Eating new foods at early ages can create a lifetime affinity with a little touch of addiction in the affinity. The more powerful the early experience, the more strange addictive power it will hold over you.
I don't fight it. I enjoy it.
My father was the Columbus of the children's tastebud world, always hunting a new place to land. Nothing made him happier than introducing his child to any kind of new experience. But I do believe he had a preference for sharing the joy of new tastes.
When I was a very small child, the first few times I went to town with Daddy, there was a man we called "The Tamale Man."
One day Daddy asked me, "Do you want a tamale?" I had no idea what a tamale tasted like since I had never eaten one. But curiosity grabbed me and I said, "Yes." It was the best-tasting tamale of my entire life. Every time I went to town I started hunting "The Tamale Man." I honestly believe the very top tamale man in heaven came down and helped him prepare every batch.
Recently, I was telling my old picking-and-grinning pal, Jerre Haskew, about "The Tamale Man's" short run through my life -- almost crying out loud at the memory of those mouthwatering morsels. And behold -- he remembered "The Tamale Man!"
He said, "If you want a great tamale, go down to Champy's in the 500 block of MLK (Boulevard)."
With this conversation fresh in mind, my wife and I went to bed and started talking about tamales. The prophet Hezekiah said, "It is not romantic to lie in bed and talk about tamales," but we did it anyway. The longer we talked, the more we wanted one, so we sprang from bed, ran for the old band bus and headed for Champy's.
It was a fine decision. We ordered six corn-husk wrapped, beef-filled tamales for $9.95. We proved the great prophet, Hezekiah, wrong because the tamales deeply enhanced our marriage.
The reason I tell you these kinds of stories about good places to go and good things to do is because I cannot stand the thought of there being one culturally deprived man, woman or child in Hamilton County. I remember so painfully how culturally deprived I was before I met, "The Tamale Man."
One more thing, we have now made contact with fried pies -- apple and peach. I thought they died with my mother because none of the better women cooks in my family practiced the fine art of "fried pie-ery." I haven't had a memorable fried pie until last week at Ken's on Highway 58.
Ken and his wife, Frances, run Ken's, right below Central High School, and his fried pies are worth participating in with a thumb and four fingers. It may not carry you back to Old Virginia, but I feel sure it will carry you back to Momma's kitchen and early childhood.
Recently, we enjoyed a late breakfast with Charles and Bobbi Wright in Chickamauga. Later in the day, Bobbi served us an afternoon treat of "'blueberry ice cream." Bobbie put a layer of frozen blueberries in each of our bowls, covered them with 2 percent milk, lightly dusted the tops with sugar and, as if by magic, we had delicious, instant "blueberry ice cream."
Send me your "twicks" for similar treats.