Monday, August 15, 2011

Your Hometown Shapes Who You Are & Who You Become

Taylor's Pharmacy
Tullahoma, Tennessee
(Circa 1937)

Taylor's Pharmacy...for anyone growing up in my hometown, those two words bring back a flood of memories. It wasn't just a "drug store" was an icon, a gathering place, somewhere to go to always see a friendly face and eat a fantastic meal. You see, Taylor's had a "soda fountain" that was the scene of true Americana! You had your regulars, your colorful characters, 5-cent jukeboxes at each booth and counter seating which usually held the men. Men in suits, men in work clothes, men in uniform, all sitting over one of the best cups of coffee in town!

My father took me there frequently all through the week and on Friday evenings, when the "downtown" was a place to see and be seen. I would have a hard time choosing between my two favorites...the best Cherry Milkshake you could ever hope to find or the real-cream Chocolate Ice Cream, which the waitresses would put in a wax-coated Coca-Cola drink cup for me and cover with "wet walnuts" (for you Yankees, that's walnuts in syrup.) I can remember looking longingly at ladies having lunch and wanting one of the beautiful creations on their plate. I didn't know what they were, so my father could never figure out what to order for me. "Daddy, I want one of those round red things with stuff in it. It's laying on something green on a plate and has stuff on top." Poor wonder he had no idea what I was taking about. (My descriptives vocabulary has grown considerably since then!) I was a grown woman, and Taylor's Soda Fountain was long gone, before I knew what that intriguing dish was...a tomato stuffed with what I'm told was one of the best chicken salads you would ever eat and dusted with paprika on the top. Oh, if I only knew what it was, I could have ordered it...something so simple, but far too complex for a four-year-old to know by name.  It only made me want one go back in time and feel so grown up ordering one of those Chicken Salad Stuffed Tomatoes!

I remember a time I was so sick that the pharmacist, Dr. Bill Mathews, brought medication to my home. This is the same thoughtful, caring pharmacist who presented my parents with a silver spoon, engraved with my name, my birthdate and a clock with the time of my birth, that I treasure today. There was "Ms. Annie," the lady who pierced the ears of just about every little girl in town (and maybe even a few boys in the 70s and 80s)...with a hypodermic needle! She is still around town and everyone knows her!

Yes, Taylor's Pharmacy was a huge piece of my childhood. And the food there, along with my mother's exquisite Southern cooking, delighted and intrigued me so much at such a tender age that I knew, even then, FOOD was in my blood and in my future. I have made a career out of loving food...preparing it, selling it, showcasing it, advertising it on television and radio, teaching people to cook it, feeding it to people and eating it! The places and people in our lives are an important part of shaping who we are and who we become. I'm just so thankful and very happy that I had such a wonderful town filled with wonderful people and experiences to give me part of ME and shape me through lessons, memories and parts of who they were then and, if living, still are today.

Oh, and as for the picture, it was taken a few years (quite a few years) before I was born into this town. Hey, I'm an antique little girl, but I'm not THAT old!

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