“Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.”
You’ll recall from a previous Geezer Story that Rule #3 for the Care and Feeding of Old People is Food matters. A lot. Today we continue the culinary adventures of DooDaddy with a visit to an old favorite: Wright’s Cafeteria. You don’t have to go all the way to East Knoxville for Southern soul food – look no further than Middlebrook Pike, just down the road from The Old Folks Home. It’s open every day for lunch and Thursdays for supper.
We used to go to Wright’s all the time when my son was little. This was in my previous lifetime, my first marriage. Gmamma and DooDaddy would meet us there (still driving then, still living independently). I was able to trick Mac into eating chicken livers for a time, because they looked like Chicken McNuggets, but he soon wrinkled his tiny nose in displeasure and opted for blue jello, fried okra and big yeasty rolls. We used to send Christmas cards of Mac to the servers at Wright’s, and they would put them up on the wall behind the counter. So when my marriage ended, I closed the chapter on Wright’s and turned the page. Too many happy memories turned bittersweet. I also didn’t eat Skittles for years or go to Long’s Drugstore on Saturday mornings for post-soccer pancakes. But I digress …
The other day, DooDaddy and I arrived at Wright’s, and it was like nothing had changed in a decade. The same people were eating at the same tables. DooDaddy had Old Home Week with several cronies. And there was David Wright, frozen in time, still serving up chicken livers in his white apron. He hadn’t aged a day. It was like a trip in the Wayback Machine, except Gmamma wasn’t there.
DooDaddy happily tucked into his turnip greens, sweet potatoes and, of course, chicken livers with gravy, topped off with a piece of butterscotch pie (good not great, DooDaddy declared, but he ate it every bite). I went with a deviled egg (cause I miss my mother’s homemade ones) and a tossed salad with about a gallon of housemade blue cheese dressing and, of course, fried okra, for all the noms. They’ll carry your tray for you, so no worries if you’re on a walker. And where else can you feast on down home cookin’ for just under $20? Which takes us full circle back to Rule #9 for the Care and Feeding of Old People: Everything costs twenty dollars.
My father called me up that evening from the dining room at Shannondale.
DooDaddy: “Sweetie, I can’t remember what we had for lunch. I was telling my dinner companions, and all I can think of is chicken livers. Can you remind me?”
Me: “Turnip greens, sweet potatoes with marshmallows and butterscotch pie with real meringue.”
DooDaddy: “Oh that’s right. Wright’s always does the best meringue.”
I was telling a friend of mine later that it was like lunch was the highlight of my father’s day. My friend suggested that it wasn’t lunch but spending time with his daughter was the highlight of my father’s day.
“That’s it exactly. How do you know DooDaddy without ever meeting him?” I asked.
“I know his daughter,” he replied.