Thursday, September 9, 2021

Robert St. John: Friends

Check out this week's recipe. 

 I am a regular. Always have been, always will be.

If I am in town, I regularly eat breakfast at 7:00 AM at table number 19 in our breakfast-lunch café, The Midtowner. I am here every morning along with the usual cast of morning regulars. Restaurant concepts such as these thrive on regular customers. Some come in every other morning, others on weekends only, several are here every morning. I am in the latter group.

I have been a morning regular at other restaurants most of my life. Before I opened this breakfast-lunch café, I spent my mornings at the bagel shop downtown. Back in the late 1980s when I opened our first restaurant, I would grab a cinnamon roll at a short-lived cafe every morning. In the early days of the first restaurant— when I spent four years working 90-hours a week in the kitchen— I ate a large pepperoni pizza at midnight when I got home. The people at the pizza delivery place knew me, and knew my order by heart. One of the most memorable times I spent as a morning regular was at a French bakery run by a French pastry chef located across the street from my office. That was a great 10-year period when I was able to eat croissants every morning that were as good as any I have eaten in Paris.

One of the highlights of my week these days is the breakfast I share on alternating Saturday and Sunday mornings with my childhood friends— and Midtowner regulars— Mike and Carolyn. I grew up with them both. I’ve known Carolyn just about as long as I’ve known anyone on the planet except my brother and mother, and Mike and I went to elementary school together. Carolyn works a late shift on alternating weeks, and she and Mike show up at 7:15 a.m. as soon as Carolyn gets off. There is never a lull in the conversation on those mornings. That’s how it usually works with longtime friendships from childhood. I love that.

I have always valued my childhood friendships. My friends and I grew up in a time, during the late 1960s through 1979, that was a special and unique period in Hattiesburg Ms. Most of our fathers grew up together and, in the mid 1960s, purchased houses in what was the “new part of town” They all had kids around the same time, so my friends and I— sons and daughters of parents who were friends— grew up within a few blocks of each other and walked to school every morning. It was a different day and time. There were no video games, no streaming videos, and only three channels on our televisions, so we spent our days outside, on bikes, and in the woods.

I was telling a friend the other day that I can't imagine having a better childhood. Not because I was surrounded by a lot of material things or because my family had a lot of money. Neither of those is true. I came from a single-parent home that survived on an art teacher’s salary. What I had were deep and meaningful friendships with people I still care about. Deeply.

I ran into Susan, one of our childhood friends, in one of the restaurants the other night. She lives in Houston and was here visiting for her mother’s birthday. I told her to join Mike, Carolyn, and me for breakfast this Sunday. She said she would love to. Then I started thinking that maybe I should call some of our other childhood friends to join us for breakfast while Susan was in town. We really don't get together, as the entire group, very often. Hardly ever more than eight of us have even been in the same room at the same time since we graduated high school, 41 years ago.

The thing about childhood friends that you grew up with is that the bond is so deep that one can not see another for a decade or more but everyone picks right back up where they left off in an instant. It's been my experience that most friendships made later in life don't have that type of deep connection.

So, I started texting all of the friends our age whose cell numbers I had and invited them to an early breakfast at the Midtowner before Susan's flight was scheduled to leave. Everyone said, “Yes,” and almost everyone made it that morning at 7:30 AM. There is a time in our lives when half of that group— I being chief among the sinners— couldn't even wake up before 11 AM. I woke up at 4:00 AM this morning anticipating the breakfast and looking forward to the fellowship.

The discussion was lively. It was exactly what the host of a dining party would want— energetic discussion, people moving chairs from one end of the table to the other to talk to each other, and just the right amount of old war stories combined with what-are-you-doing-these-days reports.

Halfway through the meal, I took a break from my eggs and bacon, pushed back from the table, and took in the scene. It was at that moment that I once again reminded myself what a wonderful childhood I had back then. Looking from the outside, a stranger might believe that I grew up under challenging and unfortunate circumstances— my father died when I was six, my brother and I were raised by a single mom, three people living off of an art teacher’s salary, I had to work full-time beginning at 15-years-old if I wanted any spending money or a car— but I never once looked at things that way when I was growing up. Not because I am some type of self-actualized, zen-filled being. No. It’s because I had a supportive family, and I had close, loving, and caring friendships.

The challenges I had in my early life prepared me for the life that lay ahead. These friends, and others, stood by me through the good times and the bad. Because that is what friends do. It’s what we still do.

We all turn 60 this year.

My grandfather used to say, “A rich man has his first dollar. A wealthy man has his first friend.” He also said, “You can judge a man’s wealth, not by the size of his bank account, but by the depth and breadth of his friendships.” I feel like a rich man today. Not because I have a bunch of money in the bank. I don’t. But— because I have a wealth of friendships from as far back as I have memories. And for that I am truly grateful.


Breakfast Casserole Number 1

1 lb                  Spicy breakfast sausage

3 /4 cup           Onion, diced

1 /4 cup           Green bell pepper, sliced

1 /4 cup           Red bell pepper, sliced

1 tsp                Garlic

1 tsp                Creole Seasoning

1 tsp                Cayenne pepper

10                    Eggs, beaten

1 cup               Half and Half

1 tsp                Dry mustard

6 pieces           White bread, crusts removed

6 pieces           Wheat bread, crusts removed

1 /4 cup           Soft butter

1 cup               Sharp cheddar, shredded

1 cup               Monterey jack cheese, shredded

1 tsp.               Hot Sauce

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Brown sausage in a large skillet and drain most of the fat. Add vegetables, garlic and seasoning and cook five minutes. Set aside.

Mix together eggs, half and half, and dry mustard in a mixing bowl. Using the softened butter, butter both sides of each slice of bread. Cut the bread into small cubes. Fold the bread, cheeses and sausage mixture into the eggs. Mix well and place in a buttered two-quart baking dish.

 Bake for 40-50 minutes. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving. Yield: eight servings



Anonymous said...

I moved back to my childhood home in Mississippi after nearly 20 years living in other states. The first people I reconnected with were two childhood friends who also moved back here, and we get together frequently to cook, eat, drink a little wine, and commiserate with each other over life. We laugh a lot, too. Although I have many friends from various places, I will never have friends as solid as these two women.

On a sad note, I just learned that I am allergic to eggs. We have backyard chickens who lay beautiful fresh eggs every day, and I can't eat them! Can't eat Robert's breakfast casserole. Life is unfair!

Krusatyr said...

I enjoyed Austrian sausage, blueberry pancakes, maple syrup, orange juice and dark coffee for breakfast regularly at a favorite cafe with a "joiner's table", where singles or couples surrounded a large round table and piled their plates family style, in the Colorado mountains.

What a joy to have a 20-22 year old metabolism and burn it all off by noon.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

My, I and Me. I lost count at about 40.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS