By Shirley Prihoda The Bulletin
While checking out the possibility of moving to Brenham, we happened upon an amazing sandwich and soup shop on the square in Brenham named It Must Be Heaven. Since we have every intention of making Heaven our future home, we were interested in getting a little foretaste of it this side of the clouds. After circling the block several times looking for a parking spot, hallelujah, one opened. I am not sure if it was a miracle, but one never knows. We are talking about “Heaven.”
We made our way into the little shop and found it to be quaintly decorated with memorabilia from our by-gone days. So far, so good. We were feeling it. As we rounded the corner, two life-sized stuffy patrons were seated at a table. Upon closer inspection, we found their stuffiness was the result of being overstuffed with cotton. They looked satisfied, so we continued.
We were indecisive if we should plant ourselves at a table and wait for someone to magically appear and take our order or wait patiently with “hungry” written all over our faces. Fortunately, we glanced to the end of the room and saw people standing in a line. We are quick for our age and ascertained something must be happening there. We acted as if we knew what we were doing and joined the line.
The menu was written on the wall above the slow-moving line, and we deduced that we were one step closer to quieting the rumblings in our stomachs. Like most people our age who are presented with the opportunity to read directions or menus, we read out loud. It’s not that we lack the ability to comprehend if we read in silence, it just makes more sense when we hear ourselves say it aloud. We also talk to ourselves while shopping, but that’s an article for another time.
While discussing the merits of French Dip over chicken salad on a croissant, a voice from behind us said, “The chicken salad is their biggest seller.” We immediately assumed they were reading the menu aloud as well. We turned to give them a knowing smile and realized they were talking to the backs of our heads. We both laughed as seniors are prone to do and chatted all the way down the line as we ordered, paid, and moved to the end to pick up our sandwiches.
It wasn’t planned; it was just an ordinary sunny day in March in the sweetest little city in Texas, affectionately known as Blue Bell country where life-long friends were made. The awkwardness usually associated with new acquaintances wasn’t there. We laughed at our idiosyncrasies as if we had known each other all our lives, and our conversation flowed as if it had started where we had left off the day before. I didn’t realize at the time what was to become the magnitude of our friendship. I simply knew there was a connection that was hard to explain.
When we reached the end of the line, they asked if we would like to join them. We found a corner table by the window. Over the next hour, we shared life stories and laughed as if we had known each other all our lives. And just like that, David and Donna walked into our lives and hearts. Heart bonding is like that - one day you don’t even know someone is alive - and the next day you’re wondering how you ever lived without them.
We returned to Kansas to pack our things and pointed the moving truck toward Brenham - and David and Donna. Over the next few years while living there, David regaled us with his never-ending supply of stories from his insurance adjuster days and the more troubling ones from Vietnam. Donna became my confidant, my prayer support, my article editor and the official taste tester for all the recipes included with my articles.
We don’t live in the same town any longer, but we are grateful for the technology of texting and those who create the funny memes that punctuate our message box that keep us connected with a shared smile. My husband and I gave up the sweetest little city for our birth county, Brazoria County, where the mosquitoes are large enough to brand and saddle. The distance is over two hours if my husband is driving and under two if I’m driving.
I will be forever grateful to that little sandwich shop in Brenham for bringing David and Donna into our lives. It truly was a gift from Heaven.
It Must Be Heaven doesn’t share its chicken salad recipe, but my friend, Brenda Simon, who owned a local eatery in Brenham named Honeysuckle Café and Bistro, shared hers with me. While I will readily admit this is a good chicken salad recipe, it was the special croissants and the Trager-smoked chicken that sent it over the top.
Brenda has retired, but the memory of her chicken salad sandwich still sends me on the road again with Willie Nelson singing “Always on my Mind.”
Honeysuckle Chicken Salad
1 Cup Grapes ( I prefer black) ½ Cup Walnuts, chopped ½ Cup Dried Cranberries 1 ½ Cups Celery, finely cut into slivers 1 Green Apple, chopped 1.5 Pounds Cooked, cubed Chicken ½ Cup Mayonnaise ½ Teaspoon Nature Seasoning Blend
Brenda always made her recipe in steps. First, she chopped the walnuts in a food processor and added the cranberries, then placed the walnut mixture in a covered container and refrigerated it until blending the remaining ingredients. The green apples can be chopped ahead of time if you stir in pineapple juice to stop oxidation. Just drain the apples prior to mixing. Next, slice the large grapes into quarters and the celery into slivers. In a large bowl, add all ingredients and mix well.
(To contact Shirley, please send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, Tx. 77516)