always gave in to his demands. Brat.

Meg McCormick said...

Look at you, writing about food again!

Hot Shoppes was a DC-area institution for so many years. We all still miss them.

Our school cafeteria was predictable, with a limited rotation of favorites including chili con carne, pizza every Thursday, roast turkey with all the trimmings (right down to the re-hydrated mashed potatoes), "gristle patties" (ham patties, hated them) and fish sandwiches (my fave). A frequent accompaniment for all meals was not a light, yeasty roll (I'm filled with envy) but rather, a "butter sandwich" - yep, butter slathered on white bread. That was on days when they ran out of baloney to put on the bread along with the butter.

Yum. Good times!

Anonymous said...

Oh those yummy rolls! And the home-made hamburger buns. I'm going to have something to eat now.

Anonymous said...

We had those same, heavenly rolls at WPHS! They were only a nickel apiece, and they sure filled a kid up. I think David H. was a genius! He could get his lunch for .50, and pocket the rest to be used over the weekend. I'm sure he bought nabs and Mt. Dew, not beer.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

GJ - Yes - the person serving up the food looked squarely at her and said, "Serve you, sir?" After the pregnant pause, she then realized her mistake, but oh my we never, ever let her live that one down (Middle Sis, that is - the server is remembered very fondly and with the utmost esteem-by me anyway).

dragonfly - Thank you for visiting - this is not one of my better photos, I can do better but not under fear of trespassing on the Islander road.....

BN - I'm the same way. I can never think on my feet and sometimes days will pass and I'll realize what I should have said.

MPM - Impatience and an immediate need for food were the precise reasons why the Chesapeake Bay Family adored/adores the whole buffet and cafeteria concept. We needed food, and we needed it fast. Another place we loved was Fass Brothers Fish House (or some such) because it was all you can possibly stuff away fried seafood. No waiting at all. It was like a buffet that you didn't have to stand up for. Oh, how we loved that place.

Meg - When I first moved to NoVa in the 1980's the Hot Shoppes there were still open. I went to the one near 7 Corners a few times.
I cannot believe you were deprived of those delectable rolls. I've never tasted anything better in the bread category, and I am very selective about my bread. (I don't eat it much, so when I do it had better be good.)

Phyl - Yes, the hamburger buns too. Soooo goood.

BHE - I'm so glad you know what I"m talking about. David H. is in fact a genius, as is his whole family. He sure knew good rolls when he saw 'em.

Happy Monday, everyone. Normally right now I'd be chained to an office desk, but I am thrilled beyond belief to announce NO WORK, NO COMMUTE, NO SITTING WITHOUT INTERNET ACCESS FOR 9 HOURS AT A TIME because I'm off from the "paying job" this week. I slept until 10 and have no intention of leaving the house all day.

Well, except maybe to go to the store and get some flour and yeast...all of a sudden I have a hankering for some really good rolls.

Anonymous said...

And I bet Middle Sis has made sure that NO ONE has ever mistaken her for a "Sir" again!:)

Anonymous said...

I loved those rolls too. The Picadilly and Morrisons, we would eat there every time we went to the mall. Did you ever eat at the Blue Hawaii? We loved that place. We cried when they closed down.
I never thought middle sis looked like a boy. That was traumatic for her, I'm sure.

nativedevil said...

OK, you had to touch on one of my oldest "guilts" I have felt like a jerk for YEARS for yelling "ROLLS!" at that guy at lunch. I'm serious. I hope he has been able to forgive us over the years. Those rolls were awesome.
I also loved the cheesebread and beef stew days at Lee-Jackson. I always made sure to eat all of my lunch really fast so I could go back and get more cheesebread.
I also miss Roy Rogers. Those Trigger burgers were great!

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Anonymous - It's a very sore topic for her....

CAts - Not only did I eat at the Blue Hawaiian I did the hula dance on stage. But that's a story for another time....

Native Devil - I felt bad about doing it too, he would turn beet red every single time, BUT I also think in some strange way he might have enjoyed the attention just a little bit. Poor guy.

Cool Breeze said...

Man, did Harry laugh or what? I know I did.

The rolls at WPHS were also to die for. When in doubt, you could make through the day on a dollars worth of rolls.

Ann Marie said...

Lillian Hudgins rolls.. I know for a fact that in a pinch.. or desperate my mother would have Ms Hudgins make her rolls for her..

Oh opps bet I wasn't supposed to tell anyone that.

In hind sight though Ms Hudgins got a six layer chocolate cake every year for her effort so the trade was a good one.

I think my mother probably actually uses that recipe for her rolls. So if you are ever in the mood for one of THOSE rolls let me know I think I can hook ya up.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Cool Breeze - I don't recall Mr. WArd's reaction because I was too busy laughing and couldn't see straight for the tears. What I wouldn't give for a dollars' worth of those rolls now.

Ann Marie - Yes! I'd love that recipe. Never in the history of rolls has there been any better, I'm convinced of this. They're heavenly.

nativedevil said...

One story about the MHS cafeteria I must share:
One day, one of my friends took an unopened, completely full milk carton, stood up, and threw it as hard as he could against the wall. As we sat there in shock, Frank Crittenden came running up, demanding to know, "Who threw that milk carton?" Nobody said a word. I thought Frank was going to stroke or something. He then said, "If I ever find out who threw it, I'm gonna put a foot up their a**"

Meg McCormick said...

GET US THAT RECIPE!!! I'm dying for some fluffy yeast rolls!!

Anonymous said...

Mathews must be somethin' special because I can't remember anything being edible in my high school cafeteria. If I had those delicious rolls, surely I would have done better in geometry. Or science. Or P.E. Or....

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

ND - I can only imagine that scene, it must have been simultaneously stunning and hilarious, a situation where you're not sure how to immediately react...(for me it'd have been silence followed by loud laughter once the silence was broken). It's funny, but without having experienced that myself, I can almost name the person who did it - I see it so clearly. If the initials are M.B., then we'll know I have ESP for sure.

Meg - If I get it I'll pass it on. You'll never eat another piece of bread again, this one is hands down the best.

Kaffy - Let me tell you something. I am no bread eater, at all. But if there was a pile of these rolls and a pile of gold, I'd dive headf irst into the rolls.


(Almost better than raw chicken.)

Anonymous said...

I remember, in my high school cafeteria days, that someone found a sink stopper in their mashed potatoes one day.
That incident withstanding, the food was generally good. I especially remember the rice custard pudding and having it stolen right off of my tray one day...

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

A sink stopper in mashed potatoes! Now that's not something you see every day...too funny.

Anonymous said...

From NOVA DRUNK FRIENDS....We miss you'''''Cree

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Dear Cree - Thank you for reading, and I miss y'all too. Love to everyone up there.

msseabreeze said...

hey woman, were you in the cafeteria when someone turned his tray upside down with the mashed potatoes still in it and said "attention everyone, observe - they don't come off" then banged on the bottom of the tray to prove you couldn't shake them off!! Oh the memories of good ole MHS.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

msseabreeze- that is absolutely hilarious. I don't remember it, but I also do not doubt it!