Handful of Meat: It’s What’s for Breakfast

That was pretty much the theme of the entire past weekend. The Jarretts glory in pouring food down the throats of guests; it’s how hospitality works in this family. It began Friday night, when Uncle Forrest and Aunt Alene served my parents, brother, cousins and I steaks the size of some pizzas I’ve seen. We wrapped up the many leftovers in foil and toted them dutifully home, whence cometh the “handful of meat” quip. The steak was even better with Dad’s Famous Scrambled Eggs the next morning. The Saturday breakfast is such a weird tradition in our family, but I love it. The most important thing is having everyone gathered around the table. Consciousness isn’t mandatory, which can make things kind of amusing (Saturday morning, for example, when I was too cheerful too early, my bleary-eyed brother snapped “I hate you” and stomped off to the shower. Ah, home). If only Asheville public radio carried “My Word” on Saturday mornings, like in Newport News, we’d be set.

I spent most of the weekend laughing. Everything else was frosting. When people tell me how lucky I am to have a family that loves and respects each other, and also gets along — which happens often — I start wondering where it comes from. The first, and truest, response is that I’m not lucky, I’m blessed. It’s easy to remember that in the mountains; they don’t call it “God’s country” for nothing. The second response is gratefulness for our heritage of Bill Cosby and Allan Sherman records, which our family can still recite by heart. If there’s some joke that can make you all start laughing, you can get through just about anything. And we have many jokes (some of which are more oblique than others, as witnessed by this weekend’s resurrection of the Vampire Piranha Arsonist Clown Deer, traveling across America at speed, with razor-sharp hooves and rotating antlers. Don’t ask).

My folks’ new home is lovely. The pictures I’d seen to date didn’t do it justice. Mom and Dad have very different senses of decorating style, but they meld together harmoniously, as witnessed by the house’s great room, with its hardwood floors, gracious spaces, and comfortable feel. I’m going back in a month, for my birthday celebration, and I can’t wait to see how much better it will look as more boxes get unpacked. The piano should be back from the repair shop by then, having been restored to its original mahogany sheen. Tip: don’t ever store your valuables for a year in a drafty barn; it’s not good for the finish. But if you think it’s likely that, in the course of repairs, you can make an Antiques Roadshow-like discovery, by all means go ahead.

Home Again

I got back home late last night. Man, the drive from Asheville to Richmond drive sucks. But I was greeted by swarms of animals who seemed glad to see me, and a roommate who brought me huckleberry bon-bons from Wyoming, so it was a happy homecoming. Also, if anyone wants any vidalia onions, please see me. My parents sent me home with 25 lbs., not counting the okra, and potatoes, and peppers, and more food, and more food…oy. The arm of hospitality is long and determined.