Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Wanna Get on Dad's Good Side? Roll out 'The Barrel'

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Wanna Get on Dad's Good Side? Roll out 'The Barrel'

Article excerpt

Today's topic is both psychotic and pretty.

So pretty, in fact, there's even a perfume named after it.


I love typing it. I love saying it. And I love not knowing what it smells like.

Most of us have at least one obsession. Some of us have several.

For example: I'm obsessed with Batman, food, the TV show "Lost" (still) and just about anything old. (Old houses, old furniture, old books, etc.)

My brother is (and always has been) obsessed with cars. His wife is obsessed with clothes. My Aunt Irene is obsessed with the Hallmark Channel. And my mother is obsessed with my brother -- as I'm reminded whenever I call her on the phone.

"Hi, it's your son!"


"No, the other one. With the mustache."

Then, there's my father. As I wrote recently, my 27-year-old cousin AJ visited recently from Florida. None of us had ever met AJ, so I told my father it might be nice to have some family stories ready to share with him. My father, however, had other things on his mind.

"You live in Florida?" Dad asked, three minutes after AJ walked in the door.

AJ said yes and my father's eyes widened. Then, he pounced.

"You have Cracker Barrels down there?"

I moaned. My mother moaned. AJ said, "Yes! We love Cracker Barrel!"

I kicked AJ under the table, but it didn't help. Dad then proceeded to talk, obsessively, about his passion for "The Barrel," aka Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and Restaurant.

I've never been to one of these places, even though there are about 600 of them scattered across the United States.

In the 1980s, when my parents spent five years in Texas, because of my father's job, they ate at Cracker Barrel. And when they drove home (for good) in 1990, they stopped at every Cracker Barrel between Houston and Babylon, N.Y.

"They have the best food," Dad told me, for the millionth time, about five years ago. "Do you want to hear about it?"

"Not really," I replied.

But that didn't stop him. Remember that look Anthony Hopkins had on his face in "The Silence of the Lambs" just before he bit the security guard's face off? Well, that's the look my father gets whenever he talks about Cracker Barrel.

"Unfortunately," Dad said, "there aren't any around here. …

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