Popeye’s Restaurant, Tallahasse, FL (1986)
I sat quietly by the corner window in Popeye’s Chicken with my friend Anthony and his other lunch invitee (can’t remember his name). I know he told me he wanted to go to lunch, but I thought it would be one-on-one. It didn’t matter though. Once I got into my food and they started talking, I’d be in my own world anyway.
Since it was a fast food restaurant, we didn’t have to sit through any small talk while waiting for our server or for our order to be prepared. We simply walked in, waited in the short line, then took our food to the table where I could look out onto Tennessee Street.
You know what? I never quite understood why cities name some of their streets after states. Trillions of names available and your sense of creativity is so lacking that you can’t come up with something other than Ohio St? Florida Street? Tennessee Street? And while we’re at it…
Atlanta, why do you have 71 different streets with the name “Peachtree” or a variant of it? Yeah, I looked it up. 71.
Anyway, back to my story…
I looked over my meal, wondering what I wanted to bite into first: the breast, thigh, leg, biscuit, mashed potatoes or Cajun rice. Being young, skinny, active and possessing an unnaturally high metabolism, large meals were never a concern. I walked almost everywhere I went on Tallahassee’s “seven hills” and always participated in multiple activities. I could eat all day, every day and never gain an ounce.
30 seconds later (at least it was perceived as such by anyone else, considering how fast I used to shovel food into my mouth), I was squeezing grape jelly out of the packet opening, into one of my two biscuits; the only remaining, or should I say “surviving” food items on my tray.
“Uh, you gonna eat that?” Anthony’s friend asked.
“Pardon me?” I replied.
“Are you gonna finish your food?” he asked as he extended his pointing index finger over my tray, stirring in mid-air towards the memory of my chicken. Another 3 or 4 inches and he would have made contact. I looked at his tray. His chicken bones were significantly different than mine. They had been stripped of their humanity (or rather, chickanity)! And when I say stripped, I mean shot-blasted! They looked like the bones a dog has been playing with for 3 or 4 days. Not even the SMELL of skin.
“I finished my food,” I replied politely.
“You still got food left,” he snapped like a father, holding his child hostage at the dinner table until he finished his brussel spouts.
“The only food I have left are my biscuits, which I’d like to eat NOW, while they’re still warm – if you don’t mind.”
“You need to learn how to eat your chicken!” he said insultingly as he circled around my food again.
“How ’bout choo get out my plate?” I fired back, “How ’bout THAT?”
“Kennyyyyyy-” Anthony began.
“NO,” I continued, now pissed, staring at my consumption critic. “Dude needs to stay out of folks’ plate. If you want what’s LEFT on my tray, you can have it. But I don’t need you pointing all around it and telling me how to EAT. You wanna suck the marrow out of it, that’s you.”
“I just think you’re wasting food.”
“And I just think you’re wasting your breath!”
I slid my tray to him with a challenging gaze as he quickly pushed it back.
“I don’t want your food,” he declared angrily.
“Good, then you shouldn’t have a problem when I dump it in the garbage. Anything else, mom?”
Anthony put his head down in obvious disappointment and total embarrassment, but I didn’t care. If anyone needed to check himself, it was my accuser.
We sat in silence as Anthony got up to request a carryout bag. Meanwhile, I ate my biscuits, smiling with my “I ain’t happy unless you’re mad” face.
Not a word was said as we walked out into the parking lot and eventually parted ways. Dude opened his mouth and I shut it for him. I would have felt bad for Anthony, but having given it additional thought, I figured HE should have checked his friend.
He at LEAST could have intervened before it escalated.
I’m sure this guy went to his car, thinking the same.
Looking back, I suppose I could have been a bit more understanding, patient or polite, but I still believe he crossed the line. I’m a firm believer that you should concern yourself with your own affairs, particularly when it comes to your plate.
But that was 35 years ago. A memory…
Popeye’s Restaurant, Columbus, OH (2017)
I sat with one of my best friends at Popeye’s Restaurant, facing Brice Road. Still, one of my favorite places, but now I was twice as large in size and three times as old. The only thing smaller was my food selection: 2 pieces of chicken instead of 3 and only one biscuit.
As I split the biscuit to add my grape jelly, I noticed him staring.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Putting jelly on my biscuit.”
“Man, these are POPEYE’S biscuits. You don’t need to add jelly to them.”
(Here we go again.)
I paused, then fired back through clenched teeth. “Then why do they have strawberry and grape jelly available? To put on your CHICKEN??”
(Admit it, you sounded that out with clenched teeth.)
He looked at me with disgust. “Man, you’re ruining a perfectly good biscuit!”
“Dude, these biscuits are the truth, but they go better with JELLY!”
“See. You don’t know how to eat a biscuit.”
“You know what? How ’bout choo get-“
Nah. The words never left my lips. This was my road dawg and a dear friend. We say whatever we want to each other because we can, but at the end of the day, it’s all fun. Besides, I loved him like a brother, and unlike my Tallahassee dinner partner, I would kill or die for him, despite his ill-advised invasion of my plate.
“Eatcho dry-ass biscuit!” I ordered as we both laughed and continued our meals.
Of course, he HAD to have the last word…
“You need to learn how to eat a Popeye’s biscuit, the RIGHT way…”
All I know is, I’d better not catch him eating a slice of cake with ICING on it…
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