Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Robert St. John: The Restaurant Family Takes a Vacation

Last week I spent seven days in the Florida Panhandle on “vacation.” I used the word “vacation” because that is the easy, go-to, and common nomenclature one uses when describing time off from work. The problem with using that term is that I never really take time off from work. I'm not complaining, I like it that way. I love what I do. I don't fish, hunt, play golf, or gamble. I love restaurants, food, and the restaurant business. If I have any hobbies I would have to state— other than the restaurant business, which is also my hobby— that movies, music, and football are what I enjoy in my pastime. But I am a spectator in all those activities. I am an active player in the restaurant business.

My vacations are a little different than most. I don't vacation well. I take the family to the beach once a year. My son and daughter each bring a few friends and they all spend most days on the beach. My wife typically reads a book and does the things that one needs to do to take care of a lot of people crammed into a vacation home. 

I never go to the Florida Panhandle without thinking about the two times I lived down there in my youth. The first time was in the spring of 1983, and I worked at a pizza/barbecue restaurant for several months. Those were during my wilder days, and I had yet to stop partying and settle down. My second stint in Destin was in 1987. I was four years sober and on the verge of opening my first restaurant. I was very serious about the restaurant business though life had a different pace. 

My kids are sick of hearing all the stories about my early days in the Panhandle. As soon as I start to spout out a remembrance it's quickly interrupted, “We know, dad. You lived at Sandpiper Cove. You got up every day went to the beach. You went to work. You went out at night. We know. We know. We've heard it all before.” This time I didn't bore them with war stories from my glory days in the restaurant business in Destin. But I did do a lot of thinking about those days and how formative they were in my current situation.

In those days I could sleep late. These days if I'm still awake at 7:00 AM something’s wrong. I typically wake up at 5:00 AM. But back then I could sleep until 10:00 a.m. or 11 even. I would wake up in my apartment— which was a two-bedroom, two-bath, fully furnished spot on the beach for $500.00 a month— walk down to the beach, head to my favorite little breakfast joint, June’s Dunes (even in those days I never missed breakfast). Then I would lie on the beach until mid-afternoon, shower, dress, go to work as a server and Harbor Docks, make good money, go home, shower, go back out to hear music or visit with friends, then sleep, rinse, wash, repeat. In those days I had the stress level of piece of driftwood.

Last week I thought about my beach schedule in 1987 versus my vacation schedule of 2022. These days I get up between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m., shower, dress, find a breakfast joint that is open at 7:00 a.m., eat breakfast, attend a 12-step recovery meeting at 8:00 a.m., followed by a 9:00 AM breakfast if I couldn’t find a 7 a.m. place open. Then I head back to the house where my wife is typically awake (but everyone else is asleep), visit with her as she makes breakfast for the kids (who end up waking up around 11:00 AM). Once they have gone to the beach, I either hop on a bike or back in my truck to drive around and check out other restaurants. 

Again, restaurants are my hobby. After a few hours of R&D I pick my wife up and we go to lunch at a restaurant I have scouted out, preferably with a beach view as neither of us are into lying in the hot sand. After lunch we'll shop or I will take her back to read a book or nap. I will drive around and check out even more restaurants. I know it sounds monotonous but it's relaxing to me. R&D is my R&R.

If we go to the beach, it's typically after 6:00 PM. We are the vampire family. Everyone else is coming in off the beach, sunburned and inebriated, and we are stone-cold sober and fish-belly white heading down to sit in a chair to watch the sun set. We have plenty of food to eat in the vacation house we rent because my wife always overbuys groceries for the trip, and we typically go out to dinner (because— once again— I'm in the restaurant business and I love restaurants). We get home around 10:00 p.m. and the kids typically go back out. I'm in bed and asleep by 11 p.m., only to get up rinse, wash, repeat, and do it all over again the next day. 

That may not sound relaxing to most people. But it's the only way I can do it. I'm extremely hyperactive and don't do well sitting in one place. I just don't do well lounging in someone else’s home while there are undiscovered restaurants in the area.

While on vacation, we usually bring a lot of groceries from home. Actually, we bring way too many groceries from home. Our intentions are good. We plan to have dinners and lunches in the rental home, but we rarely follow through on that plan. We go out to restaurants because that is what we do. Though we still find ourselves at the grocery store a few times during the week to buy more food. We always come home with more groceries than we brought down. It's baffling. But it’s also the nature of our family dynamic. We are a restaurant family. Always have been. Always will be.




Cilantro Spiked Corn, Crab, and Avocado Dip

Corn, crab, and avocado work well when paired together in a cold offering. The cilantro adds an additional coolness which makes this the perfect summer dip.

3 Tbl lime juice, freshly squeezed

2 Tbl Tequila

1 /4 cup olive oil

1 tsp salt

3 avocados

1 1 /2 cup fresh cooked corn, cut from the cob (use frozen kernels if fresh is not available)

2 Tbl red bell pepper, finely diced

1 tsp garlic, minced

1 /4 cup onion, finely chopped

1 cup fresh lump crab meat, picked of all shell

1 /8 tsp cayenne pepper

1 Tbl hot sauce

1 Tbl fresh chopped cilantro 

Combine tequila, lime juice, olive oil, salt, hot sauce and cayenne pepper in a mixing bowl.

Peel and small dice the avocado, quickly placing the avocado in the lime juice mixture and tossing well so avocado is well coated.

Fold in remaining ingredients.



Anonymous said...

I haven't taken a vacay in a long long time. I'm in the wrong business!

Anonymous said...

@10:39 AM - Same here.

Anonymous said...

Bloviation Scale Rating-Off the Charts

Anonymous said...

That dip sounds divine.

County Cletus said...

We love you Robert !

That'sMisterDeplorableToYou said...

@10:39 Yeah, covid's effect on my business has put a damper on my annual jaunt down to Destin too. I used to go in July, but now I wait until October if I can even afford to go anymore. Rents are much cheaper, little or no waits at restaurants, no traffic jams, and it's not so BLAZING hot.

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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