Eatery offers glimpse of home

Published 12:01 am Sunday, December 7, 2014

On my first day in 10th grade biology, my classmates and I were introduced to a new teacher, Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith was from Buffalo, New York, and it was clear with the first words he spoke to us he hadn’t spent much time in the South. Especially the piedmont on North Carolina.

“Good morning class!” Mr. Smith shouted with his thick, booming Buffalo accent. “I went all the way last night!”

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The class of about 40 students just sort of sat there, jaws agape, trying to decide whether to laugh or run away. Before we could come to a consensus, Mr. Smith began to elaborate.

“I had dinner at What-A-Burger for the first time,” he explained. “I went all the way!”

We immediately knew that rather than sharing some inappropriate details of his personal life to teenagers, Mr. Smith was just telling us what he had for dinner – a burger with chili, mustard, cole slaw and onions.

In my hometown, What-A-Burger (pronounced Water Burger) is the equivalent of a Shake Shoppe or sit-down L&J’s. It’s nothing fancy, but if you’re craving a good burger, hot dog or barbecue sandwich, that’s where the locals go.

Mr. Smith explained to us that he had never heard the phrase “all the way” in reference to food. It never occurred to me that phrase might sound strange to someone who wasn’t from the area.

I was reminded of this story when Cook-Out opened in Huntington this past week.

I had heard over the summer construction had started on a new restaurant in Huntington, but when I found out which restaurant, I was elated to say the least.

Cook-Out is drive-thru-style burger joint headquartered in North Carolina. They have restaurants all over the state and have started to expand. The Huntington location is the first in West Virginia and, unlike many of the locations around my hometown, there is indoor seating.

So, if you want to get a Carolina-style burger or hot dog all-the-way, or some North Carolina-style barbecue with a fountain Cheerwine to wash it down, head to the Cook-Out on Fifth Avenue.

I also started to think more about some of the phrases I grew up hearing and saying, or just some of the silly ways my neck of the woods differs from the Tri-State and other northern locales.

One that quickly comes to mind, especially this time of year, is southerns’ reaction to snow.

You’ve probably seen a few Internet memes poking fun at us. A photo of a northern city blanketed in several feet of snow and a person scraping off their car so they can get to work juxtaposed with a photo of a southern town, no snow on the ground with a caption that reads, “Threat of snow. School canceled.”

That’s pretty funny, right? But I’m here to tell you that’s not an exaggeration at all. A few snow flakes fall from the sky and people rush to the grocery store for bread and milk.

The first winter I lived in Ashland, I remember how peculiar it was to be able to actually buy bread and milk while there was snow on the ground.

Down south, depending on your age, nearly every soda is called Coke. And it’s definitely never called pop. Even Pepsi is called Coke. Don’t ask me why.

“Bless your heart,” is another phrase that tends to mean something different if it’s coming from a southerner. It sounds sweet enough, but what it really means is, “Oh, get over it,” or “You’re not very bright, are you?”

Something I’ve noticed from living here is the difference in using phrases like, “I don’t care to,” or some derivation.

When I was a child, if I hear my grandmother say she “didn’t care” for something, that meant she didn’t want it or didn’t want to do something.

Around here, people use that to mean they “wouldn’t mind.”

That’s caused a bit of confusion on my part some time.

It’s amazing how people living in different towns and states and regions have their own languages and rituals that make them unique.

I’m proud to have kept many of the ones I grew up with and I’ve already begun to pick up some new ones from y’all. (I’ll never get rid of that one.)

About a year ago, the New York Times released an online dialect quiz that claimed it could peg where a person was from by asking basic questions about regional words and phrases. I took it and it really pegged me, almost exactly.

It was a fun quiz and if you’re interested in taking it, just Google New York Times dialect quiz. I’d be interested in hearing your results.

Seriously, go eat at Cook-Out.


Michelle Goodman is the news editor at The Tribune. To reach her, call 740-532-1441 ext. 12 or by email at