I vividly remember when the Burger King came to Ridley Park. I don’t remember the year, but I it was somewhere around 6th or 7th grade, so that would put it about 1969? Not only did it come to our town, but they built the restaurant less than a quarter mile from my house. We were so excited! All we had to do was walk down the hill and down the pike (Chester Pike) and we were there.
These were the years when fast food franchises started popping up everywhere. I can’t remember if there was a McDonald’s in town. But there was a Gino’s where we would sometimes get a sack of hamburgers for supper. Wendy’s and Arby’s didn’t arrive till high school.
Now just because Burger King was a stone’s throw away doesn’t mean I went there very often. But it seemed like all the other kids on the block did. They always seemed to have money for fries or a coke. My parents only gave us money on allowance day. I might have gotten $1 a week or maybe every two weeks when my dad got paid. Even though a burger only cost about $.15 back then, I didn’t often blow an allowance on fast food. Come to think of it, I don’t think I was even allowed to go there by myself.
In retrospect, I’m amazed at how enthralled I was with fast food while growing up. It was new, convenient, exciting and delicious for young palettes. I ate plenty in college and as a young adult. Now, I hardly ever eat fast food. Chick-fil-A might be the exception, but even’t that’s getting old. Either that, or I am.
As we were getting ready to begin our Thursday morning men’s bible study at Bob Evans last Thursday, a member of the class casually mentioned, “I had a taco from Taco Bell…” I and a few others did a double take. We didn’t have to say what we were thinking: “You went to Taco Bell?”
It was a surreal moment. The person who ate the aforementioned taco appreciates good Tex-Mex food. They also appreciate good, genuine Mexican food. Yet, in the moment, Taco Bell looked good, promised to satisfy and drew them in.
Reflecting on that moment, this person commented, “I couldn’t find the meat!” While affordable, these tacos contained very little beef. “And when I bit in to one, it broke apart.” Been there. Done that. Tortilla shell crumbs everywhere!
Many in the class acknowledged that this diner would be spending some significant time in a “reading room.” Easy come. Easy go!
While waiting for some work to be done on my car, I walked up to Panera Bread in St. Augustine to have breakfast, drink some coffee, and do a little writing. As I stepped up to order, I glance at the menu board, saw exactly what I wanted, and said, “I’ll have the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich.” Delicious.
The very young lady taking orders said, “We don’t have any bacon.” What? I said it out loud: “What?” I glanced at my watch. 9:00 am. And you are out of bacon? Wow, you’ve got some big breakfast menu problems! I settled for the ham, egg and cheese sandwich, but as we all know, it’s just not the same without bacon.
That moment brought to mind my visit to McDonalds a few years ago, when the window gal told me, “We don’t have no shakes.” Or when our home court Bob Evans restaurant who suddenly decided that raisins would no longer be a topping available for oatmeal. Or the morning they decided, “We no longer serve English muffins.” I’m sure someone at corporate, who rarely actually ate breakfast at a Bob Evans restaurant, decided there was money to be made by striking raisins and muffins from the menu.
And then I flashed back to a song my mom and dad used to sing at the piano when we were kids: “Yes, We Have No Bananas!” an old 1923 song from Louis Prima. That’s the only line I remember from the song. Back then, it was a number one hit for five straight weeks!
How in the world can you have no bacon on a Friday morning at 9 am? Come on, can’t someone make a run to Publix!
Scanning the breakfast menu in the small North Carolina restaurant, I paused for a moment at an unfamiliar word in the menu. Livermush. Along with eggs and biscuits, you got to choose bacon, sausage or livermush. Interesting. At first glance it looked like the name of a Chronicles of Narnia character.
I did some quick Google research and discovered why I had never heard of livermush. It’s a southern dish, especially treasured in North Carolina. I’m a Yankee so I hadn’t ever encountered that stuff. Where I come from – not too far from the Pennsylvania Dutch — you eat scrapple. They are basically the same. When Mary Rizzo writes about the recipe in the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, she explains, “While parts of the pig became sausages or bacon, the rest, ‘everything but the oink,’ was collected for scrapple.” It was boiled up with sage and pepper, then thickened with cornmeal and buckwheat. Once it cooled into a loaf, you slice off a piece to fry up in a skillet. In the south, they threw in pig liver to make it a bit more palatable. In Ohio, oatmeal was used in place of corn meal, and it was called goetta.
We didn’t eat scrapple all the time growing up, but often enough that I remember it well. My dad must have liked it. Of course, he also relished pickled pigs’ feet, sardines packaged in tins of oil and mustard that he would spread on a slice of buttered bread, and a vegetable he grew in his garden called kohlrabi. Thank goodness mom only worked as a nurse on the weekends. When my dad cooked, kohlrabi often made it to the table.
Yes, I ordered livermush that day with my scrambled eggs and it was almost as delicious as a fried slice of Habbersett Scrapple from the A&P (or from Friends restaurant in Flagler Beach, FL, who import some from Philadelphia each week). I offered to share, but few at my table dared to try a bite.