Breakfast at Lulu's
"Eggs and a ribeye steak, a bloody Mary, and some coffee."
That's what she ordered, the blonde with the wedge cut who was sitting in the booth across from me. Ribeye was pronounced "Rib-ahhh" in the manner of southern Virginia gentility.
Barbie was "starrrrvin'" because, like, she forgot to eat last week. "Well, there was so much to do!" Ha ha. As if that explained everything! So she was famished. She doesn't care if a dainty woman's not supposed to have ribeye steak AND eggs for breakfast. Who worries about dietary convention? Not her.
Our waitress was Savannah, a peroxide blonde whose hair was moussed in the tousled way of art students and musicians. Savannah didn't think the order was unusual - she smiled, took our order, and left me alone with this crazy woman.
A bloody Mary would soothe the stomach after an evening of partying the night before. The coffee mitigated the effects of alcohol in the bloody Mary. The meal order had a beautiful logic to it... checks and balances, bad and good, yin and yang. This food item was high in cholesterol. Yes, but this piece of toast was not. So it canceled out. If you suspended rational thought long enough it all made sense. In any case, she made me laugh with her hummingbird attention span, her quick smile, and her ability to tell a good story, and I quickly lost the thread of thought necessary to make sense of her order.
She put the celery stalk up to her lips. I got out my camera.
"Nuh uh. You are NOT taking a picture."
CRUNCH. As if to make a point, she bit down on the stalk with those fine sharp teeth, severing it in two. I winced. She smiled.
Yin and yang. This is the way of charming southern women. They do something vaguely threatening, something emasculating that lets you know who's boss, and then they sweeten the mood with a tinkling laugh.
Lulu's is a Richmond institution, a dive cafe in the historically louche party district, famous for its good coffee, cute waitresses, good breakfasts, and massive portions.
When you walked into Lulu's, the newspapers in the bins were counterculture and art and music communities. Lots of ads for tattoos and Musicians Wanted.
It was Sunday morning, a time of quiet and recovery after an evening of bad decisions, a morning where all you wanted was hashed browns covered in ketchup, a cup of coffee in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and a little bit of sympathy from the waitress. You want a restaurant where the cook has bags under his eyes, who takes pride in the way he makes his grits. Nothin' fancy, and the food is good.
We were in a high-backed wooden booth made of dark straight boards that made me think of church pews. The linoleum floor looked like it had been installed in the 1950s. Not exactly a high-budget restaurant.
This kind of place is a great test to see what kind of woman your date is. Me, I like someone who's comfortable everywhere. She can dress up like Ava Gardner, but she can also appreciate the down-home nature of Lulu's. Good food. Cheap. Unpretentious. It's a great test. If she complains about this place, she's yesterday's news.
Barbie didn't have any complaints. Even better, she felt completely comfortable here. Except...
"What's wrong," I asked. "Is something amiss in Barbieland?
She'd taken a sip of her bloody Mary, then made a face, then straightarmed it across the table so that the drink was right in front of my face. No words were exchanged, but it was clear that I was to taste it.
I took the glass and had a sip. It tasted like pure tabasco sauce poured over ice, unmitigated by the velvety texture of V8 tomato juice. Hot. I made a face.
"You're right. Ew."
Savannah sensed our pain and wiggled over in her low risers. Yes, the bloody Mary was a house specialty, heavy on the tabasco sauce. The regulars here liked their bloody Marys to have a distinctive kick. But Barbie was no respecter of tradition. She liked her bloody Marys smooth. Savannah returned shortly and then waited until it was tasted.
"Oh honey thass much bettah thankyew!"
At least that's what I heard. it sounded like one word, all molasses and syrup, punctuated with a smile.
Barbie, staaaaahvin', soon tucked into her ribeye and made quick work of it with her steak knife. I think I laughed at one point. It was all done properly, but what made me laugh was the impression that she'd gut anyone who came between her and her breakfast. When Barbie's hungry, stand back. If you touched her food she'd fillet you like a fish and do so cheerfully, adhering to Junior League rules of conduct.
Today she surprised even herself. After she was done she put the steak and fork across her plate and smiled and said, "Look, a clean plate! Do you think I was hungry?"
I laughed. "Honey, you're scary when you're hungry."
"I know! Barbie isn't a whole lot of fun when her blood sugar level drops." Love that third person voice. "When it's time to eat you'd better get me to a restaurant."
After the main course was done it was time for dessert. Dessert? I blanched. After my huge meal, I didn't even want to look at food. But this slip of a woman would not be denied. When Savannah cleared our plates, Ms. Hungry asked her for a dessert menu. One arrived. Oh look - chocolate!
I groaned. Still... could she do it? Could she down a dessert after such a massive breakfast? This was like watching Hud eat all those eggs.
The dessert arrived. The dessert was finished with a flourish. The napkin was set aside. She smiled, victorious. Veni. Vidi Vici.
I was in awe of this woman. Was she part vole, able to eat a hundred times her weight every day?
A true conqueror never rest on her laurels. There's always more to do, and time is short. Sure enough, she decreed, it was time to get moving.
"Come on, baby. We're done here. I need a smoke. Come outside with me."
I am so pwned.