When I'm craving comfort food, few places satisfy like Mama J's. And when I want company, I know which friend to ask on a moment's notice and be guaranteed he'll drop everything and join me.
So I did and 40 minutes later we sitting down amongst the lunching crowd of policemen, guys in both work uniforms and suits and a woman in a fur. Next to us was a mother and daughter eating catfish and discussing yams versus sweet potatoes.
We'd both had fried chicken last time, so we were looking for something different today. My friend kept looking at the nearby catfish and saying, "That sure does look good," so I knew where he was going with that.
When our server Coco (whom we always seem to get and enjoy) asked if he wanted that baked or fried, he laughed out loud. "Well, I have to ask!" she smiled.
I decided on the barbecued spare ribs with Mama's potato salad and a corn muffin. My friend insisted we begin with Mama's terrific seafood salad to tide us over.
He got no argument from me; it was the very first thing I'd eaten at Mama's over a year ago and Coco said it's their most popular catering order item.
Elbow macaroni with crab and shrimp mixed into a creamy dressing makes this stuff addictive. We were just finishing it when our entrees arrived, his catfish steaming and my plate-sized rack slathered in sauce.
The daughter's mouth fell open when she saw my food, prompting her mother to say, "You are not getting all those ribs, too!"
My friend was midway into his first enormous piece of catfish and I was on my third spare rib, fingers sticky and coated in sauce, when he nonchalantly said, "Well, the speaker stands came in for the stereo I'm building you."
He begins to describe them, the height, the anodized metal, and goes into the Swedish CD player he ordered when I realize he's been gathering the components for some time without mentioning their arrival.
He means for me to have a top-notch stereo whether I need it or not and it's getting close to installation time it would seem.
We've been friends for a while; he's a brilliant conversationalist and the perfect eating companion. Like me, he enjoys everything from foie gras to fried pork chops, always requires dessert and he's constantly teaching me more about wine.
And speaking of desserts, today we chose the coconut pineapple cake on Coco's recommendation (last time she'd steered us to the rum cake). The sweet density of the cake itself led to a discussion of cake-mix cakes and how far removed from real cake they are.
But Mama's sister's cake was the real deal and loaded with coconut and pineapple bits. Unlike a lot of guys who claim to not have a sweet tooth, my friend enjoyed it every bit as much as I did.
So I really don't need gifts from him, much less something as generous as this hi-fi that will soon reside with me in Jackson Ward.
On the other hand, he's got an enormous vinyl collection, so perhaps he just wants an additional place to enjoy listening with a fellow music fan.
It would be very convenient after a filling meal at Mama J's, now that I think about it.