Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Finger Lickin' Good

It is here, in Waukesha Wisconsin. The light that blasts through the roof of the cookie-cutter retail strip center in which it resides. A woman, named Alisha - who makes ribs, and fried okra (which heretofore couldn't be found in Wisconsin) and a pulled pork sandwich that melts my heart and expands my hips.

Her mother was Pat, who was the sister of somebody relatively famous. Her mother suffered with addiction but she made a hell of a mean BBQ sauce. This little slice of heaven is literally around the corner from my house. My soon to be 13 year old son has his photo on the wall there and is instantly proclaimed as "The Rib King", when greeted by Alisha. My boy has found a place where everybody knows his name.

Seriously, who could resist those freckles?

I think he won them over when he invited three of his buddies to join him in a rib fest for which he had saved all of his allowance to treat. Awkward middle school kids, rebelliously eating ribs with their various stages of orthodontics.  Who cares. We can pick the rib meat out and nobody will be the wiser?

I am grateful to Alisha in so many ways. Due to her tie to that relatively (okay totally) famous person, her business took off. But she has the eye of an eagle when spotting my freckle faced boy across the crowded scene.  The last time we were there, she literally stopped taking an order, excused herself and walked out from behind the counter to greet and hug him.

That brought me to tears. I know her in a very small way through school and she is close to my older son as well due to his proclivity for wings, hot sauce and good conversation.  Her daughter is in the same class as my little guy.  But none of that was known when she singled him out and made him feel deserving of her attention at a time when his world was falling apart.

I love you Alisha and I love you Pat's Rib Place. She even has a photo of Ryley and I on her website. There are a lot of them so you will have to look for it. Pat's Rib Place.

It's not so much humanity as it is about the simple act of being human; waving a sparkler of effervescent joy and warming hearts with her dimpled smile and tireless approach to serving down home southern cooking (due in large part to her very talented husband) to a rag-tag looking family that was broken. She didn't know how much we were hurting. How much Ryley needed attention, or how much his mom needed an okra fix. She simply smiled and enjoyed her passion in life as we were lucky enough to soak it up just as we did with Pat's famous house sauce. 

Hence, if you should find yourself lucky enough to travel anywhere in the vicinity of Waukesha Wisconsin, take a detour to Sunset Ave and warm yourself from the inside out.  For it is with my whole heart I recommend the love of a daughter rendered so satisfyingly in the food, you will taste the very essence and soul of a woman who lost the battle with the demons of addiction but poured her spirit into the love of her daughters and the spice in her sauces. You will have no choice but to leave feeling loved or in love and you will not be able to suppress your need for more.