Salad Bar Days

I recently found three really old recipes during the excavation of a very large junk drawer full of mountains of stuff I hadn’t seen in years.

The recipes were tucked in amongst a sky-high stack of old photos.  These pictures were all taken with old-school cameras.  And the dates of them range from junior high to the engagement photos of Petey and me, taken by my favorite photographer, Kat, one of my oldest friends.

Each photo tells a story, so what follows is the picture, and far fewer than 1000 words.

This snapshot was taken in the spring of 1979.  Each year, the 9th grade, third year Spanish class went to Mexico for ten days.  This photo was our visit to Teotihuacán, a village of temples and buildings so old that the origins of the place were already lost to time when the Aztecs met the Spaniards.

This is the great pyramid of the sun.  The plan was for my classmates and I to walk to the top.  Two-thirds of the way up is a plateau where the staircase splits into two.  This is also where an enterprising young man had set up a jewelry kiosk.  While the rest of the kids continued on, I halted my climb.

To shop.

This is Pig.  He was Petey’s best friend, and in a town (Elizabeth City) chock-a-block full of eccentrics, he was in a not-quite-right class by himself.  He’s big-hearted, good natured, and a magnet for mischief.  I always said that as he was being led off to the electric chair, he’d be shaking his head, saying, “I don’t understand, I just went for a beer run, then I met the red-headed Swede with a limp!”

I can happily tell you that he actually became a very successful builder, and has largely lived a life that didn’t include any intervention from North Carolina’s criminal system.

This is Petey and I at the Rod Stewart show in Norfolk, VA in February of 1982 (my first rock concert).  It was really cold.  Pig, who was with us that night, gallantly offered me the use of his vest, which felt warm but oddly heavy.

As we walked in, a security guard reached for me in what I considered an overly familiar manner.  So, in a move that would make Carolina Panther Christian McCaffrey proud, I pivoted and side-stepped away from what I thought was a lecherous grab.  The crowd was thick and eager to see the show, so the guard let me go.

The McCaffrey in question.

It’s a good thing he did.  Once inside, Pig took his back vest and it was then I realized why it was so heavy.  He had filled it with enough liquor to open a large bar, and a very large plastic bag full of a green, leafy substance.  There was so much contraband in that jacket that if I had been patted down, the words you are reading today, nearly forty years later, would be a missive from the Richmond jail.

This is our enegagement photo.  Looking at this, I can’t believe we were ever this impossibly young.  It’s shocking that we were deemed mature enough to make such a huge, life-altering decision.  I was not nearly as smug as I looked.  But, I’m pretty sure Petey was even more terrified than he appeared.

My guess is he was asking himself the question that he he still asks on a regular basis. “What in Sam Hill have I gotten myself into?”.

Let me know if you enjoyed this glimpse into my demented photo album, because if so, I’ll make further deep dives into my past for your amusement.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

Portrait of a pig

It wasn’t the name he was christened with, but Pig is how everybody in town knew him.  It was a versatile moniker not unlike Beaver’s name on Leave It To Beaver.  It was his name, “Hey Pig! How’s it going?” and when preceded by an article, it was a description, as in, “Anybody seen the Pig?”

He wasn’t a member of the porcine species, but a giant man-child, with a chest that would make any barrel jealous, and hands the size of hubcaps.

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know him—for various reasons, everybody in Elizabeth City knew him.  But once I started dating Petey; his best friend, I got to know him very well indeed.

Sometimes maybe a little too well.  It seemed like every time we tried to sneak off for a little privacy, that boy would find us.  Listening for sweet talk in my ears, they would instead be assaulted with “Hooty-Hoot!”, Pig’s very own aloha.  This was the early 80’s but it was like we were both fitted with GPS trackers.  We would go to the mall or deep into the woods, it didn’t matter—The Pig would eventually show up.

This is kinda what it felt like.

With the conviction of medieval Crusaders, Petey and I made a solemn vow to get our Velcro-like friend a woman.  But of course when Pig found his own mate, we didn’t think she was good enough for our colossal buddy.

Maybe it was because his first choice was already taken.  Once he sat at my mother’s table and ate her spaghetti and meatballs, he was a goner.  As a member of the National Guard, he’d eaten his way through Italy, but still insisted that my mom’s was the best he’d ever had.

And she had a soft spot for him.  Each December Mom has a luncheon to frost the hundreds of cookies she bakes for the holidays.  The rule was, if you break it, you eat it.  Which sounds awesome until a second cookie is broken at your hand, and a laser-beam like Mom-eye is turned in your direction, and you spontaneously combust, leaving behind nothing but a pile of smoldering ash.

She did warn us…

All except Pig.  His first year he broke every cookie he touched.  Holding our breath, us veterans watched, waiting for the cyclone of pain coming his way.  Except, it never came.  In a response that was never repeated for another soul, Mom smiled benignly and let the cookie plunder continue unabated.

The next year she made him his personal batch.  He inhaled them all.  But not before uttering a pro forma “Oops” each time.  This was Pig’s nod to the cookie interpretive dance he and my mother were performing.

His heart was as big as the rest of him.  When we moved across town, Petey and the Pig volunteered to help.  Early in the day, his eyes lit up while packing one of the bathrooms he spied a Hershey-colored fuzzy toilet seat cover.  He slapped it on his head and wore it for the rest of the day.  He looked like a French cave man sporting a beret made from the fur of a wooly mammoth.

I swear, this is what he looked like (minus the bones, and fur dress).

My brother still talks about that day.

We’d lost touch with the Pig for some time, then one day a couple of years ago we heard a motorcycle pull up, and then our doorbell rang.  I opened the door and was confronted with an enormous bald man.  I was perplexed, and not a little frightened.  Then he opened his mouth.

And said, “Hooty-Hoot!”

Thanks for your time.