One of the places we stopped for supper on the way to and from LibertyCon was Cracker Barrel. And it was packed, as you would expect on a Sunday evening. After about 10 minutes, a table appeared and we sat down for supper. And I got to thinking about Cracker Barrel, The Waltons, country music, and nostalgia.
I didn’t grow up with the traditional Southern comfort food of meat-n-three, cobbler, sweet tea, and biscuits and gravy. My parents are too taste-adventureous for that, and good Southern cooking takes time. My folks both worked, our babysitters were not from the South, and so I grew up on, well, a lot of things. Curries made at home are one of my comfort foods, and chili on scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese. But as I grew older, I came to appreciate regional American cooking in its various forms (although sour cream and raisin pie . . . I tried it. Not the top of my list.)
Cracker Barrel sells that. And it sells comfortable nostalgia of a time and place where people ate home-canned green beans and locally cured ham, had big gardens, could buy fresh sweet corn in season, where kids roamed in safety, a white -picket-fence and large family world. The world of the Waltons, and Mayberry, of home-made ice-cream and catching fireflies in jars at night in summer. It’s the essence of home-grown tomatoes, but in the form of a menu with all that stuff you don’t make at home because getting a good white lump-free gravy is flippin’ hard to do. And carbs. And fat. And carbs.
Comfort food in a comfort setting that looks back to a comfort time. So what if it never existed? Or it didn’t exist for your family? I suspect at some point most of us have thought fondly of living, even briefly, in a Blue Bell ice-cream world, rocking on deep porches, drinking cold home-made lemonade, eating cobbler with ice-cream, and not worrying about what the rest of the world is doing.
My favorite kinds of country music (and western) have that air of nostalgia. I know, it was never like that for most people. It’s like the idyllic “small town America” that social activists love to tear down and decry the hypocrisy of.
But some days, I really wish I could step into the Cracker Barrel world for a few hours, settle back in the shade of a deep porch and just rock. Or walk under autumn-painted leaves and gather apples from the neighbor’s orchard to make home-made pie in a kitchen with a red checkered oilcloth draped on the kitchen table.
Some days I just want chicken-n-dumplings, or meat-n-three with cat-head biscuits.