My good friend and music director, Tim Spraggins, lost his mother recently. Several members of our church attended and helped lead the service at a funeral home in Thomaston, GA. We rode together and wound our way through the two lane highways of middle Georgia. It was a beautiful tribute. Daniel Solberg, a friend of ours and arranger of choral music, played the piano. Danny Morris sang. Wally and Julia Rice and I attended. After the service it was lunch time. I asked a local at the funeral home, “Where’s somewhere good to eat?”
“Peachtree Cafe. That’s where all the locals eat.” Thomaston is in the country and I am from Jackson, a small town nearby. We walk inside. There is this long buffett full of fried food. Chicken and cobblers and turnips. It’s just glorious. It’s a little dingy with a few stains on the ceiling tiles overhead, grime on the floor but sanitary enough. (If you were to walk barefooted on that floor, you would get what we called grocery store feet).
Daniel is not from the country. This may have been his third time at a buffet. He says, “Oh my. They have bacon. I love bacon.” He starts piling it onto his plate. Danny says, “Daniel. That ain’t bacon. That’s fried fat back.” We sit down and this eighteen year old waitress comes over with an apron and a thick middle Georgia twang says, “What would y’all like to drink?”
Daniel says, “I’d like a club soda.” She pauses and gives this blank stare. Daniel can sense the confusion. He says, “Well, any sparkling water will do.” I say to the waitress, “I think he would like some ice water.” “Ice water ok, Daniel? Ice water then.” She writes it down.
Then she comes to Julia, Haygood’s organist, who is originally from Russia. Julia says, “What types of hot spiced herbal teas do you have?” Another blank stare. And I said, “I think she would like a Coke.” And Julia said, “And yes with no ice.” And in that moment, I knew right then and there. I had a culture.
A few minutes into our meal the waitress asks us where we were from. Danny says, “Atlanta.” She says, “I’ve been there once.” We try to convince her she needs to visit the Beltline and check out a show at the Fox. We laugh and she brings over a basket with grease splotches on a paper towel. Inside were hot fried green tomatoes made to order for us. And everything was right with the world.