Where are the Lunch Counters?
[and I don't mean those individuals recording quantifiable statistics of a given population.]
Growing up, or coming of age, in the 1950s continues to provide me with more pleasant memories than I can process. Tonight, despite the heat and humidity, we are having 'Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches' with mashed potatoes and gravy. What brought this on? Well, our potatoes are beginning to sprout and the small roast I barbecued two weeks ago is probably past its 'eat by' date by several days (if you accept such an idea). It looks and smells perfectly OK, which is the way I determine if a food product is edible. What is all this malarky with the best by date? I was going to have stir-fried vegetables from the garden with rice and tofu, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. But, thinking about dinner made me wonder if there are any department, five and dime stores that still have a lunch counter. The kind where you can get a fried pork chop dinner, or liver and onions, a grilled cheese, or hot roast beef sandwich, an egg salad sandwich, french fries, a slice of apple or cherry pie [ice cream optional] and a malted milk made right before your eyes, or a banana split. Without effort I recall those innocent, trouble-free, happy times. Mom, Dad, and we three kids sitting at the lunch counter at Woolworths or Newberry's waiting for Norman Rockwell to stop by. Norman Rockwell knew where the heart and soul of America was to be found and thankfully captured much of it. To me, as a struggling adolescent, eating at the lunch counter was always a special occasion. I think, sitting there, not in direct eye contact with any other member of the family, made me seem somehow 'grown up'. Today, I can't think of a place local, or even in Portland, Oregon, where such an experience can be had, and more's the pity, more's the pity.