Every time I go on a cruise and see how the chefs doll up the food—they’re a lot more interested in how pretty it is and how fancy the name is than how good it tastes—I’m reminded of the story of my friend Bubba’s first cruise. I decided to share it with you today, because he and I think a lot alike. It’s a bit long for a blog, but you’ll find it funny.
Me ‘n’ Junie May walked into the dining room, where this furrin-lookin’ guy stopped us. “Seapass?”
“Naw. It ain’t passed. It’s right out the window there.”
He held his hand out, looking a little pained. “Seapass, pliss.”
Huh? Who was Pliss? “Naw. We the Martins.”
His whole face lit up. “Ah, yes, Misser Mizzez Mar-teen. Seapass, pliss.”
I seen some people give this guy’s twin the little cards they given us ‘fore we climbed onto the ship, so I decided to try that. He beamed as I handed it to him.
“Ah, Misser-Mizzus Mar-teen. Okay sit you someone else?”
Now, I had no idee whut he wanted with that, so I turned to Junie May. She went all the way to the tenth grade, ‘n’ she’s smarter’n a whip. She whispered, “He wants to know if he can seat us at someone else’s table.”
Well, I was right shocked at that. “If it’s their table, let ‘em have it.”
“No, he means . . .” She gotten one o’ them disgusted looks o’ hers and stepped in front of me to talk to the man. “That would be fine.”
“Yes, tank you.” He bowed and smiled and talked to another guy wearin’ a uniform and said, “Table one-oh-four.”
The boy showed us all his teeth at once, extended his arm to one side, and said, “Pliss.”
I looked around to see who Pliss was, but they warn’t no one else there. I wadn’t sure what to do, but like I say, that Junie May is a bright one. She figgered out he wanted us to go with him.
He took us over to a table where two other couples sat.
I thought he wuz real sweet when he held Junie May’s chair for her. Then he put her napkin in her lap. When he headed my way, I grabbed my own napkin to keep ‘im from tryin’ any funny business with me.
I saw the guy across the table givin’ me the once-over, so I figgered he wanted us to interduce ourse’f. “Hi. I’m Bubba Martin, an’ this here beauty is my wife, Junie May. Ain’t she just’ purty as a ten-point deer?”
Seem like half the people in the dinin’ room turned to look at us. I get that a lot, though. Must look like some movie star or sumpin’. Didn’ wanna disappoint ‘em, so I stood up and waved. Junie May jerked on my shirt sleeve. I get a lot o’ that, too, so I sat down.
The others interduced theyse’f, too. The guy the other side o’ Junie May allowed as how he and his wife wuz from Gulfport, Mississippi. The other guy said they wuz from Massachusetts. Didn’ s’prize me none. I know’d they wuz furriners, cuz they didn’ speak very good English.
Junie May tol’ ‘em we wuz from Pyote, Texas, and the guy from Massachusetts said he’d of never guessed. No big s’prize’ there either. Them Yankees ain’t usually too smart. ‘Sides, even lotsa normal folks don’t know where Pyote is. Monahans is the big city, and Pyote kinda gets overlooked. Truth be tol’, I didn’t know where Cambridge, Massachusetts, was neither.
While we wuz interducin’ ourse’f to one another, I looked around at the table. Seemed like these folks got all their grandma’s silverware out to oncet. They wuz knives and forks all over both sides of each place and even a fork and a couple of spoons turned sideways out toward the middle of the table.
And glasses? They musta know’d we’d be thirsty, ‘cuz they wuz two or three at each place. Not real mugs with handles, but them funny-lookin’ glasses on li’l poles. You know, the kind drips all over the bibs of yer overalls when ya drink from ‘em.
Well, anyways, we come there ta eat, so I thought mebbe we’d oughta get down to bidness. Li’l Filipino guy poured some water into my glass, so I tol’ him I wanted chicken-fried steak and mashed taters. “And put the gravy on the side.” Well, youda thunk I wuz speakin Chinese or sumpin, way he looked at me.
He pulled back the pitcher and said, “Pliss?”
Who the heck was this Pliss guy they kept askin’ ‘bout?
Junie May elbowed me right hard and whispered to me. “He just pours the drinks. Wait for a menu.”
Well, Betty Jo didn’ make ya wait fer no menu back home ta the City Grill ‘fore ya could order. Fact, she couldn’t type good enough ta have no menus.
‘Nother li’l guy come by and put a basket o’ bread in the middle o’ the table. Just’ one basket fer all of us. Guess we wuz s’posed ta fight over it.
Anyways, we all sat there a-waitin’ fer sumpin’ ta happen. Massachusetts guy talked Yankee, but I couldn’t translate it. Wish’t I’da been sittin’ where Junie May was. Probly coulda unnerstood the guy from Mississippi.
After while another one o’ them cute li’l fellers come by and handed us menus. Leastways that’s what I ‘spected they was. Couldn’t find no chicken-fried steak nowhere on there. No fried chicken, neither. Never heard o’ no café didn’ serve one or t’other.
Most of it seemed ta be written in Eye-talian or French or some such thing. Couldn’t make head nor tail of it. Thought mebbe I had the dern thing upside down, but didn’ help none when I turned it.
Finally found some sliced melon, so I ordered that ‘un. I mean, ever’ country boy knows how to handle a big ol’ slice o’ watermelon, though I’ll hafta admit I like it better fresh stol’ out’n the field.
Always liked soup, too, so I ordered one called Vichyssoyzee—sumpin like that. Probbly be right tasty.
Didn’t have a clue whut them Entries wuz about, though. Ya wouldn’t believe all the stuff they’d writ down there.
Tagliatelle with roasted chicken and Portobello mushroom—tossed in olive oil and lemon cream. Couldn’t figger out what tag-li-a-telle might be. And how the heck did they get cream from a lemon?
Sauteed shrimps provencales. Now I’d et shrimp oncet, but I never et no pro-ven-cales. Fergit that.
Duck breast a l’orange. Bet me, Buckwheat! I done shot my share o’ ducks, and they warn’t never no orange ones. Who’d they think they wuz kiddin’?
Wild mushroom strudel. Didn’t these folks know nothin’? I mean, I ain’t no super-sophisticate, but I know strudel’s got cherries or blueberries in it—not no dang mushrooms.
Whole roasted tenderloin of beef. Well, that sounded like sumpin’ I could eat.
It didn’ take long to figger these chef fellers didn’ know much about food. Well, actually it did. They like to let folks set there for a while ‘fore they get ‘round ta servin’ ‘em. Guess they figger if ya get hungry enough waitin’ you’ll eat whatever they bring you.
Thing is, they didn’ bring me no melon a-tall. Brung me a couple o’ li’l tiny slices of cantaloupe instead, and one o’ them wuz green. I mean it. Green cantaloupe. Who’da thunk? Well, I et the reg’lar ‘un, but I didn’ touch that other ‘un. I mean, a feller might get sick eatin’ stuff like that.
Then, after we sat and waited fer awhile longer—the Yankee and his wife yakkin’ the whole time in Massachusian—they trotted out our soup. I tooken a big ol’ spoonful o’ mine an’ had to spit it back into the bowl. The dern fools forgotten to heat it. I mean, it was colder’n Aunt Nanny’s bed after Uncle Fred died. Yuck! I just’ lef’ it in the bowl and let them haul it back to the kitchen. Ignernt furriners.
Didn’ think it could get no worse, but it did. After leavin’ us to listen to them Yankees jibber-jabber for a long time, they finally brought supper out, but you wouldn’ believe it. They wuz a coupla li’l tiny pieces o’ meat on the plate, all covered up ‘ith gravy.
But ‘twarn’t even real gravy. No sir. It wuz brown. I mean, Betty Jo wouldn’ try ta serve no brown gravy. Ever’one knows gravy’s white.
An’ the taters. Warn’t no reg’lar mashed taters, nor even baked. They wuz in a li’l tiny pile all puffed up ‘ith a rooster comb or sumpin’ on top. Crusty, too. Not sof’ like real mashed taters. An no gravy a-tall on them.
Then they wuz some funny-lookin’ green stuff on the plate. Don’t know what that was.
I looked at Junie May and said, “Come on, honey. Le’s git outta here ‘fore we get pizened.”
She grabbed her purse an’ stood up. “Yeah. I seen some folks eatin’ hamburgers ‘n’ hot dogs up by the swimmin’ pool. Le’s go up there.”
When we lef’, that funny-lookin’ feller in the white suit by the door eyeballed us like we wuz the ones done sumpin’ wrong. Can you believe it?
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Contact him atdnwalkertx (at) gmail (dot) com or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx.