Over Memorial Weekend I had a pleasant ‘back to the future’ experience, and I’m already looking forward to the same type of thing over the Fourth of July.
We were preparing to have a cookout and I was at one of the supermarkets looking for hamburger meat — the same type that has been all the rage for what, 30-plus years? That is to say, very lean, very healthy. Or should I say very ho-hum, very mediocre in taste, very predictable and totally not fun.
Suddenly I just snapped. You know what?, I’m thinking to myself. I’m sick and tired of this #$%@.
I picked up several packages of hamburger meat: “Heart Healthy!! 80% lean, 20% fat!!” “Super Heart Healthy!!! 90% lean, 10% fat!!!” !!!” What a bunch of ... (and by this time I’m starting to mutter to myself audibly). How about good, old-fashioned, regular hamburger meat? Where the h ...
And then a clerk unexpectedly appeared, wondering if the nutty man was talking to himself. “May I help you, sir?” he inquired politely.
“You sure can,” I said. “I’m just looking for regular hamburger meat — the kind that’s guaranteed to raise your cholesterol by 100 points and clog up your arteries. Do y’all even make that anymore or have the health police gotten rid of that too?!”
There was a bit of a pregnant pause, the gentleman obviously contemplating what he had gotten himself into, but then he spoke with reassurance. “Oh no,” he said. “I think I’ve got exactly what you need.” He then reached way back behind the heart healthy stuff, way underneath an overlying shelf of other products to an area that was essentially out of view. He felt around blindly and then produced an item with the simplest of labeling: “Hamburger meat: 70% lean, 30% fat.” The contents were generously flecked with white marbling, and I knew I’d hit pay dirt.
“Is this what you’re looking for?” he asked. I practically snatched it out of his hands, restrained myself from jumping for joy, thanked him profusely and checked out (with a package of the heart healthy product as well, just to “keep everybody happy”). When I got home, I fired up the charcoal, cut an onion, mixed up a beefy concoction with seasoning and Worcestershire, and then waited for the watched pot to boil.
When the charcoal was finally ready, I plopped on the burgers and observed with great satisfaction as the fat started dripping off — a sight I hadn’t really seen in roughly a quarter of a century. The charcoal responded accordingly and added a nice sear to the burgers as they cooked to medium rare perfection. Meanwhile, the buns were being suitably toasted, and when the time came to add mustard, mayonnaise, catsup and a little relish, there was just the right amount of juice seeping out of the burgers to add a little consistency and hold things together.
Everybody knows the experience of stumbling across a fragrance that can instantaneously bring back a flood of emotion and memories. Well, I’m here to tell you that the long lost gustatory experience can do the same thing. Not only was that hamburger the best one I’ve had in years, it was the most enjoyable one I’ve had in years.
Moral of the story: Be healthy, stay healthy and eat healthy. But for crying out loud, lighten up once in a while, have a little fun and quit wearing the wool shirt all the time. It ain’t going to kill you!
Anytime one takes a walk down memory lane, as was the case in this space recently with the column on Big John’s and other watering holes, it’s sure to generate some discussion. Several people protested that Big John’s is not the oldest tavern in continuous existence and that the Ark Lounge is. But I’ll let them take the matter up with Miss Betty Hunter, Big John’s younger sister, who seems to think otherwise, even if it may be out of blind loyalty to her brother.
Greg Roberts, author of the book “The Coin,” mentions several other gone-but-not-forgotten spots, including Group Therapy, Salter’s (on King between Calhoun and George), the Cougars’ Den, the Crystal Tanker (upstairs on Wentworth at King) and the Whale Tail (open for only a brief period of time, and then closed due to fire regulations, in an upstairs location on King).
Hollis Mays and her husband remember The Three Nags, “which was in a tiny space next to a fur storage outfit on the corner of George and St. Philip. It was owned by Larry Walker and advertised as a private club. In the early 1970s, in staunchly conservative Charleston, The Three Nags was considered very Bohemian. Like the Hog Penny mentioned in your article, The Three Nags was one of the closest night spots to the College of Charleston campus. The site was eventually razed for construction of a multi-deck parking garage.”
Back then there was little mingling of blacks and whites at various nightspots. African Americans would no more go downtown, for example, than whites would go to the old Apollo at Columbus and East Bay (long gone, the land now owned by the port). There was an exception, though, an African American fellow known as “Peanut,” who had established a reputation as something of a character and was a well-known and entertaining fixture at the Hog Penny.
Would love to hear more about Peanut.
Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at edwardgilbreth@ comcast.net.