Family Vacation Day 4: Aunt Chilladda and the Russian Mafia

When the family convenes as we have this week, we prefer to make most of our dinners ahead with the work typically divided among family members. I was not asked to cook for this trip. I will assume this is because Meemaw thought I was too busy with work and not that she doesn’t like my cooking. Either way, we all overshot the mark a good bit. We easily have enough food to feed Napleon’s Third Regiment  with dishes including homemade manicotti, baked ziti, and our own Aunt Chilladda’s enchiladas.

Aunt Chilladda’s nickname was derived by misinterpretation, as most great nicknames are.

Aunt Chilladda

It seems the last time she brought her delectable comestibles to an event my 8  year old niece, unaware that we were discussing food at the time, thought she was coming with her friend whose name was Aunt Chilladda. Aunt Chilladda, also a very busy working lady, outsourced her enchiladas. We’ll forgive her this, though, as they were truly spectacular. We don’t really care who makes the food, as long as it is good.

Of course, no beach trip would be complete without at least one outing to a seafood restaurant. When in South Carolina, one feels a certain imperative to try Calabash style  seafood, even if Myrtle  Beach did steal the idea from the great state of North Carolina. As we are a family who reveres tradition, Clan Calamity descended upon Captain Benjamin’s Calabash Buffet last night. We were greeted by a lovely young hostess with a thick Slavic accent. None of us thought anything about it, until two waitresses and a bus boy later, we realized that all of the staff were Russian. I leaned across the table to ask to Opa, “Um, Dad? Are we eating in a Calabash restaurant run by the Russian mafia?”

He laughed and nodded. “Must be why they can’t cook a crab properly”.

I discovered they also suck at making hushpuppies. I was sorely disappointed, as I love a good hushpuppy. Captain’s Benjamin’s corn bread spheres were more like dense, burnt sienna-toned ping-pong balls. Maybe they should serve latkes instead.

Aunt Chilladda and our waitress, Katerina Witt

Much like the Vietnamese ladies in nail salons who choose American names to make their customers more comfortable, the Russian mafioso running Captain Benjamin’s has instructed his staff to do the same. Our waitress introduced herself at Katie, having been only partially successful at discarding her accent. I later found out her real name is Katerina. She was probably happy to change it after being bombarded by misinformed tourists who thought they had run into the famous ice skater, Katerina Witt. After all, she has an accent and is a brunette. Why wouldn’t a famous Olympic Champion be waiting on fat, sunburned Americans on the  Redneck Riviera ? It’s got to be her! Let’s take a selfie!

I am happy to report that we survived Captain Benjamin’s, overcooked crab and gritty ping-pong balls not withstanding. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Russians, my great-grandparents were Russian. They are a beautiful people who excel at many making many things: vodka, borscht, dictators. Calabash-style seafood? Not so much.



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