Recently I learned the answer to one of life's little riddles.
We went on vacation to visit relatives, and shortly after our car had entered Texas we stopped at a Dairy Queen to get a drink. As the young lady behind the counter was preparing me a vanilla Coke - the real kind, with a big squirt of vanilla syrup in the bottom of the cup - and calling me "sweetie" and otherwise exhibiting friendly Texan charm, I looked up at the menu on the wall. There, in black and white, was this item: Texas toast.
I was so shocked, I stopped reading.
For years, philosophers - well, standup comics, anyway - have asked: "What do they call Texas toast in Texas? Wouldn't they just call it toast?"
There, in front of my eyes was the answer: They call toasted, thick-sliced bread "Texas toast." At least, they do at one Dairy Queen in east Texas.
That wasn't my only food-related surprise on that drive.
We reached Oklahoma, and in the city of Enid we went to a restaurant/bar/poolroom where the hamburgers were rumored to be worthwhile. The waitress asked us what we wanted to drink.
"Sweet tea," I said, sick of so many vanilla Cokes on the road.
"No tea," she said. "Coke."
I felt as though I had walked into a Saturday Night Live routine.
"You don't have tea?" I asked incredulously. I didn't remember ever eating at a place that didn't serve tea.
This place didn't. I had water instead.
Still, the hamburgers really were good. They came "all the way." The waitress ran down the list just to be sure. When she got to ketchup, I said no. Hold the ketchup. Just lettuce, pickle, mayo, fried onions, tomato -
"No tomato," the waitress said.
Lettuce, but no tomato? It didn't make sense. But she was already irritated at me over the Great Tea Incident of 2002, so I gave up.
I suppose each region has its dos and don'ts when it comes to eating. The no-tomato-for-you episode reminded me of the time, many years ago, when a waitress in Maryland looked at me askance when I asked her to place a couple of slices of tomato on my plate, next to my bacon and eggs.
"Nobody eats tomato for breakfast," she told me. (This was, mind you, in a state where for breakfast people eat something nasty called scrapple.)
But I grew up in north Georgia eating tomato with breakfast.
"People eat tomato on bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, don't they?" I asked the Maryland waitress.
"That's different," she said. "Eating tomato outside of a sandwich for breakfast just isn't natural."
"Eating scrapple isn't natural, either, but people do it." I had her there.
"It's your stomach," she muttered as she walked off. When she placed my order with the cook, he gave her the same look she had given me.
Before reaching Texas and Oklahoma on our vacation, we stopped at my sister-in-law's house in southern Mississippi. For breakfast, she prepared a dish I had not eaten in years.
She called it "chocolate gravy." When I was a kid, it was called simply "chocolate." It was a thick gravy made of cocoa, sugar, flour and milk that had been cooked for a few minutes in a saucepan. We opened freshly baked biscuits on our plates and poured the chocolate on top.
It made me forget all about tomatoes.
Reach Glynn Moore at (706) 823-3419 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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