Daily Archives: April 12, 2010

Seven Kids, Three Moms and One Restaurant Health Inspector

(Thank you for your patience. We now return to our regularly scheduled program.)

My kids had 12 days off for spring break. And my husband had to work. After the first 5 days I was ready to pull my hair out. They had played with every toy they owned, re-discovered lost toys and now chanted “I’m bored” over and over in their sleep.

Hey! Why not visit my friends in Savannah? Fun for me AND the kids! 

OK.

Picture this.

Three moms. One dressed to the nines because she just got off work. Mom #2 is in your standard mom wear of slacks and a pretty t-shirt. Me? Wrinkled vacation wear because I don’t iron while on vacation (ok, I don’t iron when I’m not on vacation) and a dried cheerio stuck to my butt. (Sorry for the visual but dry cereal is our standard snack fare while traveling. At least it wasn’t a Snak-Pak pudding top.)

Seven kids. Yes, seven. Who have been cooped up all day, playing indoors because the pollen was causing asthma attacks and eyes to swell shut.

Two of the three moms (yes, I’m included in this pair) decide that it would be a great idea to take the kids out to eat. It takes about an hour to decide on a kid-friendly restaurant. Committed to our choice we call the other mom at work (We’re “watching” her two girls. In all actuality our kids are entertaining her girls. My friend and I are chatting between playing referee to wrestling matches and cleaning the kitchen from yet another snack. ) We agree on a time to meet and tell her which restaurant. She’ll meet us there.

Thirty minutes before the appointed hour the two moms load seven kids into two cars without incident. The two-car-caravan sets off to said restaurant.

We arrive before Working Mom and herd the children into the restaurant. On the way in one child pipes up, “83? That’s not a very good grade. In MY school anything below an 85 is a C!”

She’s referring, of course, to the health inspection score. Hmmm. 83. Now, I’ve had food poisoning twice in my life and I’m not keen on having it again or sharing the experience with 7 children and my 2 closest girlfriends. We’re not THAT close.

One mom scans the reasons for the low score. She gets to “Food not cooked to the proper temperature” and stops looking. We herd the kids out.

On to our second choice restaurant. We call Working Mom and she’s closer than we are. She’ll get a table for our crew.

We arrive and she’s waiting for us at the door. “I’m not sure you’ll like this either,” she smiles wryly.

79. We don’t even bother to check the list.

There’s a pizza joint up the street that her family loves. And it’s right across from the hospital. Convenient if things go south. We load the kids back into the car.

A half a mile later we arrive at our destination. Seven kids and three moms burst onto the scene, starving. There are doctors, in scrubs, chowing on pizza. Good sign.

The kids are situated at a table and the moms go to the counter to order. Health inspection score? 83.

We look at each other and laugh. “Maybe 83 is the new 93?” one mom says.  “Well,” I say, “At least the hospital is right across the street.” We decide to take our chances.

The meal goes without incident. The kids have a blast and the moms don’t have to clean another dirty kitchen. Twenty four hours later, we’re still standing. Thank goodness.

The next day we decide another meal out is a good idea. This time at my favorite place, Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House (at least, that’s what it was called when I lived there.) I first discovered Mrs. Wilkes by the smell. Every day, around 10 am, I’d start smelling the most wonderful aromas. I asked our neighbors where they were coming from. Just around the corner, they said, from Mrs. Wilkes. No sign. Just a line down the street of people waiting to get in. Served family style around giant tables.

“Family style, ” my friend reminded me, “You DO know they got in trouble once for re-serving food?”

“But it’s SOOOOO good,” I whine, “I LOVE Mrs. Wilkes!”

“Okay,” my friend says doubtfully.

We arrived at 10:30 (which used to be adequate time to line up) for the first seating of the day at 11am. Curious, I asked the first people in line how early they had arrived. 9am was the reply. Oh, how times have changed.

The kids were amazing, coloring pictures, chatting with other children. We had a chance to visit with other people in line. Finally, we were seated at 11:30am.

A table spread with the most mouth-watering, amazing Southern dishes imaginable. Fried chicken, beef stew, collard greens, squash casserole, rutabaga, mashed potatoes, rice, gravy, green beans, creamed corn, shredded bar-b-que pork, biscuits and cornbread, butter beans, sweet potato casserole, black-eyed peas, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, okra & tomatoes, red rice and cabbage. In all we counted 20 bowls or plates of piping hot food. It was delicious.

While one mom corralled all of the children and helped them clear their plates to bring to the kitchen (a Mrs. Wilkes requirement) I went up to pay.

Standing there, waiting for my change, I glanced up.

Mrs Wilkes, born in 1907, started working at the Boarding House in 1943. She eventually took over and worked there every week day until her death in 2002.

The health inspection notice.

With her score.

100.

Looks like we’ll be back!

Oh yummy!

 Thank you, Mrs. Wilkes. I’m honored to have met you and so glad you were my neighbor during my stay in Savannah.

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