Dining Memories Around Town

By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

Yes We Can

“What do you want to have for dinner tonight?”

That’s the great daily question forever asked in my household, and I’m sure one that will be asked shortly after the completion of my column. There’s some good stuff to eat in Corsicana, such as mainstays like Old Mexican Inn and Taco Shop, and since I’ve been back, I’ve really enjoyed Ellinya Italian and Fuji Sushi. There are other places, of course, and for the sake of time I won’t list every single one, but I started thinking about some of the places I really enjoyed growing up here.

When we moved back, I told the Missus about three of the mainstays that used to be here, and were regular meal choices for my family: Bill’s Fried Chicken, Humbert’s Hickory House, and Carpenter’s Hamburgers.

I still can’t help but glance at the old locations whenever I drive by, a mixture of appreciation, nostalgia, and missing the experiences (and of course the food). To the best of my research, Bill’s closed in 2017, Humbert’s in 2003, and Carpenter’s in 2007.

When I moved to the West Coast, I never forgot my remaining favorites. I made it a set goal to always pick up two things whenever I visited town: “Orange Dip” from Old Mexican Inn, and cherry ice box cookies from Collin Street Bakery. I could literally feed my homesickness with those two uniquely different tastes, one spicy, one sweet. I once toyed with the idea of combining a cookie dipped in the sauce, but I never could bring myself to do it in fear of committing a culinary sin.

The one that still eludes my memory was this one burger stand somewhere on the outskirts of town that served up a burger called “The Screaming Eagle.” It was a massive hamburger, about the size of a couch’s throw pillow, and could easily make for several meals. I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the place, so by all means, send an e-mail or a social media comment if you remember these burgers.

It’s funny how we can equate food to fixed moments in time, like the one scene in Ratatouille when the food critic takes a bite of his meal and is instantly whisked back to his childhood. It’s a remarkable effect when experienced, and it makes me think of those people in the kitchens or behind the counters past.

The faces represent the food, and the food represents the places we call “home.”

Dining is local culture. In many ways, it’s another art form, the same as film, or books, or a painting in a gallery. Everybody can cook on some level, but there are some who can create an experience you’ll take with you.

Don’t get me wrong: I still appreciate chain restaurants. I think Corsicana could benefit from a little more diversity in tastes. Come to think of it, I never have discovered what happened to that Long John Silvers returning to town. At this point, it’s faded into “urban legend” to when the moon is full, a whiff of fried fish and hush puppies will fill the night air. Or not.

The history of local food has its place and value here. Perhaps with some reader suggestions, I’ll do a deeper dive into some of those older places. In the meantime, the “What’s for dinner” question has been asked, and It’s time to answer that call.

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Categories: Opinion