"Sometimes we have to be judged on our one-offs," wrote Nick Hornby—one of, say, five novelists writing since 1900 whom Lunch Lady reads regularly—in "How to Be Good." His narrator doesn't see herself as the kind of person who would end her marriage on a cell phone but, because she has done just that, she considers that perhaps this is the kind of thing you don't get to do over.
Similarly—though perhaps of a somewhat less grave nature than divorce—Lunch Lady has a few food-related phenomena she will say categorically she doesn't like. Seafood ranks high on the list, followed closely by buffets and overly sweet drinks that aren't milkshakes.
But leave it to Jackson to make you eat your words, because if Lunch Lady is to be judged by these one-offs, maybe she doesn't stay as far from those things as she'd like to think.
Exhibit A: Lunch Lady occasionally meets up with her former employer, Craig the Lawyer, for lunch to catch up and talk about her future legal career. Periodically, Craig the Lawyer suggests Bill's Greek Tavern (4760 McWillie Drive, 601-982-9295), then says they specialize in seafood, at which point we pick another restaurant, because, I remind him, Lunch Lady doesn't like seafood. Last week was different, though. Making hasty plans via e-mail just hours before lunch, Lunch Lady agreed to Bill's Greek Tavern. Now, usually, it's easy to eat at restaurants "specializing" in one thing that you don't like, because they have a bunch of other options on the menu—chicken, burgers and salads, for example, tend to diversify menus at seafood places.
But when I say that Bill's specializes in seafood, I mean they really specialize in seafood: Lunch Lady only spied one or two non-seafood dishes on the small but impressive menu, and she wasn't interested in either of them. And though she couldn't bring herself to get one of the straight-up fish filet dishes, Lunch Lady did branch out with the crab-cake platter. It was amazing. An interesting and highly palatable combination of seasonings, vegetables and crabmeat, the fried patties hit the spot.
Bill's brings in their seafood fresh every day, and perhaps it's the freshness that changed this stubborn seafood-hating mind. Craig the Lawyer had the shrimp salad, which was huge and even came with a piece of fish on the side. "They always give you something extra," he said.
If we're going by one-offs, turns out Lunch Lady might love seafood after all.
Exhibit B: Lunch Lady's friend joined Weight Watchers last year, and the system included meeting weekly with a group of other women following the same program. One of these meetings led to one woman's gem: "Buffet" was really an acronym for "bunch uh fat friends eating together." Well, that may be so, and generally Lunch Lady looks down upon anything that requires a sneeze guard, but hey, people keep making buffets for a reason. If you do them right, they're a damn good guilty pleasure.
Cici's (361 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-992-4550, and 1303 W. Government, Brandon, 601-591-0864) serves pizza, salad and desserts, and they serve them buffet style. And though she'd claim to the contrary, Lunch Lady loves this buffet. (She'd also probably claim to hate franchises, but Cici's is one of those, too.) The salads may not be haute cuisine, but they get the job done, with a choice of standard iceberg mix or Caesar salad and a few raw vegetables. Of course, there are plenty of dressing choices.
Next up comes the pizza—some with white sauce, some with red sauce, some with barbecue sauce, some with no sauce. Lunch Lady's favorite is probably dipping the plain white sauce cheese pizza into the extra red sauce available at the beginning of the line. Wait, scratch that; her real favorite is the cinnamon-roll dessert. She stalks them like prey, watching for the employees to pull them out of the oven, douse them in frosting and put them out. "Bunch uh fat friends" indeed, but totally worth it.
Exhibit C: Prior to her days in the glorious South, Lunch Lady scorned the question "Sweetened or unsweetened?" (That's how we ask it up North.) Always unsweetened, she'd say; if she wanted a big ole cup of sugar, she'd order a soda or, better yet, a milkshake. But now that the question has changed to "Sweet or unsweet?" Lunch Lady can't help but let the answer "Sweet" slip out. And McAlister's is to blame (multiple locations). When Lunch Lady worked for Craig the Lawyer, just two blocks from the Pear Orchard Road location, sometimes the only thing that would get her through the day was a 32 ounce plastic cup of that caffeinated goodness. Best not to think about how much sugar went along with keeping her awake through the day, right?
Well, this has been a lot of sharing on Lunch Lady's part, but please take her at her word—don't judge her on her one-offs.
E-mail us at [e-mail missing] with your own guilty pleasures and one-off delights.
you are so cute!