Inspired by a recent article in the Charleston Gazette-Mail concerning bologna — and, no, I don’t mean anything found on the political pages of the state’s largest newspaper — I recently got to thinking about what people eat in southern West Virginia, aside from pizza and all of the fast food we all are guilty of devouring, especially during this COVID-19 episode from hell.
I remember the days when the only pizzas I knew about either came in a box (Chef Boyardee), or we ordered it from the only pizza place in the entire county at the time — Gino’s, which was located at what is known as the Triangle intersection near the current McDonald’s in Logan.
I find it interesting that there now are four Mexican restaurants located in Logan County, not counting Taco Bell, yet there remains three Gino’s Pizzas, one each in Logan, Chapmanville and Man, along with three Giovanni’s restaurants in Man, West Logan and Chapmanville. Toss in Little Caesar’s and Chirico’s Ristorante, both within walking distance of downtown Logan, and it would seem that Italian is the way to go. Even Granny Jack’s restaurant, secluded in Cow Creek near Omar, will supply you with a good pizza, although I would suggest their dumplings. And, although pizza is out of the question, China Fortune across from Chirico’s near Logan gives Loganites a choice of Chinese cuisine.
Two Burger Kings, two Dairy Delights and the Dairy Bar at Man provide for ice cream goodies for Logan County, while Four Seasons, Granny Jack’s and the Hatfield Market at Switzer provide catering services for large gatherings in typical non-COVID times. Of course, Morrison’s, Parkway and Cliffside have historically survived as popular drive-in restaurants that feature curb service.
The Nu-Era bakery that has been in downtown Logan since about 1945 has for a while now provided daily dinners that go along with its traditional sweets, including made-to-order cakes for birthdays and other celebrations.
Toss in the Hot Cup Café in Logan and Granny Babe’s fine rib joint at Holden, to go along with Kentucky Fried Chicken, the Front Room, Captain D’s, Arby’s, Bob Evans and a new Japanese eatery, all at the Fountain Place Mall, then it leaves little wonder as to why obesity is a major problem in Logan County.
But, now, wait just a minute. What about those days of yesteryear when many parents and grandparents used lard to fry just about everything, be it potatoes, chicken or anything else? That artery clogging stuff surely had something to do with obesity, at least, according to some of the health experts. Frankly, I believe it is simply a lack of exercise that causes most of today’s overweight problems in Logan County.
Homemade biscuits, chicken and dumplings, cornbread, pinto beans, green beans — to name just a few staples — all were either made or seasoned with lard or pork, such as ham hocks or fatback.
Every woman I knew when I was growing up fit into what I would call the “great cooks” category, likely because they all had to provide daily meals for their families. I remember eating dinner at my aunt Nary Burton’s home when I was playing there with my cousin, Marvin, on that side of the coal camp that was across the railroad tracks of the coal camp that I lived in. When it got to be supper time, I became an invited guest, and my aunt was a great cook.
Whether it was dinner at Grandma’s house or any meal at my mother’s kitchen table, I do not believe I ever complained about what was being served — peas, carrots, liver, beans, squirrel, rabbit — it just didn’t matter. One thing that I think was almost a constant at any dinner table back then seemed to be fried potatoes. I don’t believe anybody’s fried potatoes tasted the same as another person’s, as even the size of the sliced potatoes varied from kitchen to kitchen, but it was a typical food that was usually the result of home-grown potatoes from a local garden. I don’t know that I ever tasted french fried potatoes until I was a student in junior high school, or maybe even high school.
Mid to late summer was a healthy eating time for me growing up, and for good reasons — like fresh produce, such as green and ripened tomatoes, corn, half-runner green beans, green onions, cucumbers — all available for consumption with whatever the main dish might have been, whether it was chicken, pork chops, cabbage rolls, or some other main course.
Despite eating wild greens in the springtime and garden greens such as turnip and mustard in autumn, as well as consuming home-canned sauerkraut at various times, there are two foods that I had never eaten until I attended Marshall University in 1971 — garden salads and steak, like T-bones or ribeyes, for instance.
Oh, sure, I had chomped down many “wilted salads,” especially during spring and summertime, and I certainly knew what a buzz-buttered steak was. In addition, tomatoes and cucumbers, along with onions, mixed with vinegar, oil, and sugar, certainly might fall into the salad category, but I never had a true garden salad (the typical kind you might have today at any restaurant) until I and the girl I was dating went into a restaurant on 5th Avenue in Huntington. To me, lettuce and green onions with hot bacon grease drizzled over it (wilted salad) was the only green salad I knew about.
I’ll never forget that experience in the restaurant for two reasons. First, the name of the restaurant was “Dwight’s.” At one time in Huntington, there were two locations for what was a fairly popular restaurant chain in parts of the nation.
The second reason I won’t forget that first true salad is because when my date ordered a salad, I simply followed course. What I didn’t know was what the heck bleu cheese dressing was, so I ordered Italian dressing. After we received the salads that I believe preceded spaghetti, I began to smell something stinking and, not wanting the girl to think I was the “smelly” one in the dining room, I made the comment that something smelled terribly bad, almost like a sewer line.
That is how I learned that bleu cheese dressing has a distinct smell and taste, which, by the way, I actually now enjoy when I’m eating out, a rarity nowadays.
It was a good while later that I had the opportunity to eat a “real” steak and, of course, I didn’t know what kind to order, or even how I wanted it cooked. To the best of my recollection, I ordered a New York strip (because it sounded fancy) and asked that it be cooked as well done. To this day, I do not order a New York strip, nor will I ever ask for any steak to be cooked “well” done. Might as well be eating the soles of your shoes, as far as I’m concerned.
Anyway, since I’ve led you, the reader, on a rambling tour of food, eating, and even a restaurant experience, allow me to get back to the “bologna” that I started this with in this column. You, see, the election is finally over and most of the political bologna probably is, too.
At the time of this writing, Friday, Oct. 30, one day before Halloween and just three days before the spooky election that has dominated most media in every fashion imaginable — from MSNBC to Fox News to Facebook and Twitter — hopefully, the craziness will finally be over.
So, getting back to the “dining” portion of this column, I will simply say I don’t know who, but, one day after the election, it’s fair to say that some people are most likely eating “crow.”
May I advise the use of a little salt and pepper?