Banks County Opinions...

SEPTEMBER 3, 2003


Column

By: Phillip Sartain
The Banks County News
September 3, 2003

Hovering over the table
For the past 10 years, my wife and I have prepared meals, set the table and served dinner in accordance with the standard issue Feeding Manual For Children. Our daughters, in response, have always turned up their noses at anything we offered. It’s a challenge, but I learned to adapt.
As a part of the overall process of feeding offspring, we supplied the standard parental encouragement: “Eat up, it’s good for you.” It rarely works and that probably has something to do with the fact that you can apply that general description to everything short of household cleaners, asphalt and cow patties.
In fact, it is so routinely ignored that it hardly merits the oxygen expended to say it for the 10,996th time at the dinner table. Typically, our kids take one bite of something they consider semi-edible and then push the rest of the food around in a circle until it resembles a cow pattie. After that, they suddenly develop a life-threatening stomach ache and sprint to the bathroom.
In the end, it means that there is always leftover food at the Sartain dinner table. After a while, I began to see the leftover food as less of a waste and more as a bonus meal. And since the girls were all in the bathroom pretending to have food poisoning, I decided that it would be okay to borrow a bite or two from their plates.
Over time, I slowly began to drift into a more aggressive form of scavenging. When we would sit down to eat, I would wait for the girls to take their first bite, then I would pounce on them. “Are you going to get a stomach ache now?” After they got over the initial shock of my question, they would nod vigorously and flee the room.
Eventually, it occurred to me that it would make more sense for me to not even serve my own plate. Instead, I’d hold off eating just long enough for the girls to make their dramatic dash to the bathroom. Pretty soon, I stopped sitting down, too, and just hovered over the dinner table like a wingless vulture ... waiting.
Somewhere along the line, it all just got to be second nature with me, like it was the most natural thing in the world. But as it turns out, there are a lot of things that you can do in the privacy of your home that don’t work so well in the world at large. At least, that’s what my wife says.
We had gone out to dinner — alone. It was a weird feeling being able to move about freely without having to keep up with three extended appendages, but we managed. After we were seated, the waitress appeared. My wife ordered a pasta dish and then the waitress turned to me. “I’ll just have water,” I smiled. She nodded and left.
My wife looked at me and asked, “You’re not going to order anything to eat? Are you not feeling well?”
“I’m fine,” I said. “As a matter of fact, I’m starving.”
“Well then, are you on some kind of weird diet?”
“No, I’m going to eat,” I told her. “I’m having steak.”
My wife looked puzzled again. “Well, why didn’t you order one?”
“Don’t have to,” I answered and motioned with my beak to the next table over. My wife looked across the way and then back at me like she was mentally calculating the cost of serious psychological treatment. But before she could say anything, I leaned over toward the next table and said encouragingly to the couple sitting there, “Ummmm, steak for supper. Eat up, it’s good for you. After you finish, you can go to the den and watch television.”
Dinner was delicious. My dessert was a little cold by the time I got it, but I’m used to that. As it turned out, Lydia didn’t have much of an appetite. For some reason, she took one bite of her meal and spent the rest of the evening in the bathroom. On the way home, she said something about having a stomach ache from having to live with a headache.
I guess it’s harder for some people to adapt than others.
Phillip Sartain is an attorney in Gainesville.

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Column

By: Jana Mitcham
The Banks County News
September 3, 2003

Fat pizza and the big city
Remember the children’s story about the city mouse and the country mouse, where each visits the other at home?
When the country mouse visits the city mouse, he sees all kinds of new sights and rushes around getting all kinds of new treats to eat that he doesn’t have at his country home.
As I rode the elevated trains (the El) around parts of Chicago recently, people-watching, skyscraper-gazing and general atmosphere-absorbing, I felt sort of like the country mouse.
We’re not in Madison County anymore, Toto!
Zach and I recently spent a long weekend visiting his sister, Anna, and seeing a few of the sights of Chicago.
As I sat, country mouse, next to a stranger on the crowded, swaying El, I had a flashback of Anna sitting in the glider on the front porch of our house out in Madison County. It was late spring when Zach’s family came out to visit and to see where he would live after we were married. The cows were grazing under the big tree out front. The growing heat and sunshine of early May had a drowsy effect. We had just eaten a barbecue lunch. Zach and I sat in the sun on the steps, while our parents and Anna and her boyfriend rocked slowly in rocking chairs or swayed in the glider.
A different world, indeed.
Flashback to Chicago.
During our visit, we took in a couple of very funny shows — The Second City’s “No, seriously we’re all gonna die” and the interactive “Flanagan’s Wake” (which included Anna and her roommate in the cast) at The Noble Fool comedy theater. We also saw a comedy cabaret — very funny.
And did I mention the fat pizza? Anna calls it fat pizza and it is — truly big Chicago-style pizza, a pie full of cheese about two inches thick. It’s a heart condition on a fork, but we figured, hey, it’s vacation, we don’t have that kind of fat pizza in Georgia, we’ll try it...twice.
I was fascinated by the city and its outskirts almost immediately, as the plane dipped down to give us a stunning view of the buildings along the lakeshore and the grid-like streets of downtown, then flew over Wrigley Field and on to Chicago O’Hare International Airport.
Anna picked us up at the airport and drove us out to Andersonville, where she and two roommates live in an apartment in a three-story “row house” along a tree-lined street. The neighborhood is within walking distance of the historic Bryn Mawr district, Lake Michigan beach, Lincoln Park, downtown (if you are energetic), numerous El stations and a whole strip of restaurants, shops and, yes, the Swedish Bakery, with its array of pastries, cakes and cookies that look and taste almost too good to believe. Anna said it made her think of a bakery in a movie, and I agreed. It was pretty spectacular.
OK, so we ate a lot that trip, but it was a pleasure. Mediterranean, Vietnamese, Italian, fat pizza, Swedish pastries, brunch with giant cinnamon rolls, and on and on. Zach was sick, and there’s that old saying about feeding a cold....we did our best.
After the initial heat and humidity of our first day in Chicago, the weather turned cooler with temperatures in the 70s and an almost fall-blue sky (we left Georgia’s 90-degree late August days and haze behind). As we walked through Anna’s neighborhood and then along the beach with the cityscape just behind us, I again felt almost as if we were on some sort of movie set, it all looked so idyllic.
The city itself was eye-opening, especially for someone who likes to people-watch. People, people, people, and cars and horns, trains, buses, theaters, stores, restaurants and more people. Each one with their own concerns and ideas and people important to them.

There was so much to do and something going on all around us; it was enervating, a novelty, but I also began to see how it could be isolating if you didn’t have a network of friends and family. People seated inches away from strangers on the El were reading or listening to music on headphones to keep some semblance of privacy and self in the midst of so many.
From my brief glimpse, it seemed a mixed world, fast-paced and interesting with city people and places, and scattered with pockets of smaller communities and long-standing neighborhoods — like the area where the Swedish Bakery was celebrating its 75th year of delectables.
Pretty different from our world. Just to clarify, we aren’t always sitting around on the porch sleeping off the effects of barbecue; we’re actually pretty busy, just in different, less “big” surroundings, and ones that sometimes have cows in the background, with the accompanying sounds of frogs and katydids.
While we were in Chicago, we visited the art institute’s museum and saw some of the Impressionist and modern art exhibits. I’d say a museum excursion is much like a “big city” visit for me. I can absorb a few things and notice the fine details, the color, the textures, and then I am saturated. I can go from room to room, painting to painting, exhibit to exhibit and it all begins to blur and I lose perspective. Or I can go back for more, later, with a fresh eye.
And I would like to go back to Chicago again. I highly recommend it. I think the differences in the views from the front porch steps to the skyscrapers on the water and the downtown city life only add to an awareness and appreciation of the flavors, the colors, the textures...
In the meantime, as we are coming and going in the days of our world, we’re appreciating the last of the long summer evenings in the country.
Jana Adams Mitcham is features editor of The Jackson Herald and a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers.


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