Archives for category: Restaurants

I graduated from college on a Sunday in 1967 and went to work as a grocery store checker the next day. Needless to say, my parents were a little shocked with my choice, but I had a job teaching at the university the next fall, a graduate assistant, and needed something to do that summer. I was newly married and my husband joined the union, another shocker, and went to work in construction for the summer. We became blue collar workers for those few months. The jobs actually paid more than anything else in our university town, probably more than the $1 hour my husband later earned in the pizza place where he worked while going to school. The $1 an hour was the manager’s pay.

Anyway, I got more education that summer, lessons in serving the public and in the way those who do are often treated by their employers. My jobs up until that time had consisted of working for my father, tutoring, and being a student counselor in the dorm. Now I was working on my feet, having to learn the ever-changing prices of produce, and figuring sales tax in my head. We had no computerized cash registers or even cheat sheets for the prices or tax. We were chastised for leaning back on the counter between customers and had only a short break. I became friends with a smart girl who was working there for real, whose husband was a highway patrolman. She was delightful and taught me a lot. I remember the lines of people coming in from the country on Saturdays, the farmers who piled their carts high as they only made it in every so often. One sweet man, who I remember as being round and smelly and shy, would wait to get in my line. My admirer in overalls. There were all types back then in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and that summer was not really so bad. My cute husband would show up dirty from construction and stand at the side watching me before we went home to our duplex to laugh and play, our first summer as semi-grownups. My reality check came when I told the boss I was quitting, that I had a job at the university teaching. His treatment of me changed and it made me mad. He treated me differently for that last two weeks, more respectfully, as he still treated the others, including my friend, with disdain. I felt the injustice, the hypocrisy, and never forgot it.

I became a firm believer that everyone should have to be in a public service job at least once in his or her life.. My children all worked in retail, restaurants, or gyms, facing the public from their teens. Anybody who has ever had to serve the public has stories to tell, stories that can bring up anger, sadness, laughter. You learn how inconsiderate people can be as well as how thoughtful. You learn how cheap they can be and how generous. You learn how you can’t judge a person’s character by how well they are dressed or how much money they spend. You learn what it feels like to be ignored, treated like you’re invisible.

Here’s my son, working in a bakery. He worked in several bakeries through the years, dealing with a public who could be critical and insensitive when his voice changed, damaged by radiation treatments. Amazing how callous people can be, people educated enough to know better.

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For several years, I owned a gift shop and dealt with mostly nice people, although you never knew who was going to walk through the door. One of the things I told my employees, who were my children and my close friends, was that you can’t take anything personally if someone treats you badly. It has nothing to do with you, they don’t even know you. They may have had a bad day or be facing something really sad in their life. Or they may actually not be a very nice person. I mean, this was a pretty neat store and we still had people who acted like that, really. They could be demanding, irrational, try to cheat us, steal from us, huffy and indignant, or the extreme opposites of that. They also told us stories about their lives, whether we wanted to hear them or not. There were times I didn’t know if people came in to buy gifts or for counseling. I’m sure waiters, maids, clerks, hairdressers and others know what feeling.

I have become a more generous tipper, a more friendly customer, a person who thanks clerks with a smile. At my worst, I am merely quiet, absorbed in some personal thoughts, hoping I at least made friendly eye contact and smiled. But, I am ever mindful of what these wonderful people deal with every day at salaries that are lower than they should be, with bosses who may not treat them with the respect they deserve. It’s true that people who deal with machines are always paid better than people who deal with people, a sad commentary on the human race.

Remember this when you are served by someone. The public, the public that nobody wants to deal with, is YOU!

Today’s the first real snow we’ve had in Tulsa in a year or so, a treat to cozy up inside and enjoy the calm it brings. Snowfall quiets everything down, mutes the sounds, takes the traffic off the street, forces us to stop rushing and sit back and reflect. I know there are the days when it freezes and we lose power and can’t move around the city, even when working people have to, but there is that time when it’s just softly falling and there’s no reason to do anything but enjoy it.

The fireplace is lit, hot chocolate in the mug, soup on the stove, and nothing but quiet outside.

Except my dog, Molly, short for Good Golly Miss Molly, who wonders why I’m not out running with her in the 20 degree weather.

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Now the cats and dogs are curled up, and my mind is racing back to all the snowy days of my life. My childhood when we sledded and made snow angels and snowmen and had snowball fights and drank hot chocolate and ate snow ice cream. How idyllic it was in the 1950s. It’s fun to fast forward to my own children, doing the same things, bundled up in mittens and snow suits…

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and still playing as teens…

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and then on to my grandchildren enjoying their first snowfalls…

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Sledding at Mimi's

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I can’t believe I have to look back to see them as babies. They grow up so fast. Sigh.

Later, I’m going to bundle up and go play outside, even for a short time. Because it’s still magic and I still can…

I’m not a food editor, but it’s hard to come back from driving through the southern states of our country without acknowledging the food. I’m trying to think of another trip I’ve taken where what I ate played such an important place in the travel. Most of the time, I don’t think about it and am happy to have a good meal here and there while I take my pictures and read up on the history. In the South, the food is so tied to the history and the geography that you can’t ignore it. Besides, it’s so yummy!

Bear in mind that my friend and I weren’t looking for anything in particular, but did try to sample each place’s best. We started with our first meal on the road, looking for a catfish restaurant that had been a wow on another trip, a place off the beaten path. We looked it up on my iPad while we traveled and found that it wasn’t open for lunch, so we settled for another one that was mentioned. Nick’s was right beside the interstate, which made us a little doubtful, but there were cars and trucks and locals, which is always a good sign. Best catfish ever! And our first taste of the hushpuppies and cole slaw that were the staples of the menus from then on…

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That night in Memphis, we cruised Beale Street, looking for some of the famous barbecue. I’d asked friends, but we were so tired, we just wanted to stop. We peeked into King’s Palace Cafe, loved the music, liked the menu and tried it out. We were early and it was quiet…nice after a day of driving.

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The music was great, not so loud as to drown us out, and we visited with the singer. The fried green tomatoes were divine, the pork was melt in your mouth and the sauce was great. I forget what else was there, but it was all good. I had asked the policemen on duty which was their favorite and they diplomatically didn’t pick a favorite.

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We drove to Kentucky the next day and stopped at this little gem in Silver Point, Tennessee along the way. I’m not kidding when I say this meal was scrumptious. Absolutely perfect. I love the columns in front. Once again, there were workmen parked all over the place. I should have bought the t-shirt.

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On Sunday, we were in Owensboro, Kentucky, having slipped off the highway to find breakfast. Again, there was a group of policemen talking in the downtown and we stopped to ask them. It was Sunday morning and the whole town looked shut down, so we were very grateful to them. They sent us to Ole South Barbecue, which was stuck in the middle of a bunch of chains and near the highway and across from a mall…nothing that would have caught our eye. When we got in there, we knew it was the right place…a buffet with everything and lots of old people and large families, all local. I can’t even tell you how good the ham was, but it WAS Kentucky. The fried chicken was great because it is the South after all. And I can’t begin to tell you how many biscuits I ate on this trip. They also had Burgoo on their deli menu and I’m intrigued by Kentucky Burgoo, a soup made of whatever meats all the guests throw in. Here was my breakfast, which ended up filling me up for the whole day!

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Before I go any further, let me tell you that I don’t eat like this at home, not every day, not even very often. But I felt a deep obligation to taste every biscuit I saw…my duty to my blog readers, I’m sure. I also don’t think there is anything the people of the South can’t do with a pig…bacon, ham, pork. All delicious. Maybe it’s my Kentucky roots speaking to me. I also didn’t gain any weight on the trip because I was walking all the time.

When we got to Nashville, we couldn’t find a local restaurant in the Broadway area. Everything was some kind of chain and they charged a cover if there was music. We were just passing through and finally settled for some great homemade ice cream! There was one barbeque place that would have been perfect, but they closed at 6 on Sunday. Too bad. Oh! We did get Goo Goo Clusters, which are from Tennessee. So are Moon Pies. Junk cuisine.

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The next day we drove to Gatlinsburg, Tennessee, doorway to Great Smokey Mountain National Park. We ended up walking the main street and having corn dogs. Did I ever claim to be a gourmet? It seemed right at the time.

The next day, we left the interstate in North Carolina and traveled a back road that took us through Saluda, a tiny town that actually has a thriving artist community. One of their local festivals is Coon Dog Day. We stopped at this place and had terrific barbecue because we were still in that mode and delicious Vidalia onion slaw. I think I could make that – marinated Vidalia onions with a slaw dressing.

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In Columbia, South Carolina, we ate at the only chain on our trip, and it’s local. The country breakfast was great and the southern drawls of the friendly waitresses started our morning nicely. I guess local chains aren’t too much of a compromise, really. The name was intriguing.

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By the time we got to Charleston, it was time to start looking for seafood. Our first meal was actually in a French restaurant on Broad Street that had been recommended by a friend. I bet it’s a local favorite with familiar atmosphere and a tasty Croque Monsieur, everything at reasonable prices.

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Later, after walking around the beautiful city, we stopped for seafood at Hyman’s, a few doors from our hotel. The hype was deserved. I imagine that the lines of people were tourists, but that’s ok. I think any restaurant or business that is 5th generation family owned must have something to offer.

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After the complimentary boiled peanuts, a Southern favorite that I was tasting for the first time, I ordered one of their signature dishes, Carolina Delight, which is fried grit cakes topped with crab cakes (there were other options) and covered in sauce.

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My friend had soft shell blue crabs. Along with the ever present hush puppies were some sides to die for. I even bought their little cookbook to get the recipes. There was the red rice, a special cole slaw, and a sweet potato soufflé that made us both stop and go YUM! I’ve already made it since I got home. It involves walnuts, raisins, butter, cinnamon… Suffice it to say we had a very rich meal.

Oddly, the next day, I was walking around town alone and stopped at a hot dog vendor on the street. Very friendly owners who asked where I was from. When I said Oklahoma, they immediately said, “Oklahoma State football,” which warmed this OSU grad’s heart. They were fun to talk to on the street. Very cool guys. Nothing fancy this day other than some more homemade ice cream along the way.

Oh, I didn’t mention the homemade popsicles that I saw in a couple of places. King of Pops. Look at the flavors…

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The last day in Charleston we ate breakfast at Toast. Don’t you love that name for a restaurant? It can be used so many ways. I had the special French toast that had been written up in the New York Times and it was unlike any French toast I’ve ever had – in a good way. I also snuck a bite of biscuit because, well, it was a biscuit. Delicious food and very friendly staff. Reminded me of one of my favorite places at home. I went by later and there was a line outside.

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By the time we got to Savannah, I had to eat something that wasn’t fried, even though there are hush puppies with every meal. We were invited to dinner on the river front at a place that was just casual and fun. I had very delicious and huge boiled shrimp, fresh from the sea. Of course, they were good! I’m sure all the places along there were similar, unless they were fancier.

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My next stop is just for atmosphere. This is where the local boaters from the islands around Savannah come to hang out. There was a band setting up for later. I guess there was a way to get there by car – we just boated in.

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Before we left Savannah, we grabbed just a bite at The Pirate’s House. Great place to take kids because they have a shop with every pirate thing you can imagine and there are pirates walking around to tell you the history of the place. Who doesn’t love a pirate every once in awhile?

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Turning west, we headed towards home. Driving along the Gulf coast was heartbreaking from Biloxi to Gulfport where Katrina devastated the area and I don’t know if it will ever recover. We wanted someplace by the water to eat and, after driving miles along empty beach with only driveways where homes used to be, we found this oasis in Pass Christian, Mississippi. Perfect in every way. We ate just before sunset, overlooking the boats, with a great seafood dinner. The blackened redfish was yummy, one of the night’s specials. Of course, there were the staples of hush puppies and slaw. Grits, hush puppies and slaw. You find them everywhere with lots of variations. Very, very southern.

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A walk on the beach followed dinner so I could sink my feet in the warm Gulf waters at last! The next night we had dinner on the causeway across Mobile Bay and the special was fried mullet. I hadn’t tried mullet yet, so of course…it deserved to be the all you can eat for Monday night.

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I’m starting to think I really did just eat my way across the South, but there were complimentary breakfasts in motels and snacks instead of meals and one or two meals a day sometimes. I just can’t believe how much good food we DID eat. And, just wait…

The next stop was New Orleans and what else do you need to say? We started the day at Cafe DuMonde with beignets and coffee and moved along from there. I’m familiar with New Orleans, but didn’t go to all my favorite places this time. How can you? There are so many.

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For lunch I had what may have been my favorite meal of the trip. We stopped at Pere Antoine Restaurant on Royal and had Barbeque shrimp with a special sauce and seafood gumbo. I usually go to the Gumbo Shop, but this was just incredible. The shrimp were…I’m running out of adjectives for all this food…look at them!

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We finished the day taking Muffelatas from Cafe Maspero with us. This was my father-in-law’s favorite place when he lived here and it became one of my husband’s favorites also. An Italian New Orleans sandwich, created at Central Grocery, is a true sign of the jambalaya of cultures in this city!

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After New Orleans, we were in Cajun country and ended up for breakfast at this unlikely place, recommended by our swamp guide.

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It was clean, homey, and the food was delicious. Drop biscuits instead of rolled, served by the cook herself. It was a combination gas station, convenience store, cafe near Gibson, Louisiana. The ladies were so sweet.

We still hadn’t tasted alligator. My son used to go to a place in the French Quarter, but I’m not sure if it was still there and I hadn’t looked for it. What do you do when you pass this sign outside of Lafayette, Louisiana?

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You turn in the drive and see this…

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You head further and go through these doors…

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and enjoy a delicious dinner of fried and blackened alligator and awesome boiled shrimp. I’m sure there were hushpuppies and slaw involved, but we got other vegetables and homemade rolls, too. Since it was the last night, we had key lime cheesecake that was beyond good.

So, we headed home after two weeks of eating the food of the south…ham, biscuits and more biscuits, corn bread, fried chicken, fried catfish, all styles of barbeque, hushpuppies out our ears, all kinds of slaw, shrimp every way we could, crab, grits, cheese grits, grits, okra in all forms, tomatoes fried green or fresh, barbecue, sweet potatoes, boiled peanuts, mullet, gumbo, beignets, muffalettas, alligator and homemade peach ice cream, homemade popcicles, bread pudding, and I forgot to mention that I tried boudin, a Cajun sausage, at a stand at the Tabasco store on Avery Island, Louisiana. And there was more homemade ice cream and the Goo Goo Clusters and Moon Pies. You can’t imagine how much more there was to try.

See what I mean? The South is rich in rich foods, plain foods, and plain good foods. My trip diary wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t take you on this tour. And I pay homage to the original cooks, many of them slaves, who brought these recipes with them and perfected them through the years until the food is part of the culture, part of the history, part of this beautiful region of our country. I can’t think of the South without thinking of something yummy to eat. It’s one of the unique things that keeps us coming back.

What was the first thing I ate when I got home? A hamburger! A famous Goldie’s hamburger from right here in Tulsa. Because this is definitely beef country! Try it when you pass this way…

Driving through Arkansas, we were looking for some catfish. The restaurant we wanted was a few miles from the interstate, but not open for lunch. Nick’s BarBQ & Catfish was ahead in Carlisle, but it seemed too good to be true to have something so good just feet from the interstate. But, the parking lot was full with semis and local cars and you could smell the good smells from outside, all good signs.

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No frills, just terrific catfish, fried like it should be. They also served tater babies, wedges of seasoned potatoes. Yummy! I had steamed veggies to cut all the fried food. The whole menu looked great.

The greatest moment was two old men, wrinkled, bent over, who shuffled in together. Old friends out to lunch. We could hear them discussing the situation in Israel. I heard one say, “it’s not in scripture, although I had no idea what that was related to. On they talked, while the tv in the corner covered the news. And then their lunch arrived. I turned around to catch them as they took each other’s hand, bowed their already bent over heads, and said grace amidst the noise of the restaurant.

Precious moment captured in my memory forever. Special lunch on the interstate…

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I take a lot of photos. I’d say too many but I don’t think you can take too many. We’re a far cry from the days when you took the picture and had to be careful you didn’t waste the film or the plate or whatever you were using. I love all photos, posed or candid, although I admit to loving the random moments we catch best.

I’ve got a lot of old family pictures, collected from my grandparents and my parents. I was looking at some of them recently and it crossed my mind that I wasn’t sure who took them. Who captured this special moment, what were they thinking? I can guess at some of them because of the setting. It opened up a whole new look at people I knew, gave them a new dimension to think of them behind the camera, catching this moment.

Here’s what I mean…

Who took these photos of my great grandfather and great grandmother? Who had a camera on that farm? Who wanted to capture him chopping wood or her feeding the chickens?

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Who took this picture of my father? I know they hired professionals sometimes, but…

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I’m guessing my grandfather took this one of his parents with his children. I never saw my grandfather with a camera, so this is a revelation.

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This one of my great-grandmother with my mother and her brothers is a mystery. My grandfather had already died when this was taken, so who took it? I don’t think my grandmother had a camera then.

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Did my grandmother or one of my uncles take this of my mother at her high school graduation? Who would she pose for?

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I know my father took this one of me as a baby…

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He must have taken this one too and it touches my heart that he captured this moment.

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And I guess he took this one of his father with my brother and me…

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My mother always said she didn’t like photos, but I bet she took this one…

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I know how I feel behind a camera and I know what I’m looking for, the moments I’m trying to capture. I know when I get a picture that has caught a look we all know. Now I’m thinking of all the members of my family who went before me. The photos they took, the ones they kept teach me a lot. I feel even more of a connection with them through these photos. I hope I’m passing that down to my children and my grandchildren and that they can feel those same connections. There is something about looking through a lens…

Casual is my style and always has been. My mother took great pains when I was growing up to make me look like a sweet little girl and a lovely young lady, but I was always for kicking off those dresses and getting into something more comfortable. But I do appreciate her efforts and I can dress up if I want to.

I was thinking about this when I was going out to dinner with my three grandsons the other night. They are 15-16 and really nice kids, dress like their age. One of them had on a tank top and the rest of us had on t-shirts, all in shorts and sandals of some kind. I may have been wearing a pair of TOM’s shoes since I love those. From old habit, I looked us over to see where we could go eat and then decided it didn’t really matter. We could go just about everywhere looking like we did. We could probably even go to church, although the tank top might have to be changed. But the tank top came from church camp, so whatever…

We’re a far cry from the way I grew up. Lifestyles have changed over the past decades to the place where just about anything goes. You may see an occasional sign at a restaurant that say you must have shoes and a shirt, but that’s about it. Jeans are acceptable everywhere except some country clubs and even they make exceptions all the time. After all, how do you differentiate between jeans you work in the yard in and your $100+ designer jeans and who is going to tell someone their jeans aren’t nice enough? I’ve even seen jeans in church at funerals and weddings, not to mention regular worship services. Ministers got to the point that they just wanted people in the pews and they weren’t going to quibble about what they were wearing.

Hats are another thing. My grandfather wore a hat always, but he removed it in the house or at dinner or church. Everyone, men, women, kids, wears ballcaps now and few remove them very often. Hat Head is the excuse. They still remove them for the National Anthem and in church. That’s about it. Sometimes in restaurants, very fancy ones!

At times in my life, we didn’t go out without little white gloves. I can remember having white white white cotton gloves, probably bleached clean by my mother, to wear when I went shopping downtown or to luncheons with my friends when we had dressy parties. As I got older, I advanced to kid leather gloves, even my favorite red ones to go with the white. All our mothers were trying to teach us social graces. I don’t remember when it ended but here’s a picture of me getting ready to be interviewed for a beauty (Hah!) contest at OSU when I was a sophomore in 1964. Note the white gloves! Very proper!

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When I was little, we dressed up for luncheons and shopping downtown or plays or concerts or dinner in a nice restaurant. When I was in college, we dressed up for football games. Really. We wore skirts and sweaters to the games, no matter how cold it was. We wore skirts to class, too! On snowy days, we would put some slack under our skirts so we wouldn’t freeze walking across campus. Quite the fashion statement. Oh! We also wore hose, held up by girdles or garter belts, although my mother didn’t think those were very proper. I wore a girdle when I weighed barely 100 pounds and had no stomach. No wonder I laugh at Spanx today! Been there, done that and not doing it again. Ever!

The 60s started the changes. I can remember teaching at OSU when the mini skirts came in and realizing you could stand at the front of the classroom and look right up every girl’s skirt. As the skirts got shorter, the rules relaxed and you could wear pants and then jeans. Fashions changed rapidly through the 60s and 70s and we were the generation that lived it, even as we married and raised families.

We still dressed up to ride planes (heels and all), go to church, go to concerts, out to dinner. The gloves were gone, but you dressed up. The guys put on shirts, jackets and ties and the women wore hose and heels and skirts and makeup and had their hair done. There were social rules you had to follow after all.

I remember a date specifically that I began to realize that the casualness I loved was permeating maybe too far. On our 25th wedding anniversary, my husband took me out to a very nice restaurant. We ordered champagne and a lovely expensive dinner. We were dressed up nicely for this special occasion in our lives. When I noticed that the guy next to us was wearing jeans, nice jeans, with his tie and jacket, I thought to myself that there really was nowhere you could dress up for a special night out. He didn’t spoil our evening, but it was jarring in a place where everyone else was pretty spiffy that evening. And, remember how casual I am, so it’s interesting that those social dos and don’ts were so ingrained in me that I even noticed it, much less remember it all these years later.

There are practical reasons for everything, of course. It was expensive to have entire dressy outfits for our four children and I am amazed at the price of my huge grandsons’ shoes alone. They can’t afford to have very many styles since their feet seem to be endlessly growing. At least one of them is past a 13 adult size now which equates to expensive.

Another time, almost twenty years ago, some friends of mine met for lunch at a retirement home where one of us was working as a development officer. It was a lovely place and we dressed appropriately, but we didn’t match the lovely women who lived there and came to lunch dressed like the ladies they were. They had their makeup on and wore suits (jacket, blouse and skirt) and dresses and hose and maybe even girdles and carried their handbags on their arms like Queen Elizabeth. At the time, I remarked that our generation would probably come to lunch in sweat suits. Lordy!

So, here I sit in yoga shorts and a t-shirt, which I may wear all day no matter where I go. Or I may dress up, which implies I put on leggings and a nice top and nicer sandals. That garb would work where I live even if I had to go to a concert or church. Adding earrings and a necklace or scarf would really make it pretty impressive. All about the accessories. A guy probably would put on a nicer shirt and pressed shorts…maybe.

I don’t know that I am complaining about the changes…just making a mental note. I don’t want to forget how to dress up because there are a few times left that I might need to. After all the Queen might summon me. And I still have a box of gloves to wear…

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So many summers I’ve spent watching kids in swimming pools, reacting or not reacting to the calls of “Mommy, watch this…” over and over. There’s such a peacefulness about baking in the sun or standing in the water watching kids bounce and splash. It’s one time when the noise of happy play is part of the atmosphere around you.

My youngest grandchild has learned to jump off the side of the pool, laughing at the thrill of it all. How many more jumps will I watch her make? The diving board is next. All eight are now leaping into water with the impetuousness of youth. Ages 3 to 16 splash with equal delight.

Today, I was going through pictures and found photos of my own children, frozen in a moment of pure joy.

My oldest at 9, leaping with complete abandon…

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My middle girl on her 7th birthday, trying a twisting move in the air…

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My youngest daughter at 4, flying like the big kids…

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My son at 5 1/2, jumping with all the enthusiasm for life he always had…

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And, I remember that I jumped with such joy when I was young. I can feel the air underneath me now before I hit the water. Watching my next generations takes me back and moves me forward. May we always remember that incredible feeling of flying with nothing to fear and only joy in our hearts. Happy summer memories…

Today was one of those days that you just need to get out of the house – at least I did.  It was sunny and in the 40s in January and that was enough to get me out of my pajamas on a lazy day.  Enough of this recuperating.  Heading west on Route 66 seemed easy enough – follow the Mother Road the way we used to when I was a kid, before the turnpike sped us along.

I’d been wanting to go to the Rock Cafe in Stroud.  I’d seen it on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri, heard about it, read about the fire and the rebuilding and the original grill and its influence on the movie “Cars.”  I also knew it was up for sale and figured I’d better see it soon – who knows what will happen.

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If you take Route 66, you look for the signs of the old 66, the little concrete road that runs parallel to the newer road, and imagine what it must have been like to drive when it first opened.  It’s narrow, hard to imagine what you did when you met another car coming at you.  They didn’t go very fast, compared to today, but Americans drove across the country, passing through Oklahoma on their way from Chicago to Los Angeles.  It was definitely an adventure in those days.

My family used to drive it almost every week, heading to Oklahoma City to see my grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins.  I mostly remember driving back at night in the dark, sleeping on the floor of the car, listening to the radio.  The turnpike was a godsend for those of us who made the trip often, but I realize what it did to the little towns.

Anyway, today I looked for remnants of what it must have looked like, traveling along that concrete road.  We saw a few of the old, old motels…amazingly some are still in use.  By the time my friend and I were in Stroud, it was almost three in the afternoon.  There were no cars at the Rock Cafe and we went in for a late, late lunch.  To my horror, after we ordered, I remembered they close at three.  They were waiting to leave when we got there, but they didn’t admit it or turn us away.  I’ll give them credit for that, because the service was begrudging and the food was no more than mediocre.  I can also imagine it’s more interesting with more customers.  I will say the bathrooms are interesting – every inch of the rooms covered in graffiti, even the toilet seats.  They’re clean…just covered with messages from folks who’ve stopped by.

So check off another place on my never-ending list of places I’d like to see.  Not every adventure has to be perfect.  It’s the going that counts.

 

 

 

I must be starving for hamburgers.  There are lots of great hamburgers in the world and we’re lucky to still have some of the ones I grew up with here in Tulsa.  They’re probably still my favorites, maybe because they come with a side order of memories.

Van’s was great, but Van sold his location on Peoria to Claud’s long ago.  It’s nice to know he was passing it along and it still is owned by the family.  I love the tiny space where you can watch the whole operation while you wait.  Nice to get a bag of burgers and fries just like the old days.

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Across the street is Weber’s with its unique history.  Dating back to the 1890s, Mr. Weber made his own root beer and invented the burger.  That fact was validated by the governor of Oklahoma and I love the fact that it’s still owned by the family and they use the same grill he used way back when.  They still make their root beer and their onion rings are awesome.  That little orange building has moved a few spaces since I was a kid, but it’s a welcome sight…gives me sense of stability to see those two families still in business at 38th and Peoria after all these years.

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Hank’s goes back even further, 1949.  Nothing has changed in there, for sure.  Still a great burger, great fries and a malt like I remember them.  Way out on Admiral, but fun for an occasional fix.

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My husband was a big fan of the original Ron’s on 15th.  He would head over there on Saturdays to pick up his burger with chili.  I miss the little diner, but at least we can get the burgers at all the locations now.

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I discovered Ted’s, over on Edison, many years ago while doing volunteer work in the area.  Great hamburgers.

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Brownie’s started as root beer stand, according to a friend who lived in the area when we were kids.  It became a hamburger and root beer place way back when.  My husband and I spent many a weekend lunch or dinner in there.  We loved the staff that had been there forever, the atmosphere with all the little toys on the shelf, pictures of customer’s children lining the check-out and the food.  When Brownie died, it floundered a little, but a young couple bought it and it’s as good as ever.  My favorites are the hamburger and fries with a frosty mug of milk.  And the pies…I try to resist the chocolate meringue but that’s always a weakness of mine.  They make a lot of pies and they even have a food truck now.

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And then there’s Goldies.  It first opened as Goldies Patio Grill at 51st and Lewis with a par three golf course adjoining.  My dad was invited to the opening and set the first course record.  Their steak is a great bargain, but it’s the hamburgers, the Goldies Special being my favorite.  Whatever the secret spices they use are, you can’t mistake that flavor.  The quality has been consistently terrific through the years.  I forgo the fries and get the slaw, unique for it’s creamy dressing.  And there are the pickles.  Where else do you get a pickle bar?  Where else do you sit and munch on a bowl of pickles while you wait for your order?

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I guess that’s my tour of my favorite local burgers with memories fried in.  There are lots of great burgers, but I like mine the way I remember them.  Who knows how long these places will be around…I’m going to start taking my grandkids.  A little Tulsa history with a yummy burger thrown in.

 

 

On my list of things to have with me on a desert island are hamburgers – not the most practical or healthy choice.  Hamburgers are comfort food, loaded with memories.

When my grandmother would stay with us, she would cook hamburgers and make french fries.  We would get little cups of ketchup, just like going out.

The first hamburger place I really remember was Van’s.  They had more than one location eventually, but the one I loved was on 15th Street, east of Lewis.

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On special Saturday nights, I could go to Van’s with my Daddy.  We stood in line, waiting for our order, listening to the waitress with her droning question, “do you want onions on that?” The guy who cooked the hamburgers was an artist with his spatula.  He had long dark hair, combed back under his hat.  Watching him take a ball of ground beef and throw it on the well used griddle, where he proceeded to flatten it, shape it and turn it, was an endless fascination.  He worked like lightning with skills that I still admire.  When they were done, the burgers were wrapped in wax paper and the fries were placed in the little paper envelope.  Riding home with that greasy brown bag of burgers makes me drool even now.

But Pennington’s was the place where memories of the food mingle with all kinds of rites of growing up.  Pennington’s Drive-In Restaurant was on Peoria and was the heart of my life for many years.

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I started going there with my parents, but caught on easily that this was a cool place to be.  We would order our hamburger in a basket with either onion rings (Pennington’s were uniquely thin and delicious) or fries.  Whoever invented the basket for hamburgers deserves a place in museums of industrial design.  Those colorful plastic baskets have never been improved on for ease while eating in the car.  Our order would come with a stack of baskets of chicken, burgers, shrimp or any of Pennington’s favorites.  Early on, the carhops were on roller skates, when that was the newest thing.

As I grew into junior high, Pennington’s became the hangout for Tulsa’s teens.  When you’re not quite teen-aged, it was embarrassing to be there with your parents.  Soc Row was the middle row, with pole position being the spot at the end near the restaurant.  Here you could wave and honk at your friends as they cruised through, looking for a parking place and everyone could see that you were there.  I confess that Daddy thought this was hilarious and I can remember him parking in the prime place, yelling “Whee” as the teenaged girls giggled by.  I, of course, was sitting on the floor of the car, mortified and sure that my future life was ruined.  Daddy, Daddy.  Silly Daddy.

This was my home away from home all the way through high school.  We raced to get there and back on our 30 minute lunch hour.  If I ran an errand for my mother after school, it involved picking up a friend and stopping at Pennington’s.  We went on dates that began or ended there, we piled in cars after football games to drive through, honking our school honk.  We decorated our parents’ cars with our social club colors and drove through during our annual rush of new pledges.  In the summer, we cruised Peoria in the evenings, looping through Pennington’s as we searched for our other cruising friends.  It was where you could see who was with who and you could be seen.  Reputations were made there!

We knew the Penningtons, Arch and Lola, and could see them inside behind the counter.  Sherry was everyone’s favorite carhop and I’m sure she got more than her share of cocky teenaged boys trying to show her how grown up they were.  We weren’t allowed to get out of our cars, for fear of being approached by Jake, the security guard.  It was a time when we listened to the rules, although some tried to push him to his limits.

Pennington’s had great food, but my hamburgers, dinner rolls, vanilla Dr. Peppers, black bottom pie and onion rings are interwoven with the memories of first dates, special dates, cruising through with cars full of friends just to see who was there or who could see us, and, even the times with my parents.  I miss the old places…

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