Even during those awful awkward early teen years I was able to be tempted into impersonating a human being for an afternoon with the offer of a shopping trip and lunch at the luncheonette across the street from A&S in Hempstead.
The short version, if you don't want to read the whole article, is that, after some inter-marriage, one brother's family owned Macy's and the other brother's family owned A&S. But, I digress.
This may be one of those posts which give TBG a headache - yes, an actual physical pain in his head caused by my inability to follow one train of thought through to completion. I do believe that this has something to do with the female/male brain disconnect, but that is fodder for another post.
Anyway, when I was a very little girl, we used to go to Pasetti's. As I grew up, it became the place that was safe enough for 6th graders to dine without parental supervision. After the kids left home, G'ma and Daddooooo took up the tradition again, Daddooooo ending every meal with a dish of vanilla ice cream - "Just the one scoop" - which he swirled around in the tin dish as he twirled his spoon in an endless circle.
Woolworth's had a lunch counter staffed by people of indeterminate nationality and gender. Every town has a place like that; TBG has his memories of Mawby's (to which I would gladly link you except it has no web presence that I could find), for example. The food wasn't extraordinary, but a 10 year old could get service with a grimace, just like any other patron.
French Fries were a standard order. At the time, my palate was (to be charitable) less than adventurous. A vanilla ice cream sundae (yes, vanilla ice cream and vanilla syrup with whipped cream, nuts and a cherry, of course) was my summer afternoon treat.
G'ma would wax eloquent about lunch counters in her past, but I paid no attention at the time, beyond registering it as borrrrrinnnnnggggg. Stupid stupid child.
Lunch used to cost $2.12, no matter what we ordered. Don't believe me, you who think nothing of spending $2.75 for a cup of coffee? I offer this menu as dispositive proof.
So, this past Tuesday G'ma and I were on our I-bowl-she-watches bi-monthly outing. (Isn't it weird how bi-monthly means both every other month and twice a month? I told you this post would give you whiplash!) Driving down Oracle Road and throwing out suggestions - pizza, Chinese, tuna sandwich, or what about that Bosnian restaurant? "What's Bosnian food?" she asked, paused, and then, proving once again why I love love love having her around as a playmate, she laughed and said "Oh, what the hell, how bad can it be?" as I pulled into the parking lot.
The walls were purple. Not lavender. Not eggplant. Not mauve. Purple. Deep rich vibrant purple. The tables were set with white linen with (of course) purple piping and draped with (naturally) a smaller purple cloth. We were the only people in the dining room.
Now, there's something special about the buzz of a well-filled room. I like to have parties with too many people in too small a space -- not too too small, but just small enough so that you are always bumping into someone new. An empty room - dining or otherwise - is creepy. No buzz. Just those purple walls and the lovely hostess offering us any table we'd like.
Following G'ma's suggestion, I asked our waitress for help with the menu. "Why don't you read it and then ask me questions?" she smiled as she turned and walked away. OK, then.
Homemade chicken vegetable soup with fresh noodles was the only item we were certain about. We expanded our horizons with tzatziki and ajvar. Tzatziki I recognized from Greek Islands, although our waitress (who turned out to be the soup maker, too) assured me that "Bosnian is better because it's made with sour cream instead of yogurt." Ajvar turned out to be a dense puree of tomato, red pepper, eggplant and spices with a tangy sweetness to go with its oatmeal-like consistency. We ate it, but we weren't fans. The biggest surprise was the cevapi. Presented to us as an amuse bouche, the chef smiled as he carried his own plate piled high with them outside to a table in the shade. Ground beef and spices rolled into mini-sausages placed delicately on a triangle of grilled bread, the tzatziki helped it slide right down. And it was good. Really really good.
We've gone from tuna on toast in a booth on Long Island to ajvar and cevapi in the desert southwest and I still like having lunch with my mother.