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Culture shock in the Navy — New Foods

February 6, 2013

This is another excerpt from my first book, From Sharecropper’s Son to Tracking Missiles.” The story is about how I learned about new foods in the Navy.

One thing military life does is allow a person to see new places and learn about new things.

The first time I had shrimp was at Jacksonville, Florida while in the Navy in 1951. Several of us went to a place in town to eat. I had never heard of shrimp before, but some of the others told me how good shrimp were. I ordered, even though I did not know what I was getting.

When my meal was delivered, the shrimp were still in the shell. I did not know any better, so tried to eat shell and all. I sure did not like the crunchy taste. As I took a second bite, one of the other guys called me an idiot.

Everyone laughed and showed me how to peel and eat shrimp. I found out they were very good. I love shrimp, but never order them in the shell. I order shrimp several different ways, but always peeled.

Just before Christmas of 1951, I rode a bus from Jacksonville, Florida to Mineral Wells, Texas. I was going home for Christmas.

I had a layover for two or three hours in a bus station in New Orleans. I went to the coffee shop and saw a cute young lady behind the counter. I was a 17-year old young man in a Navy uniform.

She smiled as I sat down and said, “Can I help you?”

“Coffee,” I said.

“Louisiana or American coffee?” she asked.

I had learned to like shrimp and seafood in Jacksonville, so said, “Louisiana.” I was going to find out what was special about Louisiana coffee.

She brought the cup half full of coffee and a pitcher of cream. I pushed the cream aside and asked her to fill the cup. “I am a Navy man, we drink our coffee black.”

She smiled and filled the cup.

I took a sip and almost spit it out. The cute waitress smiled and said, “You’ve never had Louisiana coffee before. I’ll show you how to drink Louisiana coffee.”

She took my cup and dumped about half of it out. Then she filled the cup with cream and added some sugar and set it back in front of me. I felt sheepish as I drank the coffee. Next cup, I ordered American coffee.

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