The fourth installment in a series that looks at life in a small town in Texas.
If you ever find yourself in Texas, and you’re really hungry and you want good food and plenty of it, what you do is drive to the nearest small town, check the obituaries and then head to the church for the post funeral feeding. Wear an outdated and ill-fitting suit of clothes and look appropriately pitiful and you’ll blend right in. If you arouse any suspicion, you can always deflect it by complimenting the potato salad:
“I’m sorry, but I don’t believe I know you. How did you know Bubba Ray?”
“This is the best potato salad I’ve ever eaten! Who made it?”
“Whell! (sniff) Erleta Winslow made that, and it’s okay, if you like your potato salad dry and bland like that, bless her heart and all. You wait right here (calling over her shoulder). Let me get you some of my potato salad. I make mine with a pinch of dill. Can I bring you anything else? Refill your tea maybe? Some pie?”
Before you know it, you’ll have four or five church ladies armed with bowls of potato salad fawning all over you. Small town people take their recipes very seriously and the church cookbook is the Who’s Who In Greater Tuna. The absolute worst social faux pas in Tuna is bringing store bought cookies to the church picnic. Your reputation would be forever sullied. Prayers like this would be offered up on your behalf in the ladies groups: Dear God, please bless poor Leona Fay. Either her oven or her mind is on the blink and we just ask that you restore her either way.
George, my father-in-law, is a Tuna rock star. He’s got so many recipes in the First Avenue Church of Tuna cookbook that they finally set a limit. Sitting in his den the other day, he leaned forward in his recliner and beckoned me towards him. Then looking over each shoulder, he whispered to me in a low voice and confided that he had submitted some of his recipes in my mother-in-law’s name to get around the limit. I might have gasped and clapped my hand over my mouth if I had understood what a scandalous thing this was. It wasn’t scandalous that George was blatantly swan diving through a church cookbook committee loophole, but that my mother-in-law goes to The Second Avenue Church of Tuna. So in my ignorance I said, “Oh really?”
Small town churches have a rivalry that goes far beyond that of Texas high school football, which is saying a lot, since both are considered religious activities. Being a Midwestern Catholic, I don’t really understand either. This became obvious when I attended the funeral of an elderly relative awhile back.
After the funeral, the family gathered in the basement of the Second Avenue Church of Tuna for the post funeral feeding. One of the church ladies sashayed by my table to refill my tea and asked me how my meal was. I told her it was wonderful, especially the potato salad, and thank you so much for doing this. Instead of just shutting up like a normal person, I asked her if the recipe was from the First Avenue Church of Tuna cookbook (Antique Daddy, quit kicking me!) which is so good and has so many good recipes (would you please quit kicking me?) I’ll bet this good potato salad came from the good First Avenue Church cookbook (stop with the nudging and the kicking dude) and maybe I could buy one while I’m here. In fact, maybe I’ll buy several for gifts, they’re just that good!
She stopped pouring the tea, slammed down the pitcher, looked me squarely in the eye and through gritted teeth hissed, “Whell! I wouldn’t know!” Then she spun around and marched off.
I turned to Antique Daddy who was leaning on his elbows with his head in his hands. “What just happened here, dude?” I asked. “I just complimented the potato salad. Isn’t that what I was supposed to do?”
He shook his head at my embarrassing blunder. “This is the Second Avenue Church of Tuna,” he said hanging his head. “We’re never going to get pie now.”
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Hungry for more Tuna? Go to the Best of Antique Mommy to see the whole series.