Read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe Online

Authors: Fannie Flagg

Tags: #Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Psychological, #Sagas

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

 

 

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
Fannie Flagg
Random House (2012)
Tags:
Women, Alabama, Female Friendship, Fiction
Womenttt Alabamattt Female Friendshipttt Fictionttt

From the Inside Flap

Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is the
now-classic novel of two women in the 1980s; of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to
Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women--of the
irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth--who back in the thirties ran a little place in
Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present--for Evelyn and for us--will never be quite the same again...

 

Acknowledgments

I would like to acknowledge the following people, whose encouragement and support have been invaluable to me in the writing of this book: First and foremost, my agent, Wendy Weil, who never lost faith; my editor, Sam Vaughan, for the care and attention he has given me, and who kept me laughing, even through rewrites; and Martha Levin, my first friend at Random House, Thanks to Gloria Safier, Liz Hock, Margaret Cafarelli, Anne Howard Baily, Julie Florence, James "Daddy" Hatcher, Dr. John Nixon, Gerry Hannah, Jay .Sawyer, and Frank Self. Thanks to DeThomas/Bobo & Associates, for sticking with me during the lean times. Thanks to Barnaby and Mary Conrad and the Santa Barbara Writers' Conference, Jo Roy and the Birmingham Public Library, Jeff Norell, Birmingham Southern College, Ann Harvey and John Loque, Oxmoor House Publishing, A grateful thank you to my typist and right hand, Lisa McDonald, and to her daughter, Jessaiah, for being quiet and watching Sesame Street while her mother and I were working. And my special thanks go to all the sweet people of Alabama, past and present. My Heart. My Home.

 

I may be sitting here at the Rose Terrace Nursing Home, but in my mind I'm over at the Whistle Stop Cafe having a plate of fried green tomatoes.

 

—Mrs. Cleo Threadgoode June 1986

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES AT THE WHISTLE STOP CAFE

 

 

 

 

CAFE OPENS

 

June 12, 1929 

The Whistle Stop Cafe opened up last week, right next door to me at the post office, and owners Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison said business has been good ever since. Idgie says that for people who know her not to worry about getting poisoned, she is not cooking. All the cooking is being done by two colored women, Sipsey and Onzell, and the barbecue is being cooked by Big George, who is Onzell's husband.

If there is anybody that has not been there yet, Idgie says that the breakfast hours are from 5:30-7:30, and you can get eggs, grits, biscuits, bacon, sausage, ham and red-eye gravy, and coffee for 25c. 

For lunch and supper you can have: fried chicken; pork chops and gravy; catfish; chicken and dumplings; or a barbecue plate; and your choice of three vegetables, biscuits or cornbread, and your drink and dessert - for 35c.

She said the vegetables are creamed corn, fried green tomatoes, fried okra, collard or turnip greens, black-eyed peas, candied yams, butter beans or lima beans.

And pie for dessert.

My other half, Wilbur, and I ate there the other night and it was so good he says he might not ever eat at home again.  Ha. Ha.  I wish this were true. I spend all my time cooking for the big lug, and still can’t keep him filled up.

By the way, Idgie says that one of her hens laid an egg with a ten-dollar bill in it.

. . . Dot Weems . . .

DECEMBER 15, 1985

Evelyn Couch had come to Rose Terrace with her husband, Ed. who was visiting his mother, Big Momma, a recent but reluctant arrival, Evelyn had just escaped them both and had gone into the visitors' lounge in the back, where she could enjoy her candy bar in peace and quiet. But the moment she sat down, the old woman beside her began to talk . . .

"Now, you ask me the year somebody got married . . . who they married . . . or what the bride's mother wore, and nine times out of ten I can tell you, but for the life of me, I cain't tell you when it was I got to be so old. It just sorta slipped up on me. The first time I noticed it was June of this year, when I was in the hospital for my gallbladder, which they still have, or maybe they threw it out by now . . . who knows. That heavyset nurse had just given me another one of those Fleet enemas they're so fond of over there when I noticed what they had on my arm. It was a white band that said:
Mrs. Cleo Threadgoode . . . an eighty-six-year-old woman.
Imagine that!

"When I got back home, I told my friend Mrs. Otis, I guess the only thing left for us to do is to sit around and get ready to croak. . . . She said she preferred the term
pass over to the
other side.
Poor thing, I didn't have the heart to tell her that no matter what you call it, we're all gonna croak, just the same . . .

"It's funny, when you're a child you think time will never go by, but when you hit about twenty, time passes like you're on the fast train to Memphis. I guess life just slips up on everybody. It sure did on me. One day I was a little girl and the next I was a grown woman, with bosoms and hair on my private parts. I missed the whole thing. But then, I never was too smart in school or otherwise . . .

"Mrs. Otis and I are from Whistle Stop, a little town about ten miles from here, out by the railroad yards . . . She's lived down the street from me for the past thirty years or so, and after her husband died, her son and daughter-in-law had a fit for her to come and live at the nursing home, and they asked me to come with her. I told them I'd stay with her for a while—she doesn't know it yet, but I'm going back home just as soon as she gets settled in good.

"It's not too bad out here. The other day, we all got Christmas corsages to wear on our coats. Mine had little shiny red Christmas balls on it, and Mrs. Otis had a Santy Claus face on hers. But I was sad to give up my kitty, though.

"They won't let you have one here, and I miss her. I've always had a kitty or two, my whole life. I gave her to that little girl next door, the one who's been watering my geraniums. I've got me four cement pots on the front porch, just full of geraniums.

"My friend Mrs. Otis is only seventy-eight and real sweet, but she's a nervous kind of person. I had my gallstones in a Mason jar by my bed, and she made me hide them. Said they made her depressed. Mrs. Otis is just a little bit of somethin', but as you can see, I'm a big woman. Big bones and all.

"But I never drove a car . . . I've been stranded most all my life. Always stayed close to home. Always had to wait for somebody to come and carry me to the store or to the doctor or down to the church. Years ago, you used to be able to take a trolley to Birmingham, but they stopped running a long time ago. The only thing I'd do different if I could go back would be to get myself a driver's license.

"You know
,
it's funny what you'll miss when you're away from home. Now me, I miss the smell of coffee . . . and bacon frying in the morning. You cain't smell anything they've got cooking out here, and you cain't get a thing that's fried. Everything here is boiled up, with not a piece of salt on it! I wouldn't give you a plugged nickel for anything boiled, would you?"

The old lady didn't wait for an answer . . . I used to love my crackers and buttermilk, or my buttermilk and cornbread, in the afternoon. I like to smash it all up in my glass and eat it with a spoon, but you cain't eat in public like you can at home . . . can you? . . . And I miss
wood.

"My house is nothing but just a little old railroad shack of a house, with a living room, bedroom, and a kitchen. But it's wood, with pine walls inside. Just what I like. I don't like a plaster wall. They seem . . . oh, I don't know, kinda cold and stark-like.

"I brought a picture with me that I had at home, of a girl in a swing with a castle and pretty blue bubbles in the background, to hang in my room, but that nurse here said the girl was naked from the waist up and not appropriate. You know, I've had that picture for fifty years and I never knew she was naked. If you ask me, I don't think the old men they've got here can see well enough to notice that she's bare-breasted. But, this is a Methodist home, so she's in the closet with my gallstones.

"I’ll be glad to get home . . . Of course, my house is a mess. I haven't been able to sweep for a while. I went out and threw my broom at some old, noisy bluejays that were fighting and, wouldn't you know it, my broom stuck up there in the tree. I've got to get someone to get it down for me when I get back.

"Anyway, the other night, when Mrs. Otis's son took us home from the Christmas tea they had at the church, he drove us over the railroad tracks, out by where the cafe used to be, and on up First Street, right past the old Threadgoode place. Of course, most of the house is all boarded up and falling down now, but when we came down the street, the headlights hit the windows in such a way that, just for a minute, that house looked to me just like it had so many of those nights, some seventy years ago, all lit up and full of fun and noise. I could bear people laughing, and Essie Rue pounding away at the piano in the parlor: 'Buffalo Gal, Won't You Come Out Tonight' or ‘The Big Bock Candy Mountain,' and I could almost see Idgie Threadgoode sitting in the chinaberry tree, howling like a dog every time Essie Rue tried to sing. She always said that Essie Rue could sing about as well as a cow could dance. I guess, driving by that house and me being so homesick made me go back in my mind . . .

"I remember it just like it was yesterday, but then I don't think there's anything about the Threadgoode family I don't remember. Good Lord. I should, I've lived right next door to them from the day I was born, and I married one of the boys.

“There were nine children, and three of the girls, Essie Rue and the twins, were more or less my own age, so I was always over there playing and having spend-the-night parties. My own mother died of consumption when I was four, and when my daddy died, up in Nashville, I just stayed on for good. I guess you might say the spend-the-night party never ended . . .

OCTOBER 8, 1929

Meteorite Hits Whistle Stop Residence

Mrs. Biddie Louise Otis, who lives at 401 1st Street, reported that on Thursday night a two-pound meteorite crashed through the roof of her house and just missed hitting her, but did hit the radio she was listening to at the time. She said that she was sitting on the couch because the dog was in the chair, and had just turned on "Fletschmann's Yeast Hour," when it happened. She said that there is a four-foot hole in her roof and that her radio is broken in half.

Bertha and Harold Vick celebrated their anniversary on the front lawn for all the neighbors to see. And congratulations to Mr. Earl Adcock Sr., an executive for the

L N Railroad, who has just been named Grand Exalted Ruler of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks, Order No. 37, of which my other half is a member.

By the way, Idgie said that if you want something barbecued, to send it over to the café and Big George will do it for you.  Chickens for 10c and hogs according to your size.

. . . Dot Weems . . .

DECEMBER 15, 1985

One hour later, Mrs Threadgoode was still talking. Evelyn Couch had finished three Milky Ways and was in the process of unwrapping her second Butterfinger, wondering if the old woman beside her was ever going to shut up.

"You know, it’s a shame the Threadgoode house has fallen into such disrepair.  So much happened there, so many babies born, we had so many happy times. It was a great big two-story white-frame house with a big front porch that wrapped all the way around to the side . . . and all the bedrooms had rose-patterned wallpaper that looked so pretty when the lamps were turned on at night.

“The railroad tracks ran right across the backyard, and on summer nights that yard would be just full of lightning bugs and the smell of honeysuckle that grew wild, right alongside the tracks Poppa had the hack planted with fig trees and apple trees, and be had built Momma the most beautiful white lattice grape arbor that was full of wisteria vines . . . and little pink sweetheart roses grew all over the back of the house. Oh, I wish you could have seen it.

  "Momma and Poppa Threadgoode raised me just like I was one of their own, and I liked all the Threadgoodes. Especially Buddy. But I married Cleo, his older brother, the chiropractor and wouldn't you know it, later on I turned out to have a bad back, so it worked out just fine.

"So you can see I've been keeping up with Idgie and the Threadgoodes all my life. And I'll tell you, it's been better than a picture show ... yes it has. But then, I was always a tagalong sort of person. Believe it or not, I never did talk much until after I hit my fifties, and then I just couldn't stop. One time Cleo said to me, 'Ninny'—my name is Virginia but they called me Ninny—he said, 'Ninny, all I hear is Idgie said this and Idgie did that' He said, 'Don't you have anything better to do than to hang around that cafe all day?'

"I thought long and hard and said, 'No, I don't'. . . not to downgrade Cleo in any way, but it was the truth.

"I buried Cleo thirty-one years ago last February, and I often wonder if I hurt his feelings when I said that, but I don't think so, because after all was said and done, he loved Idgie as much as the rest of us, and always got a good laugh out of some of her doings. She was his baby sister, and a real cutup. She and Ruth owned the Whistle Stop Cafe.

"Idgie used to do all kinds of crazy harebrained things just to get you to laugh. She put polker chips in the collection basket at the Baptist church once. She was a character all right, but how anybody ever could have thought that she killed that man is beyond me."

For the first time, Evelyn stopped eating and glanced over at the rather sweet-looking old lady in the faded blue flower- print dress, with the silver-gray fingerwaves, who didn't miss a beat:

"Some people thought it started the day she met Ruth, but I think it started that Sunday dinner, April the first, 1919, the same year Leona married John Justice. I can tell you it was April the first, because Idgie came to the dinner table that day and showed everybody this little white box she had with a human finger inside of it, resting on a piece of cotton. She claimed she'd found it out in the backyard. But it turned out to be her own finger she had poked through a hole in the bottom of the box. APRIL FOOL!!!

"Everybody thought it was funny except Leona. She was the oldest and the prettiest sister, and Poppa Threadgoode spoiled her rotten . . . everybody did, I guess.

"Idgie was about ten or eleven at the time and she had on a brand new white organdy dress that we'd all told her how pretty she looked in. We were having a fine time and starting in on our blueberry cobbler when all of a sudden, out of a clear blue sky, Idgie stood up and announced, just as loud . . . 'I'm never gonna wear another dress as long as I live!' And with that, honey, she marched upstairs and put on a pair of Buddy's old pants and a shirt. To this day, I don't have any idea what set her off. None of us had.

"But Leona, who knew Idgie never said a thing she didn't mean, began to wail. She said, 'Oh Poppa, Idgie's going to ruin my wedding, I just know it!'

"But Poppa said, 'Now, baby girl, that's just not so. You're gonna be the most beautiful bride in the entire state of Alabama.'

"Poppa had this great big handlebar moustache . . . then he looked at us and he said, 'Isn't that right, children?'. . . and we all put in our two cents’ worth to make her feel better and to get her to shut up. All of us except Buddy, that is, who just sat there and giggled. Idgie was his pet, so anything she did was all right with him.

"So anyway, Leona was finishing her cobbler, and just when we thought she was all calmed down, she screamed so loud that Sipsey, the colored woman, dropped something in the kitchen. 'Oh Poppa,' Leona said, 'what's gonna happen if one of us dies?'

". . . Well, it was a thought, wasn't it?

"We all looked at Momma, who just put her fork down on the table.  'Now, children, I'm sure your sister will make that one small concession and wear a proper dress if and when that time ever comes. After all, she's stubborn, but she's not unreasonable.'

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