Cracker Barrel and Country Music

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.


7 thoughts on “Cracker Barrel and Country Music

  1. I did grow up in that world, left it for over 40 years, and I, for one, am damn glad to be back… And there is always an open rocker on the porch… But I don’t do chicken and dumplings… Never did get the gravy right… LOL

    • Yeehaw! comments are open!

      I never did understand why anyone would ruin perfectly good biscuits by boiling them.

      • Laundry day. It’s a lot easier to do strip dumplings into one pot than to make biscuits or bread when you are 1) short on fuel or 2) finishing laundry. In other places, red-beans-n-rice or red-beans-n-sausage are the wash-day meals.

    • I can do the New Mexican version of roux, but my gravy . . . eh, I’ll make a fancy sauce before I try to make basic white or red-eye gravy. There’s always a lump hiding that I miss.

      • Gravy should always have sausage in it (unless it is egg gravy) and that tends to hide any lumps.

  2. I think that just about everywhere outside the big cities “small town America” exists even without the small towns. In the suburban/rural New Jersey I spent the first half of my life in, there were farm stands everywhere with fresh tomatoes and sweet corn. There were the local ice cream joints, and the lemonade stand could be found here and there. Suburban Ohio is much the same – but with more porches and rocking chairs – three of the dozen houses on my block have had front porches added.

    I think that “small town America” continues to be the ideal of many Americans, despite the social activists and all they’ve done to tear down that image. Think back to childhood, much of the entertainment consisted of going for a walk or hike and getting ice cream afterwards, sipping lemonade after biking or while waiting for fireworks, or walking along the boardwalk and playing a few arcade games or having pizza or fries after swimming. That may be the type of simple wholesome American fun that is sneered at by some today, but I enjoyed the heck out of it. (Even if I’m not a big fan of the gravy.)

  3. I’ve heard some big city folk complain that all small towns are alike. For some of us that is more of a feature than a bug. We can move from East Foo to West Bar to North Baz to South Frob and be at home fairly quickly. It’s the big cities where I feel a need for native guide to help me through the wild territories – or know which ones to avoid entirely.

Comments are closed.