Ludamae’s Roadside Grill Part I

The highway, built in 1973, ran right past a piece of property that Ludamae inherited from her Uncle’s secret lover, a White man named Darmour Blevins. Now the church people told her that she would save her very soul by donating that scandalous plot to the church for a spiritual tax deduction whenever she would have to account for herself at the pearly gates.

But Ludamae wasn’t anybody’s fool. She knew that that greedy fool, Bubby Lemour, a church functionary, wanted the property so he could open another one of his crooked used car dealerships. The clown had already sold cars to the likes of that serial killer, Teddy Dart, and those “Bonnie and Clyde” wannabes, David and Linda Lee.

The property came with a large, rambling, adobe style house and a sizeable building at the side of the road. Darmour would sell his produce from the building to passers by. He had a large clientele that would drive for miles to buy whatever it was that Darmour determined was suitable for the market on a given day. One week, it might be the agave and fresh chicken eggs that were ready to sell. The next week, the blackberries and the hops that people used to make their homemade beer would pass Darmour’s readiness test.
Uncle Darmour loved to experiment with plant husbandry. After she inherited the place, Ludamae began by carrying on with Uncle Darmour’s produce business and made a pretty good dime from that. Darmour had left the place well stocked with the best seeds, the gardens were easy to tend, and the customers were devoted. She hired some of the locals, and after some brutal lessons in trial and error, settled on a couple of steady, solid workers.

After a year or so, Ludamae added her highly appreciated pies to the list of goodies for sale. Then, her brother, Delmar made a proposition to cook and sell barbeque. Her best friend, Diana, offered to contribute her incredible baked macaroni and cheese. Her recipe has eggs in it and the eggs put the dish into a new world class of mac and cheese.

 

But Diana had lived in Italy with her Army Ex-husband. (Diana had three husbands, all from different branches of the military, so everyone just referred to the “Army ex” or the “Air Force ex” or the “Navy ex”). So Diana threw in all forms of cheese: pecorino, crema del friuli, Bocconcini for melting on the top. Diana was doing cinque fromaggio before even quattro fromaggio became a fad.

 

Ludamae crawled into her attic and hauled out her mother’s recipe books. She found recipes for collards and fried chicken, but she remembered Mother’s meals of Duck With Cherries and her complicated vegetable concoctions with exotic ingredients. For goodness sake, the woman made a paellela that made even those picky church ladies roll their eyes!
Mother was a cook, Grandma was a cook, and Great Grandma was a cook. These women cooked for some of the most nit picky and demanding of the Southern Slaveowners and Eastern Seaboard rich folks.

So Ludamae got an idea to build a restaurant and to have a fixed price “gourmet Night” on Tuesdays! On the other days she would host the locals and provide them with good, reliable home cooked meals.

After a year and a half and a couple of rounds in court, Ludamae got her restaurant and passed her inspections. The very same bureaucrats who gave her the most trouble were the first to make reservations for her gourmet nights as the word spread (thanks to her relatives) to politicians, movie stars and well heel gourmands from all over the country.

Even the Governor became a regular until he was caught flagrante and not so delicto with a youngster while on a fact finding trip to Thailand. But that was not such a disaster. The Lieutenant Governor was ready to step in and take his place at the table.

The work and the time went like water down a dry wash after a thunderstorm in the Superstition Mountains. But who isn’t headed for some kind of trouble at certain points in their life? Just as an older car is goes through one breakdown or another every few years, then runs fine for a few years, Ludamae had had her good years and was now headed for a breakdown in the order of things.
Ludamae’s pending trouble was the kind that takes restaurants from institutions to memories in no time at all.

And so it came to be that on one stormy Monday, while she was planning a menu of home made Ravioli en Brodo, Tilapia Supreme, a Paillaird of Goose With Berries, Brochette of Buffalo, exotic tree ripened fruit and imported cheeses, Gateau au Chocolat and a special entertainment by some members of the Capitol Symphony, Ludamae glanced at the newspaper.

The State wanted to run a highway right past her property! Who was building highways, anymore? At any rate, no one takes just a road sized slice of land. The state would take a hundred foot wide swath of everyone’s property, which would shave off the front of her restaurant and take half of her garden market!

Worse, her brother, Delmar, was up in arms again, angling for a partnership since he and his useless offspring were expecting to inherit if and when Ludamae met her demise. After all, Ludamae was not married and had no children.

Delmar was unaware that Ludamae was expecting her boyfriend, David, to arrive from New York at any minute. David was going to help her run the restaurant. Sighing, Ludamae happened to glance out the window and would up gazing on a unique sequence of events:

Storm clouds as black as ink were headed toward town. Bubba pulled into the parking lot with that useless lawyer of his in the passenger seat.

And Dave rolled up, driving a U-Haul van and towing his Mercedes.

 

TO BE CONTINUED


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