Sunday, November 6, 2011
Semper Pie: Mrs B's Home Cooking and the Corps
I have a deep respect for the Marine Corps or, more specifically, Marines. In 1945 my father was 17 when as a private in the 5th Marine Division he came ashore on Iwo Jima and eventually earned a Bronze Star leading what was left of is company from pill box to pill box. He witnessed the flag being raised on Mt. Suribachi...both times...and lived to tell about it. Only he wouldn't.
Flash forward to 2011 and a close friend's son-in-law, a Marine Harrier pilot, has just deployed for his first combat action in Afghanistan. "From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli..." We are all praying for his safe return.
I had no idea, when the LITG gang arrived for the first time at Mrs B's Home Cooking on Cullman Street, that my respect for the Marine Corps and my appreciation of fresh southern vegetables, cornbread and fried chicken could both be enjoyed at the same time.
Like most Marines, the outward appearance of Mrs. B's may not appear inviting. The neighborhood is not great, the old house Mrs. B's occupies had seen better days and there was a sign posted that said simply: "Cook Wanted." Like some Marines, the Facebook page for Mrs. B's evidenced someone whose strongest attributes did not include writing or grammar. For example:
However, also true to the Marines, once you get past the outward appearances and reveal the core of the people and place involved, you realize they are special. Marines do things and don't necessarily talk about them very well, if at all. As soon as I saw the man greeting us I knew he was a Marine (there are no "former" Marines). It was the way he carried himself. And everyone working in this place appeared either to be part of a very close family or disciplined to make every guest feel that everyone working there were part owners.
To me, Mrs. B's is a special place. The interior of Mrs B's has been restored with love, hard work and an attention to detail. The steam table is short and full of what people used to call "soul food" but today we recognize as southern home-style cooking. For eight bucks (including tea) you receive a plate full of fresh vegetables and your choice of meat and cornbread. As a connoisseur of the latter I can affirm it's quality. The pie for dessert was also excellent. The next time I go back I might even try the oxtails. I would trust them to be the best oxtails in Montgomery.
But the memory I carry from my visit to Mrs. B's was looking up from a very tasty plate of food toward a Marine Corps flag and seeing on the wall the pictures of what appeared to be the four sons and daughters of the owner.
They were all young Marines.
Like my father.