I just returned from a Christmas vacation with my family in Hilton Head, South Carolina. To break up our awful routine of walks on the beach, lounging in our heated pool and side-pain-from- laughing-so-hard games of paper telephone, we took a day trip to Savannah to visit Paula Deen’s restaurant, The Lady and Sons. The picture above is my first plate of fried chicken, creamed corn, greens, mashed potatoes and gravy.
Say you want about Paula but I adore her. I channeled her for Halloween and even convinced by boyfriend to dress up as a stick of butter.
The thing I love most about Paula, aside from her reckless abandon with food, is her story. She was just a woman trying to make it and to support her boys. I am familiar with that story. My parents lived that story when they moved to the United States 28 years ago. We tell stories today about how back in the day, a treat for us was the rare occasion our parents could afford a Happy Meal at McDonald’s.
I felt beyond blessed to be sitting at a table with my family, enjoying a southern meal from a lady who taught herself the meaning of success on her own terms. At the end of one of my plates, my mom looked over at me and asked, smiling, “Are you happy?”
I nodded and returned the smile, mouth too full for words. But I realize now that I am happier thinking about how this Filipino family of mine can bond over golden pieces of fried chicken and think back to when these kinds of treats - a beachfront vacation home, a good meal at a restaurant where drinks and toys are not included, more presents than we know what to do with- were just distant dreams my parents talked about before bed. Granted we will never see our name on products at Target but we have this time to realize how far we’ve come.
I wonder if Paula and Jaime and Bobby do that every once in awhile when they step into The Lady and Sons. If they don’t, they should. Maybe with a warm hoecake, a little candied yam even.