A Favorite Food from a Restaurant in My Hometown

My mother was the best cook I’ve ever known. We grew up on a farm eating home-grown, home cooked meals. What restaurant can compete with that? I don’t think I even realized our hometown had restaurants until I was about 10 years old. Mom once took us into a small diner partway through a shopping day, just to get us all something to drink, and my sister and I were awestruck. We started nudging each other and whispering that it was just like what people did on tv! Then I imagine mom felt sorry for her poor ignorant and deprived offspring and went all out and ordered us something to eat as well. I have no memory now of what we ate, but I know we talked about the experience for days.

When I was in highschool we used to walk downtown to the Lido Cafe, a Chinese restaurant where it took all of our cafeteria lunch money to get one egg roll with plum sauce. But the whole point was to get away from the school, maybe consider skipping a class or two, and see how many cigarettes we could smoke in half an hour. The food was hardly a consideration.

Eating out has always been more about the people I’m with, the ambiance and the atmosphere, the service and the presentation. Plus I like just about anything at all that somebody else prepares, so it’s hard to nail down a favourite.

When I was a teenager, there was a concession stand at the beach though, that made the absolute best french fries I’ve ever eaten. They were made with fresh potatoes, peeled and chopped right there behind the counter. Some one told me they had three different fryers with oil at various temperatures, and every batch had to go through each carefully timed stage. The wait was worth it.

The fries were hot and crisp and salty and the oil and vinegar soaked through the paper cone on our way back across the sand. Before we were even plunked back down on our beach blanket the gulls would be circling, screeching, ready to dive bomb and scoop up whatever was dropped.

But do I really remember how they tasted? Or were they that good because the sun was hot on our sun lotioned skin, the breeze from the lake was warm and fresh, the sand felt soft between our toes? Was it because there were always guys with a football or a frisbee showing off while they waited for us to join their game? And later when we were hot and out of breath, the water would feel amazing?

The company, the atmosphere, and the presentation – that little concession stand on the beach had it all. I’ve had excellent seafood meals in posh places with exemplary service and fabulous wine. But the sun and the sand were missing. There were no screaming seagulls. The fries were tasty, but without that subtle hint of Coppertone, they’re just not the same.

Powered by Plinky

Wishes For My 16-Year-Old Self

My sixteen year old self would not have paid the slightest bit of attention to this spaced out old lady spewing her well-meaning but scatter-brained advice. So I know there’s really no point in saying anything to her at all.

There are wishes I’d like to make for her though, if I were able to fling them back in time and spin them around her so-serious little self and somehow make them come true for her, even for one glorious day .

She is a waitress at the Bluewater Tea Room on the shores of Lake Huron, wistfully gazing through the screened windows at her little yellow Valiant parked in the sand and baking in the sun.

Wishing she could be somewhere out there on the beach herself, instead of in here serving foot long hotdogs and home cut fries to skimpily clad tourists who keep tracking in the sand. Wishing they would just get back on their stupid boats and sail off into the sunset and take their gawky teenaged boys with them. (Not to mention all those cute little blue-eyed blondes with their long bronzed limbs – it makes her sad that she isn’t one of them.)

She is wishing it wasn’t so hot, and that ‘el groucho’ in the back sweating over the grill could think of something nice to say for a change. And that she could smack the leering face of the next smirking moron who asks her what time she gets off work today. Because after her shift she is almost always too tired to do anything except drive home and kick off her stinking sneakers and shower the smell of the deep fryer grease off her skin and out of her hair.

If I could, I would grant this sixteen year old self a little more empathy for the guy in the kitchen who works all those long hot hours trying to keep his little business going. In a few more years he will have to give it up and the tea room will be torn down, and she will never learn what becomes of him and his food splattered apron and dangling cigarettes and snarly old face.

I would grant her a moment of amazement, of unbiased objectivity, just the very briefest of epiphanies when she looks in a mirror so that she can realize the great worth and the special beauty of that brown-eyed girl looking back at her.

I would let her feel the power she possesses to bruise an ego and to break a heart because she has no idea she is capable of doing either one of those things.

I’d let her know it wouldn’t kill her to be a little more pleasant and less uptight, and that it’s perfectly okay to smile more and to laugh out loud and to tease people back, even if they’re scary strangers. It’s okay to have fun.

I would grant her a greater appreciation of the warm breezes off the lake, the smell of the water and the scent of suntan oil, the sound of the gulls and the sight of them circling in the sky and swooping down to squabble over some scrap of food. I would make her really look at those famous lake sunsets that she always takes for granted.

I would draw out more laughter, more sparkle, more joy – because they were always there, deep inside her, trying so very hard to get out.

Powered by Plinky