Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Comeuppance

If there is one thing my Tony and I have accomplished since living up here in our old log cabin in the foothills of Roan Mountain, Tennessee it's finding where the best food is served up. Ferreting out the 'Mom and Pop' eateries has expanded our geographical boundaries as well as our waistlines. The result of our culinary forays is the discovery there is no better country cooking in this neck of the woods than you will find in Carter County.

One of our favorite eateries is Laurel Fork Restaurant in Hampton, Tennessee. 

It just so happens it was also there I had a once-in-a-lifetime memorable experience.

One day at lunch while sitting in a booth savoring the restaurant's daily special, their to-die-for baked chicken breast, my two chosen sides of homemade mashed potatoes with brown gravy, green beans and a hot hoe cake, the door opened, and an elderly couple shuffled in.

As they made their way to a table near me, they reminded me of my Grandma Minnie and Papa Hunter, in particular, because of the swaddling of excess clothing, overkill for the unseasonably warm day outside. 

I smiled as they passed but there was no response.

When the waitress approached with menus, the old gentleman waved them away as if he had ordered this meal many times before. He wanted iced water for two, one grilled cheese sandwich sliced in half, one house salad, two ranch dressings and an extra plate. 

I was trying my best not to be nosy, but I was struck by the meal they had ordered. The austerity of the couple's clothing was another reason I had thought of my grandparents. Was this all they could afford?

When their meal came, the gentleman took half of the sandwich and placed it on the extra plate, split the salad and dressing and then slid the plate across to the woman I assumed was his wife.

My heart cracked a bit.

Had they eaten breakfast? Would this be their only meal of the day? Would I be out of line to approach and ask if I could have the honor of having a meal prepared for them to take home? 

My better half has always told me I should mind my own business; one day, he has said repeatedly, you will get your comeuppance. Still, I could not help but fret over them.

Then the man began to eat. I noted though the woman just stared down at her plate. I thought she might be saying a silent blessing, yet she continued to either gaze at her plate or look up occasionally at the man. There had not been one word spoken between them since they arrived. Why wasn't she eating? For the next few minutes, I discreetly glanced at them as I tried to swallow my lunch over the lump in my throat.

Finally, I could not endure the situation anymore. Brushing aside my husband's admonitions, I got up and walked over to the couple and kneeled down beside the little lady's chair.

"Are you okay?" I gently asked. "I couldn't help but notice you are not eating your food and it is getting cold. What are you waiting for ma'am"?

Looking me square in the eye and with a sharp tone she replied, "His teeth."


Folks, if you are ever over in Carter County, you may want to stop at Laurel Fork Restaurant located at 201 Highway 321, Hampton, Tennessee. 37658 (423-725-2091.) When you feel the hankering for a wonderful home cooked meal, take Hwy. 19E from Elizabethton toward Roan Mountain, TN. When you get to the intersection in Hampton take a left at the light onto Hwy. 321 and Laurel is located up on the left.

Owner Lisa Qualls and her excellent staff will greet you like family, and the service is outstanding. The most surprising detail is the menu prices that are more than reasonable. You can buy a plate lunch at the restaurant for about the same amount as a meal at McDonald's.

Laurel Fork is homey and comfortable. Heck, I have gone there straight from the barn dressed in cut-off jeans, an old tee shirt, and cowboy boots and even once wore my pajama bottoms with a sweatshirt. The restaurant is open seven days a week with a special plate lunch served daily. You can also order from the menu chock full of tasty stuff.

Lisa considers her customers part of her family. Tony and I adore her.

My hubby and I eat breakfast there often, and the homemade biscuits and gravy are described by Tony, who happens to be an expert in this field, declaring between bites, "Awe man, this can't get any better, Linda." When not ordering the B & G, I routinely order an omelet.  Why? Simple. Because the omelets there are the best I have ever eaten anywhere in my lifetime. 

On Sunday's Lisa always serves up her famous Chicken and Dumplings Dinner. I have always wondered if the preachers in the area have time to get through the altar call before the stampede begins toward Laurel Fork Restaurant. If you don't get there early, you may not get a serving of this coveted entrĂ©e.

Yeah, stopping in at Laurel Fork is an experience that takes Tony and me back to the days when life was slower and kinder and when family and friends gathered 'round, enjoyed a home cooked meal, and all was right with the world. 

I hope ya'll get a chance to stop by there when in the area.

Until next time may God bless each and every one of ya.