Tip-ping is NOT a country, at least at Joe’s Crab Shack

Casual dining place Joe’s Crab Shack is going where no man or woman has gone before — well, at least in recent times.

The Texas-based eatery said they are doing away with tipping. RTT News has reported that the seafood restaurant will be paying employees $12 per hour which will mean a 12-to-15 percent increase an order to offset the wage increase.

I suppose this will work out fine for the diner who normally pays Joe’s Crabs around $14 per order, according to some industry sources. But then, going out to a nice sit-down seafood dinner isn’t cheap. Seafood, especially fresh seafood, isn’t cheap.

Time will tell how well a change in such a long-held practice will add to the cost of living for restaurant workers whose livelihoods rely on tips. I would imagine it would depend on where one lives. Back in the late 1980s I worked for a lunch-crowd cafe for what was then the prevailing minimum wage of $3.35 an hour. Jeez, it didn’t even seem that much back then. In 2012 dollars for 1988, that would be $6.48 an hour, according to U.S. Department of Labor figures. Oh, and I was never tipped there. Even then with minimum wage I had to work three jobs to stay afloat in my crappy little trailer house. A friend, who lived elsewhere, let me live there for free except I had to pay rent for the lot. The best I can remember electricity, water and cable were free. It was a pretty sweet deal except for the fact I could barely hold my head above that free water.

There are, of course, true service professionals who earn a very good living in upscale restaurants one mainly find in large cities. Perhaps waiters in a smaller to mid-sized cities can make a decent living or perhaps stay afloat in college. But when you think about it $12 is not a whole s**t-pot of loot. I make $20.60 per hour, working 32 hours per week, and it isn’t a whole lot of money.

Despite my trying to sound clever with a Star Trek-style lead, Joe’s isn’t the only restaurant that doesn’t allow tips. I know at least one casual dining place where I live that has a posted policy of no tipping. The Georgia-based McAlister’s Deli, at least the one where I eat in Southeast Texas, posts the no-tipping sign,  saying the restaurant’s employees are well-paid and do not need tips.

Looking around on the ‘net, it seems like the Sonic Drive-In chain purposely keeps its policy toward gratuity on the sly. I see pages and pages where people inquire if you should tip your Sonic carhop.  What I don’t see are answers.

I know at least at one newspaper where I had worked, a local Sonic had been questioned as to whether its carhops should be tipped. The answer was no.

Part of the uncertainty about tipping in restaurants is the franchising of such places as Sonic and McAllister’s. What the corporate types tell the franchisee is not usually discussed in the open.

I have notice in the past few years, I suppose it grew along with the Recession of ’08, that everywhere one looked workers were asking for tips. This includes workers who, I would think, do not depend on tips. I have seen signs requesting tips in such places as Quiznos, where the customer stands from the time they place their order until it is completed.

So there are plenty of questions as to how well those companies who stop tipping will fare. Will it come out good for the worker? The same question can be asked for the customers and owners. For many, such policies might just seem as if they are headed into the deep, dark spaces of the universe. Then again, I may be wrong and probably a little over-dramatic.


How’d you like your eggs, hon? With waffles.

During my visit to the Mississippi coast last week, I was taken aback by the number of Waffle Houses I spotted.

If you’ve ever been down South you probably recognize Waffle Houses by their bright yellow color and big picture windows. While they are open 24/7, the zero hour for them is whatever closing time is in their area. Since there are a dozen or more casinos on the coast that are back up and running since Hurricane Katrina, the diners are probably hopping at least some time throughout the day.

Many Waffle House diners are a favorite for those seeking “drunk food.” Some say eating a greasy early breakfast after an evening of drinking helps “soak up” the alcohol. I doubt that is the case but eating and drinking coffee helps make one a well-fed and wide-awake drunk.

I don’t know what the alcohol sales laws are in Mississippi these days. Back when I was stationed at the Navy Seabee base in Gulfport during the late 1970s, the general statute was that one must be 18 or older to buy beer and wine, and age 21 and up to buy liquor. I am sure that has changed as for age, but I don’t know about the hours legal for consumption. I remember drinking beer at sunrise in the bar where my late friend Betti worked. That is kind of like Louisiana laws where, at least in my younger days, one must only show that they were alive.

Map through Creative Commons. Copyright By Nik Freeman

Map through Creative Commons. Copyright By Nik Freeman

Waffle Houses are more than just a “Southern thing” or curiosity. Since they are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the stores serve as a gauge for FEMA during disasters. If Waffle House is closed, things have got to be bad.

I came across this map by a geographer named Nik Freeman that shows Waffle Houses by density in “quads,” or quadrants, on U.S. Geological Survey maps. This information is run here courtesy of Mr. Freeman through Creative Commons. Freeman was able to figure where the most Waffle Houses were located. The top 21 quads showed the Atlanta area with 132, Fort Worth was fifth with 25, and the lower end of the top 21 was a tie with Raleigh, N.C., Little Rock, Gulfport, Biloxi and Pensacola all with 16 Waffle Houses each.

Although this information was compiled in 2012, the data helps show that I was not imagining Waffle Houses were everywhere in the Gulfport, Biloxi area. As a matter of fact the Gulf Coast from Gulfport to Pensacola (via Alabama) contained a whopping 86 Waffle Houses over a width of only about 100 miles. If you go “down South jukin’ and lookin’ for a peace of mind,” as Lynyrd Skynyrd suggested, at least you’ll find waffles and eggs cooked to order. You will also find some nice waitress who will call you, “hon.”

Whether you are jukin’ or just drunken head to the Gulf Coast and find the nearest Waffle House. You’ll have no trouble finding one.



Listicles for itchy feets

Spring on the Gulf Coast is a time that is hard to beat. When I say Gulf Coast, I mean the area that extends from the “ArkLaTex” to the Florida Panhandle. It is a grand time of the year although it always leaves me with a case of “itchy feet.”

My feet, figuratively speaking, have developed that old get-up-and-go-somewhere feeling even more this year since, literally speaking, my feet have held me back from doing much of anything.

At last report, my podiatrist said I should go through about two more weeks of taking it easy on my tootsies, or should I say tootsie. My hammertoe surgery was performed about three weeks ago and yesterday was the first time I could even remove my foot from bandaging and take a shower. It, the shower, was “mahhvelous,” as Billy Crystal would say while performing as Fernando Lamas on “Saturday Night Live.” The toe doesn’t look very well, but that is only because stitches were only removed from both top and bottom of the toe.

I have been pretty much cooped up recently, that is hopefully ending in another week. One might observe that by reading my previous blather. My Union’s steward training at the end of July is in Albuquerque. It will be nice to get out and get away, despite that our training tends to get rather lengthy. And after reading about the Albuquerque police and its brutal ways, I might just stay to myself in my hotel room after training.

All this said, I have some places I have wanted to visit for R & R but couldn’t for one reason or the other, mostly a lack of funds. With that in mind I began thinking of the various places I have been after listening to sports talk radio hosts who were making a listicle of their favorite “Sports Towns.” With that in mind I shall make my own listicles of favorite places I have been to help prod my sad and itchy feet into happy and (non-itchy?) feet. Some of these places I visited 35-to- 40 years ago so for sure they will have undergone change. But as with gifts, it — supposedly — is the thought that counts.


1. Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

2. Perth, Western Australia

3. Auckland, New Zealand

4. Taipei, Taiwan

5. Devonport, Tasmania, Australia

TOP FIVE MAJOR UNITED STATES CITIES (More than 1 million people)

1. San Antonio, Texas

2. San Diego, California

3. Los Angeles, California

4. Dallas, Texas

5. Houston, Texas

TOP FIVE LARGE U.S. CITIES (From 500,000 to 1,000,000 people)

1. Denver, Colorado

2. Austin, Texas

3. Washington, D.C.

4. El Paso, Texas

5. Fort Worth, Texas

TOP FIVE MEDIUM-LARGE U.S. CITIES (100,000 to 500,000 people)

1. New Orleans,  La.

2. Gulfport- Biloxi, Miss.

3. St. Louis, Mo.

4. Little Rock, Ark.

5. Las Cruces, N.M.

THE REST OF THE BEST (Less than 100,000 people, for various reasons. U.S. and Territories.)

1. Nacogdoches, Texas

2. San Marcos, Texas

3. Hattiesburg, Miss.

4. Santa Barbara, Calif.

5. Estes Park, Colo.

6. Ruidoso N.M.

7. Lake Charles, La.

8. Mobile, Ala.

9. Stockbridge, Mass.

10. Albany, N.Y.

11. Milwaukee, Wisc.

12. Big Sur, Calif.

13. Agana, Guam

14. Surfside, Texas

15. Sabine Pass, Texas

16. Newton, Texas

17. Maydelle, Texas

18. Llano, Texas

19. Wimberley, Texas

20. Lajitas, Texas

*Just as larger cities are ranked more as sentimental favorites, places that I just like, and cool spots on the map, the 20 listed above are not ranked and are merely listed and enumerated.



Good gourmet burger? Beets me.

Mine eyes have seen less glory in the last two decades due to aging, heredity or for whatever reasons that might develop. I started out with prescription glasses but eventually found I could do just fine with cheap reading glasses that somewhere along the way have been dubbed as “cheaters.”

I usually take my glasses along if I anticipate reading. Often times I don’t take them and later wish I had. Then sometimes it doesn’t really make a big ice sculpture whether I do or don’t need classes.

Most times I have glasses when I visit a place to eat that I have not previously visited. There is no telling what type of font or print size on a menu one might find nor may one predict the lighting. Even with glasses, especially cheaters, I might not possess the ability to read a menu with ease. Who knows what one might order.

But last week while staying at a Marriott near Houston’s Galleria I did not have a clue where I wanted to eat or what I wanted to eat. I was by myself, I was on foot — I have been told by a doctor to stay off my feet for more than a month ago due to a foot ulcer — so I likewise chose not to venture far.

As it turned out, there was a little strip center just around the corner from where I was staying. It was actually across the street from the huge mall but I had already taken one tour, at least partially, through the center. So I was pretty tired and was hungry.

I try not to eat more than a burger a week, it being my favorite, for weight and health issues. Although, sometimes a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do. Using such irreversible logic, I decided upon a darkened little restaurant called the Burger Palace and Bistro.

The sign on the window made mention of its being Houston’s best destination for 100 percent Akaushi American Kobe beef. That pedigree being mentioned I could see dollars slowly fading from my debit card. Having been a hamburger cook at a 4-star flea market cafe — hey when I say “4-star” what they hell does it mean anyway? — I could cook a burger that would make Wendy and Ronald McDonald go into hiding.

Now all sectors of the farming and ranching industry these days put out all kinds of smack about their food. An old friend from high school works as a PR guy for a statewide farm association and he is on the warpath with the anti GMO folks. Me I could care less. Two things food is basically about. One is sustenance. The other is taste. Then, somewhere down the line is health. And yes, I agree, that is three. So sue me!

I must’ve been lost somewhere down the line. But all these foreign names for beef don’t impress me. That is why I chose the Mitsubishi, sorry, I mean Akaushi, which is a strain of Japanese cattle. Kobe originally meant beef sold by tall, dark professional basketball players. No, just joking. It’s a city in Japan, silly.

Once inside the Burger Palace, back to no glasses, I could hardly see what was on the menu. Out of the 50 or so imported beers, I did make out “Estrella Damm” as the kind of light Spanish beer I might like to have with or before my dinner. It was a nice light beer, reminiscent of Olympia, which was the only American beer I could find worth a damn in Asia back in the Navy. And way back before Oly became synonymous with Old Milwaukee,

Speaking of the Navy, I visited a few ports in Australia back when I rode a destroyer in the Western and Southern Pacific. That nation had some delightful oddities in their food and it had nothing to do with chewing rough kangaroo feet. Australians had some great variations on food we ate as a matter of routine in the U.S. Among that cuisine was fried eggs or pineapple slices on their hamburgers.

Australians also were very fond of beets — they call them “beetroot” — and found them to be a very fitting additive to a hamburger. I ate eggs and pineapple on Aussie food, but I never tried beets. It just didn’t seem right. Not on a hamburger. Not in my stomach.

But last week in the Burger Palace and Bistro, at 2800 Sage Road, #1100, I tried beets on my burger, called the what else? the “Down Under.” Here is what comes on your burger, mate:

“Grilled Pineapple, White Cheddar, Roasted Beets, Fried Egg with Duck Fat or olive oil & Homemade Aioli.” Aioli is a garlic-flavored yolk sauce. I don’t know if there was any “duck fat” on it. I hope not.

But it was a very delicious burger. The beet left a reddish color to the bun and the gooey-ness made the sandwich somewhat difficult to navigate as a hand food. But it was just as good eaten with a fork.

The burger, which I ordered with a side of upright fries, was $10.95. The imported beer and tip came out to about $20. It was kind of pricey for a quick meal alone. But This seemed to be favored by couples and small groups.

The menu displays a variety for just about anyone’s pallette including vegans. Just tell them to leave off the duck fat.

The Burger Palace and Bistro
2800 Sage Rd., #1100
Houston, Texas 77056
Monday-Saturday 11a.m.-10 p.m.
Closed: Sunday

Finding Jesus at the taqueria

Just looking at the news headline on my local daily’s Website I have to say that I wasn’t totally disappointed to find the headline:

 “Texas man sees Jesus Christ on a tortilla”

Perhaps it would be more appropriate, depending on where one was located, to say “Texas hombre ve a Jesucristo en una tortilla.” That is just one translation. Apt? Correcto? At least the story had a humorous lead:

 “Holy, holy, holy. Pass the guacamole.”

It seems that someone is always finding Jesus in some foodstuff. If one looks closely at the tortilla pictured in the linked story one might believe the irregularity does resemble Jesus. Or maybe the Zig Zag man.

Christmas-time being the time millions of Christians celebrate as the birth of Jesus of Nazareth so would it seem an appropriate time for people to find images of Him on tortillas, toast, screen doors and so forth. The many visions people have of Jesus and his associates and relatives, make sense considering how many different beliefs people attribute to him.

Some, forgive me, jackasses, such as those commentators on Fox News always seem to believe there is a “War on Christmas.” Actually, they mean that it is their opinion that a war exists between government paired with those secular suckers versus those who believe in some narrow — narrow by millions and millions though still narrow looking at the world at large — construct of of Christianity.

But in reality, people find Jesus in a tortilla here, a plate of grits there and perhaps here, there and everywhere. So who is stopping Jesus? The Supreme Court? That Kenyan boy who is president? There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of Jesus or “Hey-soos” either one, at least in the minds of those who believe in Him, and however they believe him. So those of you who worry Christmas is under attack, just go to your local taqueria, get you a plate of something good and make sure you order some hot tortillas. Perhaps if you stare long enough — and perhaps drink some stout margaritas — you too might find a sacred figure in your tortillas.


Three tacos and a flashback of a side of empathy

It is another rainy Southeast Texas day and I felt like wherever I ended up is where I should stop for lunch. As the work clock ticks down to about 10 minutes — I thought I was supposed to start at 3:30 p.m. but beginning time is instead 1:30 p.m. — I will have to quickly relate my lunch and flashback.

Where I ended up was Tia Juanita’s Fish Camp, 5555 Calder, Beaumont, next to the popular Willy Burger and their new pizza place. I have eaten at Willy’s a few times. It is usually crowded and though the place is aesthetically funky, and the food is good, it’s far from my fave local joints Chuck’s Sandwich Shop (486 Pearl St.) for its wonderful old cheeseburger basket, and Daddio’s, up the street on Calder at Lucas, with their wonderful buffalo burger and hand cut fries.

Tia Juanita’s has gone through quite a few incarnations of food places. But it still has the huge covered patio and a darkish inside setting. While it has a Spanish name and a Mexican owner, the place is, unsurprisingly, seafood-oriented. The menu includes fried fish and shrimp as well as poboys, gumbo and tacos of a different variety. When I say that I mean fish, shrimp and beef. You can order a three-taco plate with either or a combination of the three. One also has the choice of flour or corn tortillas. So I chose shrimp tacos on corn tortillas. The three tacos for $10 ($9.99)  comes with a small salsa cup with a great-tasting spice enough to last through about nine tacos. It’s hot yet very delicious. It likewise comes with an equally small cup of charro beans. I likewise got an industrial-sized glass of unsweet tea.

The tacos came with cooked and spicy salad-sized shrimp, cilantro and shredded red cabbage inside two small corn tortillas each. With the salsa it was delightfully spicy and a treat. Although I really didn’t leave hungry, I was a bit put off at the size of the bean amount. Of all that was served, the beans were certainly not made of gold so the serving could have been twice the size I received easily.

Also, I am unsure if chips and salsa are automatic or if they are an extra charge. The waiter asked if I wanted anything else, I suppose I should have asked her what else was there, without sounding like a smart ass.

While I felt I waited a bit longer than normal for my food, I didn’t mind it at all. A large screen with ESPN Sports Center was on as well as a rather loud stereo system playing a number of tunes from the 60s and 70s by Jerry Jeff Walker, James Taylor and even Burt Bacharach and Jimmy Buffett. The rain also played a steady, though not heavy, beat outside the fenced patio. It was watching the rain and hearing Loggins and Messina’s rather sugary but nonetheless pretty “Danny’s Song” that I had a flashback from my military days overseas.

This recall was not from war. It was from sitting inside a pizza joint in Olangapo outside the Subic Bay Naval Station. I chose to order a few cold beers inside the big picture windows of the Cork Room Cellar watching the goings on of a hot, dusty day on Magsaysay Drive. Passing by those large windows to the world would be the whores, the Philippine constabulary in their fatigues, boonie hats and M-16s slung around their shoulders, as well as those who did everything from selling cheap trinkets to picking pockets. Inside, listening to the same songs from the same Loggings and Messina’s albums I remember feeling such sadness for those who made their living from can to can’t. Maybe it was — at 21 years old — my first discovery of empathy for those I felt who were less fortunate than I. Perhaps not the first, but perhaps the first time as an outsider of a foreign land looking in. Or maybe it was just the cold San Miguel catching up with me. I don’t know. But today I remembered it as if it was earlier this week.

The tacos were great though. Were I not scheduled to work later, and had an icy San Miguel been around — doubtful, as you don’t see San Miguel around too often in these parts — I might just have stayed for awhile.


Is it true: That you’re never too big for jury duty?

Just now I have filled out a jury summons for Monday, June 30. I have pinned the summons back on my bulletin board.

The summons says I am to report for a “petit jury.” The word “petit” comes from the French word for “small.” I have never attempted to avoid jury duty but I always wondered if I did, whether I might try the “large” card? In other words, I am almost 6 feet tall. That’s not gigantic when you think of people like a pro basketball player, but it is still above average height.

At some point in time, one summoned for jury duty is asked: “Do you have any reason why that you should be excused from jury duty?

Me: “I do.”

Clerk: “What is the reason you should be excused?”

Me: “Is this the petit jury?:”

Clerk: “Yes sir. It is.”

Me: “Then do you have a jury for one that is ‘petit-plus?'”

Clerk: “I beg your pardon, sir?”

Me: “Well, it is my understanding that the word ‘petit’ comes from the French word for “small.” I mean, I’m not LeBron James, but I am 6-feet-tall and weigh 280 pounds.”

Clerk: “And your point, sir?”

And so it goes. There is little, pardon the pun, potential that a juror may say short of: “Um, I shot the sheriff. But I didn’t shoot the deputy. Oh, and I smoke a little ganja too.”

There you go, off the jury and take a little drink (or a little smoke) and you land in jail.

But why would you not want to make the jury? I say “make” because it seems like the less you would want to serve on a jury, the less chance you have.

I served on one jury in my life. It was a worker’s compensation case. I don’t really remember the details or what verdict we delivered. I just remembered the food. You see, I was unemployed, broke, impoverished. I had no money to buy food or feed my monster Doberman-great Dane. I couldn’t buy gas. I had to hitchhike from the farm house I lived in to town, about 15 miles to the courthouse. I was summoned for two days. The second day there wasn’t a trial as we sat around all day while the parties bargained.

The first day of jury duty, I put on my only suit — three pieces — and walked up the road next to the house to hitchhike to town. A family in my minivan gave me a ride and a guy from the jury who lived on down the road gave me a ride home. Not much trouble hitchhiking when you wear a three-piece suit. I mean, maybe it should be. Let’s say if you were a mobile killer. Oh well, I brought home some scraps from dinner for the dog.

The second day, I don’t remember. I do remember both days we had doughnuts and coffee for breakfast. Man, those doughnuts rocked. We had dinner that evening because we were deliberating. It was from Shepherd’s Restaurant, it used to be a great downtown restaurant. It was also where the inmates had their food made. I suppose that’s why the place had such a recidivism rate back then. Just kidding.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the courtroom. Most of it as a journalist. I miss it, come to think of it. I don’t miss sitting all day, waiting for this or that. But I miss the drama. I miss reporting and writing on interesting tales. Like I’ve said, I’ve only been on one jury, but I’d be happy to do it again. It’s a great responsibility we are afforded in our country to assist the judging of our peers. Plus, you can always likely find a doughnut and a hot cup of coffee. There’s a lot to be said for that.


On a Friday, afternooon

Methinks I will make a chili dog.




The finer things in life, baloney! Seriously!

Here I sit eating pieces of beef jerky. I have often wondered why is it that I do not find myself in a position in which someone will ask me: “How is beef jerky made?” To which I would answer: “Well, first you start with a very, old cow.”

I couldn’t say if I ate jerky as a kid. I can long remember eating Slim Jims, which are the same as jerky only different.

In many cases there are numerous foods today which were not available to the general public when I was growing up. A major reason for that was or is geography. I grew up in a town of about 2,000 people which was some 60 miles from a “metropolitan area.”

The first Mexican food I remember eating was actually what is identified today as Tex-Mex. That makes sense geographically since I grew up and live in Texas as well as Texas standing next door to Mexico. My mother would buy these enchilada and tamale TV dinners with frijoles y arroz, which we knew, of course, as beans and rice. Although I had eaten at a few Mexican restaurants in Texas and the South, I was never exposed to honesto a dios Mexican food until the time I spent in the El Paso-Juarez area and in Southern California. The first “authentic” Mexican food that I found in a restaurant outside of the Southwest was in Lufkin, Texas, of all places.

First of all, I went to college in Nacogdoches, which was just across the river from Lufkin. Casa Morales was the name of the restaurant. Located in downtown Lufkin, the place had great food and an ambiance to match. As well as a good plate of chile rellenos, one might search through the racks near the cashier for historietas, the graphic novellas which were more lurid and even pornographic than comic. Casa Morales later built another restaurant in Redland, a community closer to the Angelina River that separates Angelina and Nacogdoches counties.

Growing up, pizza was something my mother made with a Chef Boyardee Pizza Kits. I probably first had pizza in a pizza place in high school when I traveled to the Beaumont area, where I now live. Since that time I have eaten pizzas in the northeast U.S., Chicago, the West Coast as well as Australia and New Zealand. I must note, I have never visited New York, though I have had so-called “New York-Style” pizza.

There was some standard fare growing up. My mother made wonderful fried chicken. I remember her fried tripe was excellent although some people I know might gag at the sound of the entree. By the way, I had some really good menudo the last time I stayed in El Paso with my friends. Menudo is known, of course, for its magical powers as a hangover cure though I didn’t eat it for that reason on that particular occasion and it was still delicious.

Other dishes from my mother’s hands included, probably my best-loved dish that she made, her pigs-in-a-blanket. This was long before I heard the term kolache, but this was very near what her pigs were.

We were country folks and as such we would eat some dishes not-so-mainstream growing up. One of my sisters-in-law told of her being stunned to see on one of her initial visits, served on my family dinner table, a cooked baloney. Of course, that is considered soul food in some parts of the country today. My Dad, himself a good cook having served as a merchant marine steward in WWII, would buy a billy goat for the 4th of July that he would barbecue. The meal, especially using meat of a kid goat, today is known more by the Mexican method as cabrito.

I would be remiss not to mention a concoction my dad would make that he called “Son of a Gun.” Now my brothers and I have discussed this many times although I am not sure we arrived at a collective agreement as to what this meal was and what all it contained. Some of my siblings said it was my Dad’s version of “Sonofabitch Stew,” the old cattle drive fare that included just about any ingredient of a cow or other edible meat and lots and lots of hot sauce. But this stew my Pops whipped up was more like a Slum Gullion Stew, which is a watery stew of practically any ingredient handy.

In my Dad’s case, this thin stew consisted of potted meat and some type of canned tomato product such as tomato sauce or tomato soup or perhaps canned tomatoes. I surmise he added hot sauce, salt and pepper and he would often bake up some homemade corn bread as a side. It was truly some righteous stuff.

I have eaten barbecued monkey meat on a stick in the Philippines. I added an egg to a hamburger in Australia but turned down the “beet root.” Today you can get just about any kind of meat or vegetable depending on how much you want to pay and how far you want to travel. But sometimes the simplest meals one may find are the things no farther than one’s pantry or local grocer store. It is all the better when you know the food is made at home, and for love just as it is prepared for sustenance.


Happy Pi Day. Go eat a pie!

Happy Pie Day, ya’ll.


An honest to Archimedes Pi pie.

Yessiree, this is the day you should go out and get you a big ol’ pie and share it with someone you love. Or you might share it with someone you lust for, or hell, just eat the whole thing yourself!

Actually, pies are just a manifestation of what is really “Pi Day.” It being March 14 (3.14) which is the number closely related to the arithmetic constant pi, or the symbol π. Now I’m sure you might have encountered pi at some time or other. That is, if you ever had geometry in high school or college, or you are a mathematician. Other than seeing pi on ridiculous, made-up holidays such as this, I can’t recall seeing the symbol, especially if it was used in its real setting as a ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. The common mathematical approximation being 3.14149 which rolls on out to either something akin to infinity or just to a point in which you are tired of another number popping up so you just want to blow it off.

So π has really as much to do with pie as a frank does to being frank or even being a man named Frank. And please, no images of frank pie, a.k.a. Weenie Frank Pie.

MS2  Joshua Derode from Minneapolis, Min., prepares pecan pies for the big Thanksgiving dinner aboard the carrier USS George Washington. U.S. Navy photo by PHAN Rex Nelson.

MS2 Joshua Derode from Minneapolis, Minn., prepares pecan pies for the big Thanksgiving dinner aboard the carrier USS George Washington. U.S. Navy photo by PHAN Rex Nelson.

I’m not much of a pie-eater. A few times a year I might divulge into a slice of something handy and inviting, or vice versa. I like cake better, as a rule, and a candy bar even better but those too are seldom tasted by these lips. I am not much of a sweet-eater of any kind these days, and even when I was, I still didn’t touch much candy, cake or pie. Well, maybe certain types of pie.

My favorite is pecan pie. I think in some parts of the world it is pronounced PEE-can pie. Where I am from it’s Pee-CON pie. Six of one slice, half a dozen of the other. Since I was a big sweet eater when I was a kid, I don’t know why I wasn’t a fan of pecan pie. Goldarn it is sweet, why it’s as rich as six feet up a bull’s a**, as some firemen I worked with would say. I can’t say they knew all that much about a bull’s anatomy. Several of the guys I knew were real cowboys and I remember them talking about jumping up and down on top of a calf to get its heart started after a bovine cardiac arrest.  Well, maybe it has something to do with breeding cattle. Either way, if one might make it up that far inside that orifice, I would just have to say “Good luck, mate!”

l can’t remember for sure if my Mom made pecan pie. I’m sure she did and I bet it was good. It’s just been so long since I remember. A few pecan pies I remember in more recent years. I do recall this female friend in college making one from scratch. I mean she went out in the yard and picked pecans and made them into a pie. Even if it wasn’t the best I’d ever eaten, I certainly had to give the girl a big ol’ Alpha for effort.

The best pecan pie ever was at this popular Galveston restaurant called Gaido’s. This across-from-the-seawall seafood place has been there for years. Texas Monthly  has, for probably the past 30 years, rated it one-star for “extremely good restaurant” with prices averaging $31-50.  It may be one-star but that is one hell of a star as far as I’m concerned. It’s been a year or two since I have been to Galveston. I can’t remember if Gaido’s still has a motel beside it. I stayed there one weekend along some fellow newspaper people for a convention. One of those nights we all ate with one of the tightest bosses I had ever known footing an “eat what you want” bill. Boy howdy did I eat what I wanted, and then more. I was afraid to eat any desert for fears I might explode! But my boss’ daughter, who was my best advertising rep ever, talked me into “just a little piece of pie.”

Lord almighty that was the richest, best pecan pie or any kind of pie I ever had. A bunch of us went to a room and we watched “Barnaby Jones” reruns as we sat there like mummies, wrapped tight in big sweet pie crusts. I don’t know how much we all spent on Alka-Seltzer that night.