when food world's collide
Three and a half months ago I stopped through West Virginia for the first time since I left. I was en route to a wedding in Lexington, Virginia and wanted to see if Rupert had changed. It had not, aside from the hillbilly version of Walgreen’s resting in peace.
I arrived in the late afternoon, just before they closed for the day. I’m as giddy as a child in a candy store, minus twenty pounds. This does not go unnoticed, as the first thing Scarlett says to me is something about my ‘chicken legs.’ The repetition of ‘how’ve you been’ and the smell of powdered apple cider on the hot plate reminded me of a different time.
A camouflaged twenty-something man walks in with an unusual purpose. He asks if they have vinyl records. My interest was peeked. There’s a tension in the air that mixes with the cider that makes me feel things. Scarlett seemed put-off or perhaps just confused by such a radical request. I was thrown off by the idea that anyone in Rupert actually had a record player. Homeboy was out of luck.
I would later have an early dinner with Scarlett and Fred at the local Ruby Tuesday, a restaurant worthy of celebratory occasions in West Virginia. I’m not ashamed to admit that my steak and lobster meal was quite satisfying.
I spent the night in my own hotel room, with my own king size bed, my own flat screen with which to watch trashy television, and Old Grand Dad.
I drove back over to Rupert to meet everyone for lunch at Dairy Delite. This occurrence is why I am writing. It has stayed with me since October and I can’t seem to let it go.
There are six of us, including a middle aged married couple who started volunteering at the center after I left. The same waitress from two years ago takes our drink order. I am the only one who orders water. I duck in and out of the conversation, until I hear about the big news in town. They are getting a Kentucky Fried Chicken.
The overweight woman next to me is excited. I didn’t know what to feel. On one hand, there is the small town charm that makes me feel warm and uncomplicated. On the other hand, I am saddened by this predicament. I feel removed and privileged. I moved back to the ‘big city’ and became romanticized by the healthy foods movement. I keep my mouth shut.
I should mention that Scarlett and Fred came to Louisville about five months after I left Rupert. My parents treated everyone to dinner at our restaurant, Lilly’s Bistro. “Casual, yet up-scale dining.” A world a way from Rupert.
Back to Dairy Delite. After everyone asks about life in Louisville, and the overweight woman’s husband tells me to marry a man with a lot of money, the subject comes back to this evening at Lilly’s. Scarlett and Fred talk about what a wonderful time they had, and the amazing food. Scarlett proceeds to mention how nice of a restaurant it is and how you need to have a lot of money to be able to eat there. This may have been the most uncomfortable moment of my adult life. Shortly thereafter, our four-dollar cheeseburgers arrive.
I write today because this was a situation where I should’ve been brave. I became torn between the two lives I lived for a year. This situation still bothers me because:
a) I think Scarlett is wrong.
b) The Fast Food mentality has fucked up this country.
c) What you eat is a choice.