Pub Notes: Food for the Spirit

Originally published in Flagpole magazine

Milton Leathers

 [This column comes to you from Milton Leathers, and I am glad to relinquish the space to him, his son Cobby and Cobby's friend Steven Willoughby -- Ed.]

 Milton writes: Our middle son Cobby, who lives in Thailand, was just home to Athens for a short visit last week. On the way back to the Atlanta airport a few early mornings ago, it was necessary for me to drive by Strickland’s restaurant, formerly located downtown at the corner of Broad and Jackson streets. Now, that Athens institution is way out west on 29/78 past the car dealerships. It was breakfast time, and Cobby wanted to pick up - for himself and a couple of other expats in Bangkok - four sausage biscuits, two country ham biscuits and two tenderloin biscuits. He got two other biscuits and one large coffee for us to share on the road. Before going through security, the precious bundle of eight was neatly wrapped in wax paper, more paper, a little more paper and a thin, breathable plastic Cobby had discovered was ideal for his purposes. The following day in Bangkok, two of the emigrant biscuits were hand-delivered to Cobby’s Thailand colleague, Steven - a man who is really from Alabama. What follows here is his friend’s thank-you note. (I mean, just because a person from the South lives in Southeast Asia, that doesn’t absolve him of his responsibilities about writing thank-you notes, does it?)

 Steven writes: Cobby, the event took place this morning at Starbucks Emporium, attended by a pretty good friend of about seven or eight years. I shared with him exactly, uh, none. He is suffering [from] food poisoning, and I felt for him, truly. But, I did not want to risk wasting so rare a delicacy to ignominious retching and projectile vomiting, despite his very convincing whimpering for just a taste. I just didn’t think I could handle the potential waste. (He’s a Brit, an Oxford educated PhD, who, I am quite certain, has no Aunt Boochie or Aunt Eula, has never watched pigs breed or swigged a Nehi Grape, so could not possibly appreciate the experience.)

 I must confess, Cobby, I had left but one biscuit. After you departed, I auctioned the sausage biscuit on Thai eBay. Had bids from as far as Vientiane. In 3 minutes and 25 seconds, it went for THB 31,220 to a good ol’ boy named Hoot Gibson, from Tupelo, Mississippi. He’s been a long way from home for too many years. Hoot tearfully accepted his treasure, gratefully pumped my arm with both of his trembling hands, turned to leave and could not suppress a little jump and a bellowing Rebel yell few outside the SEC could conjure—and then, another.

 Of course, the Thai commuters on the BTS platform accepted this with nary a reaction. More like deer frozen in the headlights, except for the security guards, who quickly slunk away, lest they be called upon to protect the public, or something.

Khun Jack, at Starbucks, unwrapped the remaining biscuit, and although against the Starbucks rules, agreed to microwave it for me (a sacrilege in a Southern kitchen, I know, but compromises were necessary). He admired the curious contents, as well as the unique wrapping.

 “New paper technology,” I explained, “wax paper - keeps the gator meat fresh,” to which he nodded uncertainly.

 It was weird. As the succulent aroma of the ham and biscuit circulated about the café, people stopped what they were doing, noses turned upward, sampled the air and intently searched about for the source. Instinctively, crossing all cultural barriers, visitors from the world over knew something great was happening. They could not have known how close they were sitting to culinary perfection. I was sure to keep my treasure safely below their lines of sight.

 The smell of the coffee, the salty, smoky flavor of the ham, the buttery biscuit - it was sensational, Cobby. Closing my eyes, I could almost hear Aunt Jessie Merle calling to Uncle Jack out the back porch. It all combined to awaken a long forgotten memory from my youth - way down deep, deep in Dixie: New Hope Community, where float fishing down the Pea River is religion, great bird dog pups are “purdy,” and ham and sausage biscuits are food for the spirit.

 Thank you, Cobby. It was perfect. May I have more, please?

 From a February 2, 2011 Athens "Flagpole" – Pete McCommons:

This post can also be found on the author, Milton Leathers’, Facebook page.