I just went out to dinner at Story’s Grocery for a po-boy. For those of you who are not from Louisiana, a po-boy is a sandwich unlike any other. It’s actually called poor boys but who has time to say that when you’re hungry? Read this for the origin of the name. When I moved to Pittsburgh right out of college, I was stunned that I couldn’t find a po-boy place. I had no idea that the rest of the world didn’t eat the best kind of sandwich in the world – and the word sandwich just doesn’t do it justice. In Pittsburgh, they had hoagies. I tried them. Hoagies were nowhere close to a po-boy even though it was made of meat and toppings in the middle of a white roll. The bread is the big difference. A po-boy might look like it’s on a white roll, but it’s not. It’s on French Bread. French Bread has this delicious crispy, flaky crust that crushes into the soft white flesh of the bread, and it takes my breath away. Take that French Bread and wrap it around your favorite kind of meat or seafood and some delicious gravy, and you have the start of a po-boy. Then, they will ask if you want it “dressed”. I’ve had friends look at me and say, “What is dressed?” Well, it ain’t nekkid. If it’s dressed, it’s all covered up with the good stuff – mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato … onions are usually optional … whatever!
My server at Story’s asked me if I wanted my oyster po-boy dressed, and I said yes. It had been a long time since I’d heard somebody ask if I wanted something dressed unless it referred to clothing. I ordered the 6 inch po-boy because I remembered distinctly that the large was so huge I could never eat it. The last time I ate a po-boy at Story’s Grocery was probably in college. I’d come home on Friday nights to wash my clothes and watch Dallas with Momma. That was our Friday night ritual. The food might be different on alternate weekends, but Story’s po-oys were a favorite. We also got the onion rings. In between bites of our feast of fried delicacy, we’d fume about J.R.’s weekly shenanigan’s. I didn’t get the onion rings tonight. I was saving room for some Bluebell Ice Cream later tonight. But, I got my Po-Boy dressed. And, I ate every bite.
While I was ordering, a woman was looking at me, and I thought I heard my name. I didn’t recognize her, but I had the distinct feeling she was looking at me. I know I’m going to run into all kinds of people here that I don’t recognize because it’s been 30 years since I’ve seen their face or said their names. I thought maybe she was looking at somebody behind me when she didn’t say my name, and I looked away. I felt a tap on my shoulder, and she said, “You’re Sharon King, aren’t you?” I said yes and asked who she was. Shelia and her mother Marilyn were on an “outing” to have a po-boy and hang out in the local grocery for a visit. I sat down and dined with them, and we caught up on each other’s lives while munching on our South Louisiana fare.
We talked about a mutual friend, and Shelia mentioned that his girlfriend usually posted a lot of pics on Facebook. I tried to find her on Facebook, and I realized her maiden name was King. “Wonder who her Daddy is,” I said. As soon as it came out of my mouth, I realized that my Watsonese had come back full force. Not only did I have that drawl that dragged out the word Daddy as if it were a slippery slice of Jello, but I had actually said that I wondered who her Daddy was! I’m back in the land of my cousins. Anybody with the name King is probably related to me in some way. If I knew who her Daddy was, I’d know what relation I was to her. I can’t believe how easy that rolled off my tongue.
There are words and phrases that are used in my hometown that are typical of this area. I noticed in the last few months that people would tell me they needed an outing. I asked a friend of mine if everybody said that down here, and he confirmed that was what people called any type of event where they left their house. Shelia said it tonight when she said she and her mother were on an outing. I got my po-boy “dressed.” And, everybody down here says fixin’ to even in the most professional of conversations. I can tell my Watsonese is coming out on a regular basis. I like it. It feels down home homey.
I unwrapped my dressed oyster po-boy tonight and looked at it. “Well, let’s see if it’s as good as I remember it,” I said to Shelia and Marilyn. “I’ve been wanting one of these forever. This one is 30 years in the making.” That first squishy bite of fried crispy oysters sliding in mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato in a cocoon of light and crispy French Bread did not disappoint. It was just as good as I remembered it 30 years ago. I kind of regretted not getting the large. It would have been way too much, but can you ever really have too much of a good thing? One of my college friends from my Redneck Immersion Weekend told me he had driven through Watson one day and was hungry. He stopped at a service station and got a po-boy. And, yes …. Story’s Grocery is at a service station. It is nothing fancy or cute. “That was the best damn po-boy I ever ate,” he said. “That HAD to be Story’s Grocery,” I answered. Yes, it’s the best damn po-boy ever. Everybody has their favorite – the hot turkey, the roast beef, the fried shrimp, the fried oyster, the cheeseburger – but they are all good. And, I highly recommend getting them dressed. Be sure to ask the girl up front who her Daddy is. You might be related.