Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Love/Hate Relationship

Last night, Ruanita and I took the kids to Cracker Barrel for dinner. I have a love/hate relationship with Cracker Barrel. I want to hate it, but I can't help loving it. Let me explain.

In 1991, Cracker Barrel instituted a policy requiring employees to display "normal heterosexual values which have been the foundation of families in our society." In other words, they did not want gay employees in the company. Despite 11 years of protest demonstrations by gay rights groups, the company refused to change their policy. Finally in 2002, the company's shareholders voted 58 percent in favor of rescinding the policy. The board of directors added sexual orientation to the company's nondiscrimination policy. Nonetheless, Cracker Barrel scored the lowest score (15 out of 100) of all rated food and beverage companies in the Human Rights Campaign's 2008 Corporate Equality Index, a measure of Gay and Lesbian workplace equality. So, basically, the company still does not treat its GLBT employees fairly, despite the policy change. Therefore, being a proud lesbian with a houseful of young children to mold and nurture and teach right from wrong, I should hate Cracker Barrel. I should avoid it and refuse to give them my business and my hard-earned dollars.

That being said, I still find myself conflicted. Morally and intellectually, I hate Cracker Barrel. However, physically and emotionally, I am drawn to it. It speaks to me. I am a Kentucky girl, born and bred. I live in Minnesota....a place a truly love. The hearty Norwegians who founded this state have many wonderful qualities. However, from a culinary perspective, they are the most bland, spiceless, white-bread people you will ever find. That leaves me in a bind. Where else in Minnesota can a country girl get gravy and biscuits? Chicken and dumplings? Delicious perfectly baked cornbread? Country-fried steak? Fried okra? Come on...I don't know of another restaurant in this entire state that has cornmeal-breaded fried okra on their menu! In addition to their delicious down-home menu options, they also serve breakfast 24/7. This means that my perfectly picky children can have pancakes for dinner. And not just any pancakes...light, fluffy, delicious pancakes with real maple syrup. I've established that the food sings to me. However, there are other aspects of Cracker Barrel that make it the perfect restaurant, as well. It's loud and rowdy...the perfect atmosphere for my loud and rowdy kids to eat without disturbing the public at large. Though often crowded, it has a country store with a toy section that entertains my children while we wait for a table. And speaking of that country store....they sell all of the circa 1970s sugary confections of my childhood. Chick-O-Sticks? Check! Moon Pies? Check! Goo-goo Clusters? Check! Technicolored rock candy? Check! And did I mention that they have gorgeous Christmas decorations around the holidays? The cutest...and cheapest...Christmas tree ornaments you can find anywhere. Ok...ok....I'll stop now.

Can you see why I am conflicted now? What's a poor displaced Southern girl to do? Do I follow my head and boycott Cracker a life void of dumplings and fried okra? Or do I follow my stomach and my emotions, happily eating all of the delicious foods I grew up on? I suppose I will just continue my current course of action, which goes a little something like this....Load the kids in the car, sneak off and drive 30 minutes to Lakeville to the Cracker Barrel (Minneapolis, in its infinite, metropolitan wisdom, does not have a Cracker Barrel restaurant), pray that I don't run into anyone I know there (chances are pretty slim since most of my friends would not be caught dead in Lakeville), eat to my heart's content, then skulk back to the city feeling bloated, gassy, and guilty.

Ahhhh...the life of a Southern lesbian.


Cate said...

Ooh, that's a tough one. We hardly ever eat at Cracker Barrel (though it IS yummy!), but I had no idea they were so unfriendly to their LGBT employees. That's a shame. I'm conflicted now, too!

Where in Kentucky are you from? We're in Louisville.

Shannon Ralph said...

We are from Owensboro originally. I went to college in Lexington and lived for a while in Louisville before moving to Minnesota. I will always love Kentucky, but I can't say that I miss the scorching summers. :)

Jessica said...

I just had chicken and dumplings there last Sunday night! We don't have CB out here, so I have to go when I'm back in KY. I can understand the conflict.

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