Someone said “you don’t know what you don’t know until you know something.” Oh my, did this ever ring true this past week. I’m mainly talking about my recent shows with Fernando Varela and our dining experience at Bern’s Steak House in Tampa. This celebrity artist with whom I had the pleasure of touring treated the entire band to this delectable, decadent experience expressing his gratitude to us as musicians.
Having come from a very humble (read “dirt poor”) childhood, it was rare that we had any type of what I now consider decent meals. Most meals consisted of Southern staples (cornbread, biscuits, pork, beans, cooked vegetables) because they were cheap and could be kept several days. McDonald’s or other fast food was expensive, so we did not have that often, either. Steak was a treat only on the most special days, and even then, it was usually a place similar to Golden Corral or Ponderosa. When my mother played gigs regularly at a finer steak house, she would sometimes bring home leftovers to share. I would wait up for her so I could be the first to enjoy the delicious fare.
Just because we didn’t have the finest cuisine did not mean that we were ill-mannered. My sister and I were still taught proper table manners, and disciplined if we did not adhere to them. We were taught everything a Southern lady should know from how to walk properly in high heels to appropriate topics of social conversation. My grandmother said: “You should always act and look like a lady. Others will treat you as one if you are one. Regardless of where you live, don’t act like an uneducated hick.” And she was correct. We learned how to speak with a slight Southern accent instead of a country accent. She believed that people from other parts of the country thought being Southern was equated to low IQ and stupidity. She was correct about those misperceptions, too.