VOL. 133 | NO. 120 | Friday, June 15, 2018
DOWN HOME UP THERE. We drove to Syracuse recently to visit our daughter and son-in-law. She’s taken a marketing and communications job with the university and he’s moving his sales career up there as well.
Drove to Syracuse. Did you know they have Cracker Barrels all the way to New York State?
With two dogs – hey, they have to visit their cousins, Hallie’s two dogs. With my bad back – what the hell, it’s going to hurt whatever I’m doing. With Nora’s strep throat – diagnosed on the way in an urgent care office in some little New York town.
Up there. When you pass exits for Buffalo and Niagara Falls and still drive another 167 miles, you know you’re going up there.
You take a left in Nashville, drive through downtown Louisville, hit downtown Cincinnati at rush hour – we passed the same building for 45 minutes – and spend the night in Columbus. The next day, you skirt Lake Erie and Cleveland, and blow by Buffalo on your way across to Syracuse below Lake Ontario and the Erie Canal.
We’re not from around there.
One day, we visited a small town called Wegmans – a grocery store, the largest in their chain. It may have a zip code. There are several restaurants inside, several salad and whatever bars, and Asian, Mexican and whatever buffets. The self-service drink area, including craft beers, is bigger than my local Kroger. The aisles are more like avenues and right there at the end of one – a prime address known as an end-aisle display – was shelf after shelf filled with bottles of Wegmans Memphis BBQ Sauce. Elsewhere, just down from the tomahawk ribeyes and two-story porterhouses, there was a mess of pulled pork with that sauce, “smoked low and slow with real hickory wood for 14 hours.”
The next day, we went to a hot spot downtown, a fancied-up diner called Modern Malt, and I ordered a Bloody Mary – this Bloody Mary: “BOURBON BBQ BLOODY, Cask & Crew Rye Bourbon, lime juice, Coffee Bourbon BBQ (sauce), Memphis BBQ Bitters, Chipotle Tabasco.”
Two sips in, I determined that this was the best Bloody Mary in the world. Two weeks later, that opinion stands and I’ve ordered a bottle of Memphis Barbecue Bitters to start an experiment in my own laboratory. Stay tuned.
The Memphis flavor we take for granted goes a long way.
The day after that, I visited my brother, Frank, in the Adirondacks for his 82nd birthday – with a Wegmans cake – and the stories we told and the laughter we shared on his porch could have been shared – with a cake from McLaurine’s Bakery – on the porch at 491 South Highland where we grew up.
On this trip, at home in my daughter’s home and in my brother’s, I again realized that home goes with you. It’s not a place; it’s who you are, and who and what you feel at home with and return to over and over.
I’m a Memphian, and I’m at home here wherever I am.
Dan Conaway, a communication strategist and author of “I’m a Memphian,” can be reached at email@example.com.