One of my favorite and really intense memories from very young childhood is of the occasional Sunday breakfast made up of fried salt herring, eggs, and biscuits. (Yes, probably that should be “salted” herring, but I remember that we never said it that way.) We didn’t have much money, so only rarely–after a good paycheck with overtime–did my father get that craving and drive out early on a Sunday to hit a local place that sold the fried salt herring. I have no idea how the rest of my family felt but I was always Daddy’s little girl, certainly with regard to food, and I remember practically vibrating in anticipation, waiting for his return. He’d come back with brown paper packages containing the just-fried fish. My mother would open the packets on the table, add freshly baked biscuits and scrambled eggs, and we’d be off and running, eating our food from the paper. Half-meal, half-sport. After a few false starts on a shorty, this memory came to me. I asked my husband, also raised in Virginia but by parents who are not native to the state, if he’d ever had this breakfast and he said no. I did a Google search for “salt herring breakfast” and every hit I got specifically for that phrase came from a Virginia diner or a Virginia Moose lodge or Ruritan club. I copied the menu item above from the breakfast menu on the Virginia Diner’s website (located in Wakefield). Apparently a “salt herring breakfast” is a Virginia tradition! I’m delighted to discover this and to know I was part of it. Too enchanted not to write about it, though the shorty didn’t turn out well.
Working Title: Salt Herring
1st Sentence: He wanted a better life for his children and he wanted to provide more for his family than just three square meals a day, enough clothes, the occasional necessary trip to the doctor, and school supplies, all of which we could sometimes afford and sometimes not.
Favorite Sentence: Those salt herring breakfasts came at a time of possibility, when our living in this new, wild place still felt like camping, or a field trip.
Word Length: 1,211
Photo from the Virginia Diner website.