October might seem an odd season for year-in-review kind of thinking, but this week marks the first anniversary of the Eats One Ate column, so I am in a bit of a retrospective mood. You may wonder how I have been celebrating. Or maybe that’s not the kind of thing that occupies your thoughts. Either way, it will come as no surprise that the celebration has focused on food. In between meals, I’ve been thinking about some of the highlights of the year, and - though I hate to admit it – a correction or two as well.
One of the earliest columns is still generating comment. Just last week I was talking with a couple who had recently dug “State Fair” out of the archives. They had also seen the Krispy Kreme burger sign at the fair – even took a picture – they had just never met anyone who actually admitted to liking the donut burger! Yes, the burger was odd – I will go that far. But as I’ve pondered the concept (because that’s what I do), I have come to the conclusion that the bacon was the common denominator. Think about it. Donuts and bacon are long-time breakfast buffet neighbors – no argument there. Bacon may also be surpassing cheese as the primary burger add-on of our generation. At the end of the day, the bacon is something like eharmony.com, joining two culinary souls destined to be together, who might otherwise have never met. Now that I’ve explained it, don’t you want one? (Or are you thinking that I spend way too much time rationalizing bacon?)
As long as we are visiting the State Fair, I do have an apology to make. In that same column I gently made fun of the French-speaking skills of a vendor who sold me a “pistolette”, and touted my own adroitness with French verbiage. Beware, lest you think too highly of yourself, oh Jay. I was at the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium just a few weeks later, and ate lunch with a family from New Orleans. Ironically, the subject of pistolettes came up and I quickly discovered that I was the one with the spelling and pronunciation issues. Should I get the chance to return to the Fair this year, I have every intention of absolving my guilt by trying another item from the same vendor’s vast menu. However, I will not order another pistolette; I have no doubt that some are wonderful, but this one was too close to a soggy Hot Pocket for my taste. So much for trying to impress my high school French teacher.
Without question the columns that generated the most comments by far were the series on 1970’s-era restaurants. Folks are still asking if I’ve heard of such-and-such restaurant, conjuring up names that apparently were not listed in the phone books I studied. Starkvillians are passionate about their favorite restaurants – even the ones that don’t exist anymore. And there are legions of stories – just this week I met someone who regaled me with behind-the-scenes tales from Pizza King. In the interest of full disclosure, I have since realized that my reminiscing veered unsuspectingly into the 80’s a time or two; I hope no one minded too much.
I am concerned that some of you are still having trouble getting your head around the watermelon milkshake. Perhaps I should share the back-story that made this one a bit more personally palatable. When we lived overseas there were juice bars on nearly every corner, all of them offering fresh fruit drinks in endless combinations, including milk. Thus, before the watermelon milkshake ever appeared on that roadside beacon in North Carolina, I had already enjoyed less frozen but equally refreshing versions of milky drinks mixed with cantaloupe, mango, and other mystery fruits native to the Middle East. One of our favorite summer drinks (and it was summer most of the time) was a combination of whole limes, sugar, ice, and milk brought to a glorious unity by way of a blender. If the watermelon milkshake is still too much for you to bear, try the lime drink. Blend it, strain it, quench your thirst. Indian summer is coming.
Apparently, in the column on food and beverage pairing, my suggestion that it was traditional to pour a pack of peanuts into a Pepsi was considered by a few to be near-blasphemous. Some of my own family members were aghast that I might get a peanut near any carbonated beverage other than a classic Coca-Cola. Even the middle-school teacher who dubbed me “Sir Jay” gave me what for. Though I acknowledge that the Coke-peanut duo may be more common in Mississippi, I learned this habit in North Carolina. One of my pharmacy partners from those mountain days was my mentor in peanut-soaking, and when I told him of the scolding I received, he staunchly backed me up. Perhaps I also learned this year to do more research before I take such controversial stands.
Thankfully, most of my research is consumption, and I look forward to further study. Among all the “Did you really eat that?” questions this year, there has been much encouragement, and I appreciate it.
Till we eat again…
Jay Reed is a local foodie and pharmacist. The culinary tastes expressed here are his and do not necessarily reflect the appetites of the Starkville Daily News or individual members of its staff. He welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org .