When the package arrived in Saudi Arabia, it sent me home.
In the winter of 1990 I was a young US Marine stationed in Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield. At a time before e-mail and the Internet, our lifeline to friends and family was the mail we sent and received. I can still remember the excitement and anticipation of assembling for evening mail call.
One evening the mail sergeant called my name and, instead of a letter, handed me a large box from my grandmother back in Oklahoma. One of the great hardships of the war for me was the absence of my grandmother's cooking – her skillet-fried chicken and okra, corn bread, and, most of all, her desserts. But on this evening I was about to take a gastronomic journey home: I opened the box to find two dozen of my grandmother's apricot fried pies.
A buddy from New York approached and asked me what I had received. I couldn't answer; my mouth was full of apricot pie. So I just offered him one.
"These are awesome!" he said. "What they?"
He had to wait a few moments for an answer, but eventually I explained. As insurance, I offered him another pie to keep quiet. After all, my supply of this Southern staple was finite, and I was pretty sure none of the other marines had any fried pies there in camp.