Emerald City

Just around the water works curve, traveling north on I-55, you’ll see Banner Hall to the left.  It’s a part of the Fondren district, considered by locals as the “go to” spot for the best shopping and dining experience the city of Jackson has to offer.  Walking towards the front entrance, you may feel a bit intimidated due to its grand and towering presence.  And walking in, there seems to be an overwhelming sense of frivolous activity.  You’ll find gift shops, a dress store, tuxedo rental, and a beauty salon as well, all filled with happy and carefree spirits.  I felt much like I’d believe that Dorothy must have felt as she approached and entered the merry old land of Oz.

Stepping towards the Broad Street Bakery entrance, an artsy hipster vibe came over me as local college kids chatted it up in the corners here and there, very much like a coffee shop in some sense.  And an older man sat quietly to himself with his attention exclusively directed to the daily newspaper as he sipped vegetable soup by the spoonful.  The sunlight beamed down through the tall windows in the mid-day lunch rush.  I stood in line until I was greeted very enthusiastically by a young and friendly cashier.  After a moment of casual chatter, I decided to go with the blackened chicken sandwich and a bowl of gumbo.

When my order came out, the first thing I noticed was how huge this sandwich was.  It had me believing I had stumbled upon the mother load of sandwich greatness.  Time for the moment of truth.  Sandwich greatness or not?  The flavor of the meat was nicely seasoned, spiced up with a couple of slices of pepper jack, but very well blended with the sweetness of caramelized purple onions in every bite….. a very good combination.  However, the major flaw with this particular sandwich was that all of the flavor was drowned out and lost within the over abundance bread.  It’s as if the bakers want to remind us that the bread is baked fresh, in house….. so much so that it dominates the other components of the sandwich, making them much less apparent.

Like the very structure of Banner Hall itself, towering overhead, my sandwich had  a lot of really good things happening inside, all jazzed up and busy on the scene, but the outer surface overshadows the greatness, making it seem less significant.  And that’s how I believe the characters in the Wizard of Oz story must have felt; all of them desiring to be a greater version of themselves, but failing to realize that what makes them great was always there from the very start.  So, whether you’re on a Broad Street or a yellow brick road, it’s best to understand that what makes something great doesn’t have to come in a larger than life package.  Most often, it’s something small, and quite possibly overlooked; something that can be found, not on some grand and intimidating scale, but rather, in something as simple as a man behind a curtain….. or in this case, chicken underneath a bun.

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