The second in series that takes a look at life in a small town in Texas.
People tend to think there is no culture in a small town, that there are no restaurants, no theater. Well, there is. It just so happens that the live theater is in the restaurants. Just not in a dinner-theater sort of way. And not really on purpose.
Once again, we find ourselves in Greater Tuna, where my in-laws live. There is a restaurant there that can probably best be described as a shed. Only not that nice. The tables are covered with well worn red and white checked oil cloth and none of the chairs match. The painted floor creeks and slopes slightly and a screen door bangs and then springs back to bang again as people come and go. A rickety ceiling fan whirs and rocks overhead. The cacophany of white noise all works together to create a certain ambience. It has a hand painted sign out front that reads “Aunt Clydes” and the place is run by Aunt Clyde herself. On any given weekday, the place is surrounded by cars and golf carts parked in all manner as people make their way from near and nearer for the local version of the power lunch, or what they call “shootin’ the breeze”.
Aunt Clyde is a motherly black woman with a large presence and generous bosoms, which overflow the sides of her apron. The bib-overall wearing men can’t help but to steal glances at all this womanly glory and even the women take a second look. Aunt Clyde speaks as though she is about out of breath, in a kindly raspy voice, yet she has a natural air of authority about her. Make no mistake Aunt Clyde is in charge of the place, so don’t even think about acting a fool or she might come over and swat you upside the head with a menu and fire off a warning to “Stop actin’ like a fool!”
Speaking of the menu, there is one, but Aunt Clyde doesn’t read or do math, so it doesn’t really matter. You just tell her what you want and she’ll tell you if you can have it or not. When you are finished eating, she’ll tell you what you owe, and that largely depends on her mood. Your meatloaf might cost you $3.29 whereas mine might be $4.48. Everyone pays whatever Aunt Clyde says they owe and no one forgets to tip. If you did, word would get around fast and let there be no doubt, small town people protect their own. If you like meat loaf, mashed potatoes, lemon pie, sweet tea and the like, there’s no better place to eat in any city of any size.
You just can’t get that kind of dining experience at Chili’s.