We stopped and peered up at the woman with the pink-brick, skirt and polka-dotted kerchief.
Looking at the structure of the building, I was reminded of some of the distorted paper mache art projects, I often produced as a kid. The lower half was also pretty amusing. The idea of eating inside a skirt... a skirt with windows. That seemed pretty appealing to someone like me, who puts more emphasis on whimsical dining than delicious dining.
But looking at these details, was allowing me to ignore the fact that we were going inside a restaurant called Mammy's Cupboard. The fact the face and arms were painted white in the 1960's, does not make me forget what this name and building represents. But we were drawn inside.
The skirt room as well as the added room in back, were pretty full when we entered. Lorna, at the desk was happy to share a little about the history of Mammy's.
We arrived in the middle of a big rush, of mostly locals and small groups of traveling ladies. The servers were bustling about with jars of sweet tea and plates of heaping food.
When things got quiet I could take a good look around and notice things, like all the different table and chair styles. The cinderblock walls and worn cement floors kept things cool. There was a window air-conditioner in the front, but I noticed our room was letting in some fresh air through a screen door. I love a screen door!
There was a reason the parking lot was full. The food was amazingly good. Don's chicken salad on homemade sourdough was mouthwatering. I got the Thursday special with roast pork loin with muscadine glaze.
That was okay, but it was the rice with brown gravy, southern green beans, and broccoli cornbread that excited me the most. We were too stuffed for dessert, but purchased some banana-caramel cake to-go and rewarded ourselves when we made it home to Houston.
One More Look
This dining experience left me confused. The food was true comfort food and the atmosphere was cozy-retro. But I felt myself sort of holding my breath, as I absorbed the surroundings one last time on the way out. I noticed a shelf with quite a collection of "mammy memorabilia".
How could this possibly be considered okay?
And there was a painting that made me stop and ponder. The water color image showed the building with its original color, back when it was also a gas station. Only the building in the painting didn't look as cartoonish as it does in real life. The artwork made the building look like a real person, carrying a tray. To me, that image was a clear reminder that there are real people behind these caricatures.
There are people who sigh about the warmth and love behind the "mammy" image, but they are almost always white. There are plenty of others who believe "mammy" is a racial slur. If my skin is white and I felt uncomfortable being in this restaurant with all the reminders of racial stereotyping, how would I feel dining at Mammy's Cupboard if my skin were dark?
I have to say, this dining adventure made me stop and think.
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.