Hominy & Hash
CHAMPAGNE TASTE, BEER POCKETBOOK
by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Just as the fairy godmother in "Sleeping Beauty" wished wonders for the newborn princess (overruling the deadly plans of some wicked witches), so also did I have a godmother who wrote her wishes for me in my 8th grade autograph book: "Chicken when you're hungry, champagne when you're dry, a nice young man at 17 and Heaven when you die."
After all these years, I'm still working through her wistful plans for me. There was a nice young man at 17, there is always chicken when I'm hungry and, wonder of wonders, champagne when I'm dry. That leaves Heaven ... and I'll work on that.
In the meantime, we go to Outback Steakhouse every time I can talk John into satisfying my need for just those things. I like the predictable in a restaurant, John prefers haute cuisine or blood-red beef. I like driving to different cities and finding a billboard for Outback a few miles ahead. I have never been disappointed. It's my kind of place.
John, however, just put his foot down firmly. "Oh, no," he said when I announced with delight and breathlessness in my voice they'd opened Outback Steakhouses in New York City. "Oh, no, you don't," he repeated. I'm not going to New York to eat at Outback.
"But, it's my comfort zone," I told him, looking as winsome as I could. They serve champagne in chilled glassware designed especially to encourage the bubbles to reach your nose. I love Outback.
"It has nothing to do with Australia, you know," he said. "Those kangaroos, boomerangs and koala bears are just for the atmosphere. It's an American company."
"All the better," I said. "But, I'm just glad it's there, we don't have to give up Gallaghers when we go. I drink champagne. You can spend $15 a glass or $2.95 for the same glass at Outback. Suit yourself."20
It's all a matter of taste. He could spend hours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art while I stare at the works of art from all angles, not knowing up from down. I love the sights, sounds, smells and feel of the atmosphere in Times Square which, to me, is an art form in fast forward.
Again, it's back to predictability. The Outback, Appleby's, Cracker Barrel, TGIFridays, are all familiar to me. Outback, because I go so often, is like "Cheer's" where everybody knows your name.
Applebee's can be counted on for steamed vegetables or bland food if that's what you want at the moment. Sure, the walls are covered with street signs, beverage advertisements from a bygone era. But, it's a pleasant reminder of how things used to be, not a view of life as it was.20
Restroom walls are papered with ads from Godey's Ladies' Book illustrating corsets and garters. TGIFriday's, which stands for Thank God It's Friday, caters to the after work crowd and those who still go to lunch. Here the waitstaff wear hats of their own choosing while bikes and hubcaps hang from the ceiling, as well as traditional farm implements.
Hokey? Sure. But, there, American efficiency is something to marvel. It's a rare occurrence that something is not exactly as I ordered. And, those few times, I sent it back with a smile. I've been disappointed in some of the best restaurants but hesitated to complain lest the waiter think I'm gauche. (Unlike John, who prefers being served exactly what he ordered, making sure he gets it.)
Of course, John's right. If we're going to eat at Outback anyway, why go to New York? I never need a reason for going, it's the home of my youth, yet, if the exquisite dining in elegant places is what John looks for, I'm right there with him.20
Admittedly, I am a plebeian, of sorts. I like the common, the people, the generous hearted, warm, personable people. I like people who'll go out of their way for you, who smile, say a few words in passing, hold the door, wish you well, say good morning, thank you and please.
Now, if I do feel these things and find some measure of comfort in these feelings, then I'm in a zone where I can be me. But, if I don't feel them, if, instead, I feel a cool breeze, sense a cynical or superior attitude, then I'm out of my comfort zone.
This is not to be taken as a plug for travel to New York or a dinner at Outback (although you can't go wrong if you do either -- or, both) it's just a reflection of my godmother's loving wish for me. After all, what more could I have wished for than chicken whenever I'm hungry, champagne whenever I'm dry, (recalling) that nice young man at 17, and praying for Heaven when I die?
Do you have any better ideas?