In memory of the life, love and wit of Carol Versandi
Dining with Carol - Part 2
March 13, 2014
As I mentioned in the first installation of "DIning with Carol"
(For Part 1, click here ) my mom was a notoriously picky eater.
She liked her food simple and plain.
Sandwich - no bun. Pasta - no sauce.
She was not a fan of fusion, high culture or extravagant cuisine.
In fact, she wasn't a fan of anything that would be labeled "cuisine".
She was a "meat and potatoes" kind of woman.
Except that she rarely ate red meat and never ate potatoes.
Every year for Mother's Day I would try to take her to lunch at a
fancy resturant and every year she would say "Don't make a fuss".
Occasionally she would graciously allow me to take her somewhere that didn't encourage you to throw peanut shells on the floor...and sometimes not.
May of 2012 was a 'not' year.
As was our typical Mother's Day routine, my mom would drive out to my house.
We would hang out for a little bit, then get in my car and drive out east. Usually it would be to Long Island's North Fork. Home of endless corn fields, farm stands and wineries. A very peaceful and relaxing scenic hour long drive.
However, this year, we decided to mix it up a bit and head out to Long Island's South Fork. Home of high end boutique stores, pretentious Hamptonites and a windmill.
An aggravating, overly-congested 2 hour schlep.
The Hamptons does have quite a few highly rated restaurants,
so I figured that in the end, it would be worth the haul.
What I failed to remember - who my passenger was.
We drove, for what seemed like days, stopping at every single town from Flanders to Montauk looking for a place to eat.
Let me show you a map to help illustrate this a bit.
In between my house and Montauk there have to be 2,000 little towns.
Rocky Point, Riverhead, Aquebogue, BridgeHampton, East Hampton, South Hampton, Big Hampton, Small Hampton, Peter Frampton, New Double Bacon Hampton with 25% More Hampton...so on and so on.
And every town has a Main Street and every Main Street has 4 or 5 resturants.
And we stopped at every last one of them.
Trying to pick out a resturant in the Hamptons with Carol was like being trapped in the movie "Groundhog's Day" with Golidlocks and the Three Bears.
Every town, every stop was the same.
This resturant looks too fancy...
This restaurant looks too expensive...
This restaurant looks too crowded.....
On and on and on and on and on and on.....over and over and over and over.
I felt like I was the straight man in a traveling Vaudeville act.
Coming Soon - Carol and Son! Next stop, Shinnecock Hills...cue the piano music.
We drove to Montauk and back without finding a suitable resturant.
Needless to say, I was exhauted.
My mom on the other hand, was elated.
We had spent the whole day together, and that's really all she cared about.
On the way home, about 10 miles from my house, I stopped at a 7-11
to get a cup of coffee. I asked my mom if she wanted anything.
She said "I'll come in".
This immediately sent a cold chill down the back of my neck and spine.
I let out a slight gasp.
Dark clouds started to form.
Somewhere in the distance, you could hear a crow call.
This had been a very long day so far.
We had just spent the better part of 6 hours in the car stopping at hundreds of different restaurants. I was tired and I was hungry.
All I wanted to do was get home and order pizza.
My mother was a world-class and well reknowned conversationalist.
She could and quite frequently would, start talking to anyone,
anywhere at any time.
And once a Carol conversation had been initiated,
it was anyone's guess as to when it would end.
I knew nothing good could come of her following me into 7-11.
So I kept my head down, not making eye contact with anyone.
I went right over to the coffee station and started pouring myself and extra large cup. I made sure not to attract any attention or give my mother any reason to start talking to anyone. A simple "pass the sugar" to the guy next to me could start a communication chain reaction from which no one was safe.
When I finished making my coffee, I looked up and found, to my surprise, my mom was quitely browsing the snack aisle. Not chatting. Not talking. Just browsing.
"Want anything?", I asked.
She grabbed a couple of bags of chips, a bag of beef jerky
(she loved beef jerky) and a couple of bottles of water.
When we got to the counter she said
"Oh Mikey, let's get hot dogs. I love their hot dogs".
Sure, why not.
So we each got two hot dogs and loaded them up with chili, cheese and onions and headed out.
We drove for a few minutes and then stopped at a park not far from the 7-11.
And at this small park, next to a small pond, sitting at an old worn out wooden picnic table underneath some large oak trees, I had the single best meal I've ever eaten.
7-11 hot dogs, beef jerky and potato chips.
On a warm spring day.
With the person I loved the most.
And she couldn't have been any happier.
Aside from my wedding, it was the greatest day of my life.