A piece of history at an historical place

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You want a special place for your anniversary. Here's a plan.

By Steve Doyle


When you have a special celebration, don’t you like to do something unique and make some personal history? There’s nothing like putting a red-lettered date in neon and setting a bar that you may not reach again, is there?

At least that’s what I take from last week, when my wife and I celebrated a wedding anniversary by having a day that I firmly believe not only created personal memories but also perhaps history for Shelby County as well.

Now, just to set the landscape, we aren’t one of those couples who tracks wedding anniversaries and the sort of “milestone gifts” that are supposed to accompany them. I don’t know giving silver from gold, although I’m sure my wife would be impressed if I could figure that out someday (so I could save and invest in one or the other but not both).

And I also have to give her credit for making special days truly unique. I’m sentimental and nostalgic by nature, and she feeds both of those emotions with ideas that are off my scope. She has new-fashioned down well.

So you have to understand that when she suggested this particular celebration that she knew right and ready that it would be memorable.

She just didn’t have any idea we would make history.

Now, before you start to roll your romantic eyes and giggle and titter, let me assure you that this is something many of you have done and will do again. In fact, for some of you, this is as routine as brewing coffee and putting on your shoes.

My wife: “Will you go on this adventure with me?”

Me (thinking, you know, New York City or the Bahamas, as she has sprung in the past): “Sure, what time should I be ready? What should I pack?”

OK, other than “sure,” I never said that. But I was a willing accomplice on a drive, knowing that she had some errands to run and that the real gift was for us to spend a weekend day in the same zip code.

On Saturday, my wife invited me for lunch at the B&N Food Market in Bagdad.

I know, B&N has been around since the days when those letters were invented. Garnett Newton and his clan not only run a store that sells a lot of everything, but they also cook up lunches that have become a culinary cornerstone of the diet of many of your neighbors.

It’s a place where you are likely to meet a friend or even a relative.

But it’s also a place where I never ahd dined, only stopped their for snacks when passing through on one of my infrequent trips to the northern reaches of Shelby County.

She started to explain to me about the B&N’s bill of fare. We are not meat eaters, and she didn’t mention anything about salad or pasta. She was recommending the fish sandwich.

Now, a fish sandwich to me is a piece of grilled tuna, salmon or maybe grouper hanging among vegetables on a multigrain bun.

She cautioned me that that was not B&N’s recipe. She said think more closely to the fish you had on Fridays at the school cafeteria.

I wasn’t worried. I knew the fish would be fried and probably tartar-sauced and, well, quite harmless. So off we went.

At B&N, she was greeted like a conquering hero because of being on friendly terms with Mr. Newton and his family. Me, I just followed the leader, as our 5-year-old daughter (I know, that’s not supposed to be an anniversary accoutrement) held my hand.

My wife did the ordering, and I did the collecting.

And then she introduced us to the dining room.

Now, if you have been to the B&N, you know that this is a small area in which the term “non-smoking area” is a bit, shall we say, undefined. Pictures of Bagdad-born celebrities Martha Layne Collins and Bill Busey adorn the walls. The condiments were not in little cellophane packages but rather in gallon jugs.

We arrived right at noon, and the place was filled with people who were swapping stories about their morning hunts and even dropping off prey for processing out behind the store, but we found a corner table, moved aside the ash tray and chowed down on a really scrumptious fish-and-cheese-and-tartar concoction and French fries so crispy we kept stealing them from our daughter’s plate.

And we smiled and laughed and did a lot of those things you should do on an anniversary. We joked about this being my first meal at B&N and suggested that we didn’t exactly comprise the routine customer base.

In fact, I said, “I bet no one ever has eaten here with a daughter who was born in China.”

In fact, she said, “I bet no one has been here who was wearing a U.S. Open in Pebble Beach cap [as I was].”

True, true, we agreed.

But then I focused on the really indelible piece of history we made that day, something that probably deserves a plaque in the B&N because it was such an anachronistic element of the day.

There in front of my wife, carried over from a stop earlier that morning, set the remnants of her latte.

In a cup from Starbucks.

And there was no doubt in our minds that no one ever had entered the B&N dining room with a cup of coffee from Starbucks for no other reason than the nearest one was maybe 20 miles away.

See, I told you we made history, but we also made tradition.

We will return to the B&N for a fish sandwich. Our daughter may come along, and I might even wear that cap.

But if you see anyone there with a Starbucks cup, please let us know, because we need to call Ripley’s or Guinness.