The travelers sat together at the long table and looked quietly at the plates being served.
And no gravy.
We all looked at each other; this wasn't something we were accustomed to.
Mom asked the one question we all were thinking. "You got any sweet tea?"
It was day eight of our trip up the East Coast and our taste buds were starting to show signs of withdrawal. Don't get me wrong, most of the food that we'd eaten was exceptional, save for that one order of belly clams I was encouraged to try on Martha's Vineyard. I like clams; or more accurately, I like clams that have been stripped of their bellies--something I like to call clam strips.
The withdrawal I'm speaking of isn't one that every American can understand. Only those living below the sweet tea line know that it's the icy cold and delectably sweet beverage that's a staple in nearly every southern household. We drink our sweet tea for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We drink it for weddings, funerals, and baptisms. And we really drink it when the hot, southern sun beats down on everything for ten months of the year and fries it all to a crisp.
And what's the perfect accompaniment to a glass of sweet tea? A hot, buttered biscuit smothered with gravy and a side of cheese grits.
We were now in week two of our withdrawal and the waitress looked at the long faces scattered around the table and replied, "Sorry, our tea is unsweetened, but we have plenty of artificial sweeteners."
"I'll just have water," most of us said, while the rest wanted coffee.
"Maybe, we'll stop at McDonalds for lunch?" Betty said. "We could get a sweet tea there."
"No, Mickey D's today," Christy said. "Our lunch is catered. I'm getting the Chicken Marsala."
"I thought today was the pork tenderloin or pasta primavera?" asked Brenda.
"What are they saying?" asked Marlena. "G.? What did they say? Were they talking about the grilled salmon? I'm pretty sure I ordered the salmon. I hope they don't put any sauce on it?"
"I hope I can have more than one slice of bread," said Mary. "Do they have a wheat shortage in New England or something?" she said with a loud, boisterous laugh.
At this remark the whole table erupted in laughter--not only were we short on biscuits, but we were short on bread, too. Every catered meal we'd had so far had only allotted one slice of bread or roll per person.
"Well, I guess since they aren't giving us any gravy, they aren't giving us any bread to sop it up with," said Lori.
"You're probably, right," I replied.
We all settled into our plates, each lost in our own thoughts. A few minutes passed when we heard a voice from the kitchen."Why didn't you tell me they were from the south?"
Breakfast was finished and we boarded the bus for a day of sightseeing and sailing around Boothbay Harbor, Maine. The next morning, our last before we started home, we were met at the door of the Cod's Head Fish House & BBQ by Brian, our cook from the previous morning. "I didn't have enough ingredients around to make biscuits, but I did make y'all some grits and gravy. I hope you like it."
You could feel the whole group smile as we walked in the door. Grits and gravy! At last!
I made my way to the serving line and was surprised when Brian handed me a plate of hash browns out from the kitchen. "Extra crispy and no onions; I try to remember what people like," he said.
Who cares about grits, gravy and sweet tea? This guy just made me fried potatoes without asking. AND without onions! "Bless your heart. I could just hug your neck," I said.
"My pleasure," he said. "I can't wait to read your book."
Now I really did want to hug his neck.
Then a voice from somewhere in the back of the line. "Hey, G? Ask him if he has any more toast? Mary wants another slice."