My wife Sue and I were shopping at BJ’s Wholesale Club last week. We typically split-up with me heading for the deli counter, in case there’s a long line. En route, I inspect the bevy of free samples being offered. On this occasion, between the banana pudding cookies and the Greek yogurt, the pickings were slim.
Luckily I was not shut-out. While waiting to be served, a meat department employee came out of the back room with a tray of fresh cold cuts samples, (ham, roast beef and turkey).
I helped myself to one of the yellow, frilly-handled toothpicks that skewered a healthy-sized sliver of roast beef. Well…actually…to be totally honest, it was expensive and very, very, very delicious roast beef. I craved more. So I entered into the realm of bad karma every time the butcher looked away...and snuck another slice.
Hey! Don't give me that condescending attitude. It's NOT like I ignored a gigantic, "ONE PER CUSTOMER," sign! Because there wasn't one. Anyway...within three minutes, I had made a meal out of all six king-sized slices that were now prominently missing from the center of the display platter. To save face and protect my humble image (of myself) and prove to the counterman that I wasn’t a slob, I turned down his sample of my cheese.
I gathered up my lunch meat packets and set out to find Sue. I’m guessing even without one-to-a-customer signage that my sinful roast beef over-indulgence offended St. Slick, the Patron Saint of Freebies.
To pay for my gluttonous transgression, I believe old St. Slick made a sampling booth magically appear at the head of the coffee aisle, ala, "THE TWILIGHT ZONE." I'm positive, it WASN’T there five minutes earlier.
The sign read: JIMMY DEAN SAUSAGE, EGG AND CHEESE ON A BISCUIT. The suspicious look of the smiling representative reminded me of the demonic nanny (Mrs. Baylock), from the 1976 horror and suspence movie, "THE OMEN."
|IN THE ORIGINAL, "OMEN," ACTRESS BILLIE WHITELAW NAILED HER EERIE PERFORMANCE AS THE DEVIL'S GOVERNESS...AND NOW I WAS ABOUT TO ACCEPT FOOD FROM SOMEONE WHO, COMPLETE WITH A HOLY-MOLEY-SIZED MOLE ON HER CHEEK, REALLY RESEMBLED HER.|
The Mrs. Baylock look alike adjusted her paper hat and bobbed her head like a sinister jack-in-the-box clown. My brain knew I wasn't hungry. Yet against my better judgment, I felt compelled...even with a belly full of roast beef...to be lured to siren's tantalizing bait.
In a fraction of a second, the lingering, marvelous memory of the expensive roast beef was ousted from my mouth. The scant, new taste of inferior sausage, egg and cheese was overwhelmed by the abundance of tasteless dough. I should have spit it out but I forcibly swallowed the pasty, spackle-like sludge down through my gullet. Far worse, I had an incredibly bad taste in my mouth…that would last the entire thirty minutes until we got home.
During the homeward drive, I rationalized that a bad taste in my mouth was better than getting my kishkiz burnt-out by unexpectedly hot food. I flashed back to January 1979. That's when I had my moving to Las Vegas, good-bye party, at McSorley’s Old Ale House in Manhattan.
In my hey-day, McSorley’s offered a limited menu. If my memory serves, all they had was; light and dark (colored) beer, Pepsi and Diet Pepsi, turkey, ham and roast beef sandwiches and a cheese platter. For the sandwiches, each table had a vat of English unbleached mustard, (I have NEVER seen or heard of English unbleached mustard before or since...hopefully the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), made that inedible, toxic waste illegal).
I sniffed the open vat and felt heat painfully resonate through my nostrils. Yes, I enjoy spicy foods but my instinct was to avoid this one. When the waiter placed my, “bird” (turkey sandwich), in front of me, a friend suggested that I try the mustard. I said, “No.” My moronic buddy escalated his encouragement to a dare. I had enough of a buzz on to innocently accept. But I wasn’t so naive to dive in and commit a smear to my dinner. I dabbed the slightest bit of that shit on my pinkie. OUCH! It was like my taste buds were nuked and my tongue burned all night.
The near-death experience of English unbleached mustard led me to recall my cross-country trip in 1976. That’s when I got “burned” twice by southwestern cuisine. First in Houston Texas, at a James Coney Island and Chili Parlor. I brought my chili con carne bowl to a table and realized there wasn’t any Tabasco Sauce in the condiment rack. I was too tired and lazy to get up. I took a huge spoonful of their specialty. It was a friggin' napalm explosion in my mouth! It was bad enough that the intensity almost killed me, but the witnesses’ reaction to my misfortune nearly made me die of embarrassment.
A week after my gasteric tumult in Houston, I was in Raton, New Mexico. In the perceived safety of a Pizza Hut, I learned the hard way that not ALL chain restaurants take pride in standard recipes. As if poisoned with cyanide, my Italian sub was laced with a lethal dose of jalapeño peppers. My scorched mouth made he gag as I trashed the whole fiery mess. When I composed myself well enough to speak, I complained to the manager. The prick shrugged, “Dude, you’re in New Mexico…”
We were halfway home from BJ’s when my memory took me back to the first stop on my sixty-eight day cross-country odyssey, a KOA outside Nashville Tennessee, (Kampgrounds of America). Except that experience didn’t involve five-alarm hot foods, it involved another bad taste in my mouth...courtesy of Jimmy Dean. This event resulted in me starting a thirty-eight year vow, to boycott his products, (which temporarily ended with scary Mrs. Baylock coaxing me into violating my digestive system).
I have no memory of Jimmy Dean's TV show. The only song I remember him doing was 1961's, “BIG BAD JOHN.” And I never saw the 1982 movie that bears his name, “COME BACK TO THE FIVE AND DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN.”
|THIS THREE-STAR CHICK-FLICK CONCERNS FIVE WOMEN MEETING AT A RUN-DOWN TEXAS DRUGSTORE, FOR A TWENTY-YEAR REUNION OF THE JIMMY DEAN FAN CLUB.|
The 1976 bad taste Jimmy Dean left in my mouth dealt more with issues of the heart...that were thwarted by a nauseating stink directly associated with him.
That KOA campground was conveniently located between the Orpyland Amusement Park and a Jimmy Dean sausage slaughterhouse, (I hope you see where this is going). I got myself situated and went about the rigors of pitching my tent for the first time and getting all my creature comforts ready at bedtime.
In the glorious morning, I discovered the side benefits of staying there included a great opportunity for socializing. I occupied the whole day meeting people, swimming in the lake, playing softball and hanging out.
A couple of girls that I met earlier in the general store were getting a volleyball game together. These two blond, Northern Virginians, Lu-Ann and Lynette were friendly and pretty with intoxicating southern accents.
Lynette was the actual organizer. She was taller, athletic and more serious than her friend. Lu-Ann was cuter, more feminine and silly. Which meant there was no way, I'd turn down a chance to be around them.
During the game, despite the constant roar of the screaming roller-coaster riders at the amusement park, I communicated well with both of them. Lynette looked sharp in emerald green gym shorts and a Richmond Spiders tee-shirt. But I couldn’t take my eyes off Lu-Ann, in her dungarees and bikini top. I put it in my head that I couldn’t go wrong with either one of them. But when the game broke up, they vanished.
Hours later, the campground manager made an announcement that after dark, they were having a bonfire. He invited everyone to bring weenies and marshmallows. A man around my age brought a guitar and we had a sing-along. The girls didn’t show-up so I gravitated to two Connecticut guys from softball. I kept my eye on the trail and hoped Lynette and Lu-Ann would show up. It was 10:00PM when the screams of the amusement park stopped. A quieter mood came over everyone and my prayers were answered.
I saw Lynette and Lu-Ann, excused myself from the Connecticut boys and met the girls as they came out of the woods. Lynette said, “Where are you sitting?” I smiled, pointed at a nearby log that could accommodate exactly three butts and said, “We have immediate seating right here.”
For the next hour, I was hoping one of them would leave so I could hit on the other. Lynette was sitting in the middle. She consistently gave me a polite smile in response to my humor but Lu-Ann laughed at everything I said. I took that as a powerful vibe that I was getting somewhere with her. But my plan didn’t work because they both stayed. I was losing hope when the Connecticut boys came by and directly hit on them. In a pleasant way, the girls turned them down...yay me!
We were alone again as a rumble of thunder could be heard. Later, the distant sky lit up from approaching lightning. My bubble was then burst by another announcement that due to inclement weather, the fire had to be put out. And for safety reasons, everyone should go back to their campers.
Most everyone, (including the three of us) lingered. We got on the topic of the Grand Ole Opry. I used some of my superficial knowledge that I gained from years of watching “HEE HAW” on TV. They were impressed that a Brooklyn boy appreciated southern culture as I rattled off the big names in country music and quoted some “home spun” comedy lines. All the while, I was hoping they would invite me to their campsite.
I was running out of material when I suggested that the three of us tour Nashville together. Lynette was apologetic, “One of the windows fell out of our VW Microbus and our air conditioner is on the blink.” Lu-Ann sighed, “It’ll probably be an all day affair getting them both fixed.” I could tell she was disappointed and said, “Maybe I can tag along.” Lynette stated, “We're meeting people and will be with them while our VW is getting worked on.” Lu-Ann didn't like her tone and neither did I.
Suddenly, the wind picked up and changed direction. There was a sense of finality in Lynette’s voice but I plowed on, “How about we go to the amusement park the day after?” The wind change brought a disgusting stench. Lu-Ann said, “What is that God awful odor?” Lynette said, “It’s coming from the abattoir.” Lu-Ann and I said at the same time, “What’s an abattoir?” Lynette said, “It’s a slaughterhouse and that putrid fragrance is from down yonder.” She grabbed Lu-Ann’s upper arm and led her away. I called out to them, “What about the amusement park?” Lu-Ann looked back and squeaked, “Maybe…”
No spoiler alert here! To find out what happened with me and Lu-Ann you need to go into my blog archives and read the story from October, 25, 2010 called, “TRIANGULATION OF THE HEART.”
I take my romantic opportunities to heart. So when that one was disrupted by Jimmy Dean’s *pig slaughtering, I decided on a lifetime ban on his product(s).
*Please note, in 1997, I had the misfortune of having to smell the stink of the Perdue chicken slaughterhouse while driving through Virginia’s eastern shore. But because there was no disturbance or obstruction in my love life that disgusting experience didn’t sway me away from eating Frank Perdue’s products.
In the perfect storm collision of Halloween and offending the patron Saint of Freebies, St. Slick displayed the potential of his wrath by distracting me away from my long-standing boycott of everything Jimmy Dean. In addition to being induced into eating that spackle-like crap, I also paid the price of being dragged back to the horror story of missing out on being with Lu-Ann. At least I'll always hold that close-call near to my heart and the sweet way she said, “What is that God awful smell.”