The Caddo Herald
March 19, 1920
Henry Braudrick serves sandwiches, hamburgers, and chili at his place next to the Royal Theatre. Eat where the eating is good.
That ad was part of the “locals” I typed up for my Caddo blog this morning. For some reason it triggered several fond and not-so-fond food memories. One of the first things I recalled was a little place in Durant where my dad loved to eat. I think it must have been sometime in 1980 when I accompanied him to lunch and was horrified to see that his fried chicken dinner included a side order of SpaghettiOs! I don’t even remember what I ordered. I guess I should have been better prepared. Eating out with Dad has always been an adventure. Our frequent road trips meant at least one meal was eaten at an old truck stop or pancake house or local diner to give us a break from our usual habit of eating bologna sandwiches in the car.
During my early childhood in California our two favorite “restaurants” were McDonald’s and a local hamburger place called Angelo’s. I don’t remember much about Angelo’s except that the food was “greasy and good”, just the way you expected food to be in the fifties! The Fresno McDonald’s was one of the first franchises and I remember how excited my parents were to be able to order ten burgers for such a low price! I think they were either 15 or 19 cents.
Later I spent a lot of time in my grandparents’ café in Selma. I didn’t eat a lot. I spent most of my time drinking sodas, listening to the jukebox, and playing the bowling machine! Of course my grandmother’s customers raved about her cooking, just as they did in the three subsequent cafes where she cooked. Johnny’s, one of the places in Fresno where Gran worked for several years, became a popular lunch spot for all the locals with a penchant for “home cooking”. I never quite understood that concept. We had home cooking: beans and cornbread, fried chicken and mashed potatoes with gravy, liver and onions. Why would be go out to eat that stuff? Mom had to explain to me that not everyone cooked at home. I had grown up surrounded and fed by so many good cooks that I had never even considered such an idea!
I wonder what my own children may recall about our food adventures. Perhaps they will remember the time we were traveling in south Texas and stopped at a hamburger joint where the burgers were the size of salad plates and had to be cut in half with a knife just to make them manageable. Or the restaurant in Iowa that served Robert a whole trout, including the head! Or bierocks and corn dogs at the Fresno Fair.
Gary and I are preparing for our road trip to CA next week and I am feeling my usual ambiguity about eating out along the way. My concerns aren’t about being a pescatarian. Adding fish to my otherwise vegetarian diet makes eating out pretty simple-in our society even a vegan can find accommodating restaurants. No, my concerns are about cleanliness, nutrition, and the effects of processed food on this old body of mine.
I’m not exactly germ phobic, but I do admit that I always have a few concerns about food safety in relation to eating out. Any restaurant can have a clean dining area, but most places don’t allow you to see their kitchen. People with less than immaculate hygiene are often working behind those closed doors! (Don’t forget that I worked as a waitress.) Food can be left unrefrigerated for too long, undercooked, or contaminated by something else in the kitchen. I once observed a waitress take a fly off a piece of pie before serving it to a customer! Salad bars offer a variety of items that are good for my diet, but I fear their contamination by other diners. We complained to our waitress at a local buffet after watching a child taste a cucumber and then return it to its container. The waitress pulled a few slices off the top and then went back to her work. We never ate there again. Now I understand there are similar safety concerns and complaints about their “chocolate fountain”.
Nutrition concerns give me fits when I’m on the road!! I’m supposed to be on a salt-free diet, which is NOT possible unless you never touch processed food. I am lucky to usually keep my salt intake below 1,000mg. I challenge you to try that for a day or two! Eating out once every three months isn’t a problem. The 2,000+mg of salt I ingest takes its toll and I feel odd for a couple of days, but I survive. Eating out once or twice a day while traveling is a BIG problem. I cannot consume that much salt everyday and still feel good or stay healthy! My blood pressure is finally under control, thanks to my diet and a combination of three medications. Why would I want to jeopardize the precarious balance I’ve finally achieved just because restaurants don’t care about nutrition? Oh, they’ll show you the charts and they’ll talk about accommodating your needs, blah, blah, blah…but one of my favorite restaurants, where yes I can eat an entrée with 580mg of sodium, also serves a burger with 6,600mg of sodium. NO that is not a typo! And I can’t believe unsuspecting souls are eating that much salt!
I also try to avoid sugar and fats. Now you know why I usually eat at home! If it were totally up to me I would just buy food at grocery stores and eat in the car or motel. We will do some of that, and I keep water and fruit in a cooler. But Gary likes to eat out and shares very few of my concerns. He spent years driving a truck and considers much of what we eat in restaurants to be “gourmet” food compared with what he consumed in some of America’s truck stops.
My old body doesn’t adapt well to major changes in routine. The accumulated effects of eating restaurant food for several days are a bloated, sluggish feeling, headaches, and sometimes even nausea. I can’t fully enjoy traveling if I don’t feel well!
So…I will spend some time next week printing out nutrition charts for some restaurants along our route. I’ll make a list of snacks to purchase. I’ll pack my vitamins. And I’ll hope and pray that we end up eating where the eating is good!