A Tribute to a Virginia Gentleman
Reading and writing about extraordinary characters, misunderstandings, and dialects are just a few of my favorite things. In my opinion, it’s the stuff of great Southern fiction, or where I come from just another day. Thinking about how easy misunderstandings arise sparked a story about a true Virginia gentleman i had the pleasure to know.
Blessed to know him almost my whole life, even when I was eight-years old, I could see he was drop-dead gorgeous! Apparently, an eye for good-looking men is in the DNA. He squired my mother to parties for a time, and I remember wishing they would marry so that I could look at him. His war hero status just added to his mystic and my crush on him. Lottie, our family’s maid, (the character Ethel is based on in my Apron Strings Trilogy) always said when she saw him, “Mista B., is mighty f-i-n-e lookin.’” She’d shake her head like she did for emphasis, “he could be in de pitchur shows.”
This lovely man in my mind was the first celebrity chef. As the ultimate gentleman, he could have taught the present day chefs more than a thing or two on that score. As a chef, there were few to compare, particularly back in the day. The Queen, Elizabeth II was lucky enough to be served a curried chicken dish at Monticello prepared by him.
After my mother died, he catered the gathering. When weeks went by, and I didn’t get a bill, I decided he did the food as a gift. I tried to call to thank him and missed him, this was before answering machines et al., after several attempts I gave up, then just forgot. We didn’t cross paths for over a year. When next I saw him I said, “That was so sweet of you to do Mother’s funeral food for free.” He laughed, “I didn’t, just didn’t have your address. Figured we’d bump into each other sooner or a later.” Gone are those days!
One Thanksgiving morning twenty-five years or so ago, Mr. B. and I were preparing the feast at the local hunt club. His regularly helper Ooze and, I think her name was, Sally were there helping. Ooze was wrestling the stuffing into the bird. I was preparing vegetables, while Mr. B. kneaded dough for the dinner rolls. We were chatting and laughing about some event that had recently taken place when the phone rang.
Ooze lumbered over to the phone, picked it up, turned and said, “it fo’ yo’ Mista B.” he crossed the room to the phone.
After a few minutes had gone by, still in conversation, he turned noticing that the dough he had been kneading was starting to move, as it does, and spill over the edge of the counter. Frantically pointing then shouting, “the dough, get the dough.”
I looked up to see Ooze heading for the back door. Mr. B. was pointing in the opposite direction of Ooze’s trajectory with a very confused look on his face. The bread dough teetered on the brink of oozing off the counter. I caught it just before gravity had its way while Ooze flung open the back door and stood there looking perplexed. “Ain’t no body here.” He said with a furrowed brow. It took a second until light dawned. All four of us laughed like fools.