Sunday, September 25, 2011

"You Folks Farmers?"

A quarter of a century or so ago, I attended a breakfast buffet. It was in a farm building of some kind somewhere on the outskirts of Bangor, Pennsylvania. Accompanying me on this culinary adventure were my maternal grandmother, her long-time neighbor, and my two brothers. While the Bangor denizens were accustomed to these local get-togethers on farms and in churches and volunteer firehouses, the Bronx boys were not.

Such neighborly events in our neck of the woods were very rare. When they did occur, they bore little resemblance to the breakfasts and potluck suppers in the countryside. In fact, the one and only all-you-can-eat breakfast that I attended in my lifetime living in the big city served powdered eggs, which would be absolutely sacrilege in pastoral venues.

If memory serves, one also got a whole lot more bang for the buck out in the country, which is not really surprising. So what if I was repulsed by scrapple—a regional favorite and Spam-like product that consists of a mushy concoction of pork scraps—there was so much more to choose from, everything from pancakes to cornbread to home fries. We not only enjoyed the food but the hospitality, too, which was considerably more unfettered and more abundant in supply than what we were accustomed to on the mean streets of the Bronx.

As I sat down at a long lunch table with my breakfast plate brimming with bacon, eggs, sausage, and toast, a wizened old gentleman nearby turned to me and asked in his distinctive twang, “You folks farmers?” I informed him we weren’t and he smiled, returning to the business at hand—chomping down his hearty breakfast. This was the first and last time in my life that I was mistaken for a farmer. Just last week, though, somebody in a local diner thought I was a grease monkey from the nearby garage. I told him he must have me confused with someone else. He didn’t seem to believe me.

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