Thursday, March 24, 2011

True Grits

Michael Keith, songwriter and Pancake Pantry fan,  lining up for grits and country ham. 
I’m still remembering and talking about our recent visit to Nashville. It was cold in Nashville last week, but that didn’t stop Michael from talking me into hiking far from our hotel (which, incidentally, serves a perfectly good breakfast) to a place he remembers visiting some twenty years ago. The Pancake Pantry, he told me, is not to be missed — a Nashville institution! He said he was pretty sure it was not far from the hotel. He said it would be a nice walk.  If you call walking two miles, in temperatures in the mid-forties, your ears ablaze with frostbite, your nose as red and shiny as Rudolf’s, with a guy next to you saying “I think it’s right down here a ways” a nice walk, it very much was.
    Our walk took us past the Vanderbilt University Hospital, where we were disheartened to see a gang of people in scrubs smoking cigarettes. Some of them even wore surgical headgear and masks, obviously heading into or coming out of surgery. There was nothing friendly or fun about the scene. They were smoking fast and hard and furiously. I thought of walking up to the closest group and offering to show them the scar that stretches from behind my right ear to the middle of my neck, my throat cancer trophy — but I didn’t. They are hospital workers. They’ve seen worse scars than mine. And such a display would have meant removing my warm scarf, and embarrassing my ever-patient husband.
    “I think we’re almost there,” he said. We walked.
    There was a line of people waiting to get into the Pancake Pantry. In line, I chatted with a woman who’d brought her pregnant daughter to Nashville for an ultrasound of the baby. She even showed us the picture of her granddaughter, still in her daughter’s belly.
    “We tried to wake her, but she was asleep,” she said.
    You gotta wonder what’s happened to a world where even the womb is no longer a private place.   
    We also talked with a friendly guy who had two cell phones, one in the breast pocket of his jacket, the other in his pants pocket. The phones kept ringing and interrupting his stories of his grandkids. It seems that people are very proud of their grandkids in Nashville. As for me, I would rather forget that I am old enough to be a granny.
Kathy with a K remembering Key West
    The food at the Pancake Pantry is divine. The grits were buttery, hot and perfect. As a Nova Scotia native, grits are very decidedly not a part of my gustatory DNA. I would challenge anyone who says they don’t like grits to not like these. My Kentucky-born friend Barbara says they probably used bacon grease to flavor them. Maybe. I don’t care. Meanwhile, Michael was very pleased with his salty country ham.  Truly delicious. The pancakes were good, too. Worth the walk. Worth the wait.
    Our waitress, Kathy “with a K” was spry and funny. They keep things moving fast at the Pancake Pantry and that includes the servers. Kathy filled our coffee cups often and on one turn asked us where we were from. Key West. She stopped mid-pour and said “I love Key West.” She told us that after her kids were grown she was still young, only 40, so she “went to Key West to sow my wild oats.”
    Michael turned around in his chair for a good look at her.
    “I thought you looked familiar,” he said.

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