The Good Old Days

Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, Ruth’s Chris Steak House or Sublimotion, the most expensive restaurant in the world – $2,000/person – have nothing on the downhome atmosphere and Southern cuisine of a Cracker Barrel. Okay, that’s an exaggeration but there is something about Cracker Barrel that most restaurants would die for…at least in my humble opinion. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. is an American chain of combined restaurant and gift stores with a southern country theme. The company was founded by Dan Evins in 1969; its first store was in Lebanon, Tennessee and they’ve been expanding ever since. So what’s so great about Cracker Barrel? The food sticks-to-your ribs and other parts of your body, the service is good and the prices won’t break the bank…so what makes it special? The décor and the emotions it evokes. The moment you sit down, your eyes are drawn to the pictures, wall hangings, tools, toys and ads of years gone by that adorn every wall. Each store has an average of 1,000 authentic pieces of décor all specific to the local area. A commonality in all 645+ stores in 44 states are the ox yolk and horseshoe hanging over the front door, a traffic light over the restrooms and a barrel with a checker board in front of the fireplace. So why does this hit home with so many people? Nostalgia. Nostalgia is powerful. Studies have determined that nostalgia can counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety. It also promotes people to be more generous and tolerant of strangers and couples to feel closer and look happier. All as a result of sharing nostalgic memories. I can’t remember a family or friend get-together when someone doesn’t say “Remember when…” and from that point forward the conversation drifts towards reliving times that made us feel safe, loved and happy.

As a teen, I use to roll my eyes and sigh every time I heard my Mom or Dad talk about a current issue and say “That never would have happened in the good old days.” So what are the ‘good old days’? The good old days are defined as a time in the past when it was believed that life was better. Nostalgia has a way of bringing us back to the past quicker than you can blink and, of all our senses, smell is the most closely linked with memory. Scents like a wood burning stove, an orchard in blossom or cookies baking in the oven can take us back to a time that warms our heart, makes us smile and reminds us of ‘the good old days.’

On a personal note – if you find yourself visiting a Cracker Barrel, order the pecan pancakes. Unlike most restaurants who simply sprinkle the pecans on their pancakes, Cracker Barrel mixes them in the batter making every bite a special treat. Drench the one, two or three stakes with the warm maple syrup, close your eyes and return to ‘the good old days.’ Happy trails to you…