By Sam Sessa
Ever been to Cracker Barrel?
Of course you have. You’re an American, and Cracker Barrel is where America has breakfast. And lunch. And sometimes dinner. On the same day.
The parking lot is never empty at Cracker Barrel. Even in a blizzard, someone is always sitting in those rustic wooden rocking chairs out front, biding time. Cracker Barrel is worth the wait.
Hagerstown has a Cracker Barrel, not far from the Hagerstown Premium Outlets, which means you can indulge in America’s two favorite past-times: buying things and eating things.
I was there not long ago, and I saw things. Things I’m going to tell you about in this new three-part series, “Scenes from the Hagerstown Cracker Barrel.” Here goes.
The all-American family sits at a table, ready to eat a hearty Cracker Barrel breakfast. The husband in his camouflage hat, his wife wearing her best Sunday T-shirt, their toddler daughter sitting next to them, sporadically screaming but rarely disciplined. Their combined weight is somewhere north of 500 pounds, not counting the child.
Almost every inch of the table is covered with plates of food. Pancakes, waffles, sausage, hashbrown casserole, warm apples, homemade buttermilk biscuits, sawmill gravy, eggs, country fried steak. I’m guessing they went with The Cracker Barrel Country Boy Breakfast®, Uncle Herschel’s Favorite® (named after the character on “The Walking Dead”) and a Sunrise Sampler® for the child.
But something is amiss. The wife leans over the table with a look of bitter defiance. It is the same face George Washington made when he learned (on the same day) that the British Royal Navy had taken New York and his brand new powdered wig already had lice.
There is a brief pause as the woman swallows, and then she speaks. Each word is louder and more forceful than the one before it.
“Get … more … BISCUITS!”
It’s not enough. It’s never enough. The food, the shopping, all those Friday nights at Applebee’s and then the movie theater — they’ve made her empty, not full. She knows the biscuits will only sit in her body, festering, but she wants them anyway, she wants to pick up the knife, slice into the lump of butter and wipe thick chunks of it on the biscuits, bring them to her lips and feel them slowly break apart in her wet mouth. She will chew them, not because she needs to, but because she can. She can control the biscuits like so few things in her life.
The outburst leaves her face blotchy. Stunned, the little girl goes quiet. For a moment, the husband is also still. He lets the words wash over his face like waves on the beach. Slowly, he lifts his right hand to get the waitress’ attention.