Even so, money was tight back in the undergraduate years and bankruptcy was my constant lunch companion. Sometimes, the best you could hope to do was count your loose change, order what you could and try not to drool on the tablecloth, if your particular lunch haunt had one. Not every place I ate had tablecloths. Some places barely had tables.
Mary Mac's is one place that doesn't want you to go away hungry. Their menu is a banquet of fine Southern cooking, fried up and served hot: fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, lightly fried okra, fried select oysters. Oh, you can get a vegetable plate if you're so inclined, but my favorite meals are the crispy-brown ones.
Now, I don't claim that Southerners are the only ones who love fried food. One appetizer I ate in Hong Kong was a foot-long, translucent shrimp-like thing with wiggly centipede legs. They sure fried up a lot of exotic fare over there, but I do wonder if there's anything we Southerners won't stick in a deep fryer?
As I began writing this column, sitting in the Atlanta room, I ordered a shrimp cocktail. The waitress said, "We don't have shrimp cocktails here." I pointed to the menu and said, "Sure you do, right here..." Then I read a little closer. "Fried shrimp served with cocktail sauce." I should have known.
You don't go to a place like Mary Mac's and order a hifalutin shrimp cocktail. That's like asking for a Waldorf salad at The Varsity. If you want a shrimp cocktail, you go to the airport and eat at Houlihan's. While you're there, catch a cheap flight to Hong Kong. They'll fry you up some things that Mary Mac's will never serve... not even if The Varsity lets them cook it under their parking deck in a borrowed deep fryer.
So, I suppose there are some things we Southerners won't fry after all. But I bet the list isn't all that long, and if Mary Mac's isn't interested in it, then neither am I.
David McCoy, a notorious storyteller and proud Yellow Jacket, lives in Conyers, Ga. He can be reached at email@example.com