Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Make It Cry

Diner slang, the colorful lingo used by cooks and waitresses to communicate orders, dates back to the mid-1800s.

You would expect cultures everywhere to dream up clever ways to describe food orders — to say “pin a rose on it” instead of “add a slice of onion.” But no, diner slang is strictly an American thing. Apparently, we’re the only ones zany enough to appreciate this particular art form.

Some of the lingo, such as “mayo,” “BLT,” and “cup of Java,” has crossed over into popular use. Other terms are more obscure and still confined to use in countless diners and lunch counters across the country.

Below, for your amusement and edification, is a list of slang terms commonly used in such facilities. Order up!


Adam & Eve — Two poached eggs
Adam & Eve on a log — Two poached eggs with link sausage
Adam & Eve on a raft — Two poached eggs on toast

Arnold Palmer — Mixture of sweet tea and lemonade
Atlanta Special — Coca-Cola
Axle grease — Butter
B & B — Bread and butter
Baby juice — Milk
Baled hay — Shredded Wheat
Battle Creek — Corn Flakes (From Battle Creek, Michigan, home of Kellogg)
Belch water — Soda water
Bird — Chicken
Bird in a nest — Fried egg on toast with a hole cut in the center
Birdseed — Cereal
Black and blue — Rare steak seared on the outside
Black cow — Chocolate milk
Blowout patches — Pancakes
Boil some leaves — Tea
Bossy in a bowl — Beef stew
Bowl of red — Bowl of chili
Bow-wow  — Hot dog
Break it and shake it — Add a raw egg to a drink
Bridge party — Four of anything
Bucket of hail — Glass of ice
Burn it — Well done
Burn one — Put a hamburger on the grill
Burn the British — Toasted English muffin
C-board — Take-out order (cardboard)
Cackleberries — Eggs
Cackleberries out west — Western omelet
Cat heads — Biscuits
Check the ice — Look at the pretty girl who just came in
Checkerboards — Waffles
Chicago — Pineapple sundae
Chicks on a raft — Eggs on toast
China — Rice pudding
Coney Island — Hot dog
Cops and robbers — Donuts and coffee

Cowboy — Western omelet
Cowboy with spurs — Western omelet with French fries
Cow feed — Salad
Crowd — Three of anything (Three’s a crowd)
Deadeye — Poached egg
Dog biscuits — Crackers
Don’t cry over it — Omit the onions
Dough well done with cow to cover — Buttered toast
Drag one through the garden — Add lettuce and tomato
Drag one through Wisconsin — Add cheese
Draw one — Cup of coffee
Draw one, blonde — Coffee with cream
Draw one, blonde with sand — Coffee with cream and sugar
Draw one in the dark — Black coffee
Drown the kids — Boiled eggs
Dry stack — Pancakes, no butter
Eve with a lid on — Apple pie (Refers to the biblical Eve & apple and the pie crust)
First lady — Spareribs (Refers to Eve being created from one of Adam’s ribs)
Fish eyes — Tapioca pudding
Flop two — Two fried eggs over easy
Fly cake — Raisin cake
Frog sticks — French fries
Georgia pie — Peach pie
Gentleman will take a chance — Hash
Going for a walk — Take-out order
Halitosis — Garlic
Hemorrhage — Ketchup
High and dry — Plain sandwich with no condiments
Hockey puck — Hamburger well-done
Hold the grass — No lettuce
Hold the hail — No ice
Houseboat — Banana split

In the alley — Serve as a side dish
Irish turkey — Corned beef
Jack — Grilled American cheese sandwich (GAC = Jack)
Jack Benny — Grilled cheese sandwich with bacon
Jack Tommy — Grilled cheese sandwich with tomato
Keep off the grass — Hold the lettuce
Let him chew it — Rare steak
Life preserver — Donut
Looseners — Prunes
Love apples — Tomatoes
Lumber — Toothpicks
M.D. — Dr. Pepper
Machine oil — Syrup
Make it cry — Add onion
Mike and Ike — Salt and pepper shakers
Moo juice — Milk
Mousetrap — Grilled cheese sandwich
Mud — Black coffee
Murphy — Potatoes
Nervous pudding — Jell-O
Noah’s boy — Slice of ham (Ham was Noah’s son)
No cow — Without milk
Number 5 — Milk
Number 41 — Lemonade
Number 51 — Hot chocolate
Number 55 — A root beer
Number 86 — Cancel the order or don’t serve that customer
On the hoof — Meat served rare
On wheels —  Take-out order
One on the city — Glass of water
One from the Alps — Swiss cheese sandwich
Paint it red — Add ketchup

Pin a rose on it — Add onion
Put a hat on it — Add a scoop of ice cream
Pittsburgh — Something is burning (Lots of smokestacks in Pittsburgh)
Put out the lights and cry — Liver and onions
Rabbit food — Lettuce
Radio — Tuna salad (Tuner — get it?)
Sand — Sugar
Sea dust — salt
Shake one in the hay — Strawberry milkshake
Shingle with a shimmy and a shake — Order of toast with butter and jelly
Sinkers and suds — Donuts and coffee
SOS (sh*t on a shingle) — Chipped beef on toast
Squeeze one — Glass of orange juice
Sunny side up — Fried egg with runny yolk, cooked without turning
Sweet Alice — Milk
Throw it in the mud — Add chocolate syrup
Two dots and a dash — Two fried eggs and a strip of bacon
Vermont — Maple syrup
Warts –Olives
Whiskey — Rye bread (Used because “rye” and “white” sound too similar)
Whiskey down — Rye toast
Whistleberries — Baked beans (A reference to flatulence)
White cow — Vanilla milkshake
Why bother — Decaf with skim milk
Wreck ‘em — Scrambled eggs
Yellow paint — Mustard
Yum-yum — Sugar
Zeppelin — Sausage

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New Orleans Report #2

Le Vieux Carré

One morning on my recent trip to New Orleans, I was wandering down Bourbon Street taking photos with my big Nikon.

I was hard to miss among the tourists wielding their wimpy point-and-shoots; the Nikon is a massive thing with a telephoto lens the size of a Starbuck’s Grande cup.

Suddenly, a young black man hailed me. “Hey, buddy!” he shouted, “Take a picture of my friends!”

I looked, and he was pointing enthusiastically toward two other guys, restaurant workers taking a cigarette break on the sidewalk ahead.

The two workers flipped away their cigarettes and struck a pose. I obliged with this photo.

For a large part of my four days in New Orleans, I wandered around the French Quarter and the riverfront area, where most of the tourist stuff is concentrated, taking photos of the people, the activity, and the architecture. I probably walked 10 miles a day down those narrow streets.

But in truth, I was off the streets and back at my hotel every night by 8:00 PM. In daylight, the French Quarter seems as friendly and safe as Disneyland. But the later it gets, the edgier. Pulling a late-nighter or all-nighter on Bourbon Street did not seem prudent.

When you drive into New Orleans on I-10, the exit sign doesn’t say French Quarter; it says Vieux Carré. That’s pronounced View Car-ay. It means old square in French.

The Vieux Carré Historic District, AKA the French Quarter, is the original neighborhood at the center of New Orleans, which was founded in 1718.

Specifically, the Quarter is 78 square blocks — 13 long and six deep — on the north bank of the Mississippi River.

Every thoroughfare in the Quarter is a narrow, one-way street. By day, to make life easier for pedestrians, Royal Street is off limits to motorized traffic; by night, Bourbon Street is barricaded for the same reason.

The countless bars are free to open and close as they choose. Some serve ’round the clock, some keep regular hours, some close when the last customer is gone.

It is quite legal to get yourself a “go-cup” and carry it on the street, as long as the container is unbreakable.

As you may know, some bars in the French Quarter employ young ladies to dance for the entertainment of their customers. I am not one to frequent such establishments, so I can’t speak to the attire these young ladies wear on-stage.

But when they stand in the doorways in an effort to entice passers-by to come inside, they don’t wear a whole lot.

Morning in the French Quarter is fascinating. All of those thousands of visitors from the night before have left evidence of their merrymaking in the form of litter and garbage. So every morning, the Clean Team fans out to pick up the trash. The streets are powerwashed weekly.

Also, morning is when the bars, shops, and restaurants haul out the previous night’s refuse and take delivery of the new day’s supplies. From dawn until 2:00 PM, the streets and sidewalks are alive with workers and delivery trucks.

I worried that the food in New Orleans might be a disappointment — you know, over-hyped, over-priced, and not very good. Although the prices were brutal, the food was spectacular.

I made it a point to try as many new dishes as possible. Here, as best I can reconstruct it, is my menu during the trip:


— Beignets submerged under a mound of powdered sugar
— Shrimp and grits
— Eggs St. Charles


Shrimp po-boy sandwich
Debris po-boy (bits of the roast beef that fall into the pan)
Barbecued oysters and seafood gumbo


Crawfish étouffée
Fried shrimp

Barbecued oysters were unexpectedly delicious. And, God help me, I had an appetizer of oysters on the half shell four times.

One afternoon, after walking quite a distance along the riverfront, I returned to the French Quarter near Jackson Square. For a few minutes, I stood on the corner outside Cafe du Monde, the popular coffee shop in the French Market, listening to a guitarist playing for tips.

I took a few photos of the man, which obliged me to make a small donation — as he confirmed by fixing me with a stare to be sure I got the message.

When he finished his set, I walked over and placed two dollars in his cup. “Thanks, man,” he said.

Then he added, “Hey, where’d you get those shoes?” The derisive tone was hard to miss.

I said they came from REI and walked away indignantly.

Apparently, it is not cool to wear dark brown Merrill Moab Ventilators in New Orleans.

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The Greatest Need

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.

— Henry David Thoreau


Five years ago, in January 2006, I was newly retired, doing well financially, and enjoying an abundance of free time. I found myself in a pleasant routine of hiking often, traveling liberally, entertaining grandkids regularly, and otherwise doing what I darn well pleased.

But something inside was making me uncomfortable about all that good fortune. I needed to give back somehow. I felt drawn to donate some time, or money, or both, to a worthy cause or two.

It was a noble goal, but charities are tricky. Like most people, I bristle when a high percentage of my donation is skimmed off the top for administration, or worse, before it reaches the intended recipients.

Then I found out about a unique organization called Family-to-Family. With Family-to-Family, 100 percent of your donation goes directly to the recipients. 100 percent.

F-to-F was started in 2002 by a woman in New York, Pam Koner, who became aware of the plight of the working poor in the impoverished community of Pembroke, Illinois.

She was shocked by the lives the families of Pembroke were forced to lead. She asked a local social worker what was the greatest need of the people there.

Food, the social worker told her. Most months, the food runs out before the paycheck arrives.

Koner was determined to make a difference. She obtained a list of the 17 neediest families in Pembroke. Then she convinced 16 of her friends and neighbors to sponsor one of the families. Their task was to send their family a week’s supply of food — canned goods, sugar, flour, etc. — in the third week of every month.

Simple and ingenious. As F-to-F describes it, they connected a family with more to a family with less. No money changed hands; just food.

By the time I signed up in 2006, F-to-F had several hundred donor families linked to recipients in a dozen scattered places. The Atlanta Chapter worked with communities in Kentucky, Louisiana, and New Mexico. I was assigned to a family in Kentucky.

My family consisted of a working mom in her 50s, a disabled husband, and a daughter age 12. They lived in a remote valley in the Appalachians. The mom said it was a beautiful place. Her passion was writing and singing gospel songs.

So, I settled into a routine. Once every two months, I would print out the suggested shopping list, purchase the items, pack and address two boxes, and take them to the home of our chapter boss in Roswell, a suburb of Atlanta.

FedEx provided free shipping, but Roswell is 50 miles away. Driving there every month was a bit much. I settled on every other month.

Each time a food box arrived in Kentucky, someone in the family wrote and thanked me. It was clear that the food items were needed and appreciated.

Then Christmas came, and the situation soured.

At the community in Kentucky, a local Catholic mission served as Family-to-Family’s agent. Our food boxes were addressed to the sponsored family, in care of the mission. The sisters made sure the shipments were delivered correctly and on time.

When I packed the December food box, I included an assortment of Christmas candy and a small gift for the daughter. At the last minute, I placed $100 cash in a sealed envelope addressed to the parents.

I was vaguely aware that sending cash probably was taboo, but hey — it was Christmas.

The first week in January, I got a call from the chapter boss in Roswell. She was passing along a message from the sisters at the mission. The message: sending cash to the families is not allowed.

I confessed that I should have known the rules, and I promised not to do it again.

“But,” I asked, “How did the sisters know about the cash?”

The chapter boss explained that the sisters always opened and inspected the boxes before passing them along to the recipient families.

They did what?

The chapter boss told me that no other F-to-F agents in the country searched the food shipments. Only the sisters at that one mission in Kentucky felt compelled to snoop.

I never did find out what happened to the cash. The family I sponsored denied receiving it. The sisters wouldn’t comment about it.

The chapter boss was willing to blow the whistle and get the F-to-F people in New York involved, but I convinced her to let it go. Whoever got the $100 undoubtedly needed it.

As for the policy of opening and searching the boxes, I was not okay with that.

After stewing about it for a week, I asked to be reassigned to another family in another community.

The chapter boss complied. She assigned my Kentucky family to someone else, and I was introduced to a new family in Louisiana — a single mom who supported two young boys as well as her elderly parents.

The local agent in Louisiana was another Catholic mission. But they had no interest in searching the shipments.

That was in early 2007. I continued to send a monthly food box to the Louisiana family until the end of 2010.

The shipment I sent in December was my last. The Atlanta Chapter of F-to-F has been disbanded.

I’m sad to say that the lousy economy brought the chapter down. At one time, we had 20 donor families. By the end of 2010, only four of us remained.

The chapter boss decided to call it quits after seven years in the position. She said she will look for other ways to invest her time and effort.

I’m not sure what I’ll do next. Family-to-Family now has a couple of “cyber-sponsor” options that I want to check out.

Under one program, you send $30.00 per month to F-to-F, and their agents in the local communities (e.g., the sisters) do the shopping for you.

In another program, the sponsored family receives a $30.00 food coupon at a local grocery store.

Both plans eliminate shipping altogether, which is a huge savings.

In November, when I learned that the chapter was closing, I wrote one last letter to my family in Louisiana. It was difficult, but I got it done.

Over the years, I corresponded with them on and off, but not as regularly as I should have. I always hesitated to intrude, or to pressure them. And anyway, I figured the monthly food shipment did the real talking.

We all have our family dramas, and these folks are no exception.

The mom had divorced the dad long ago, and he remarried. One morning late in 2005, Dad’s new wife picked up the youngest son after school.

Whether or not she was stoned, as the grandma claims, I don’t know. But she lost control, and the car ran off the road.

The boy was injured critically and nearly died. He was hospitalized for months. Today, six years later, he still undergoes regular physical therapy.

In 2009, the grandmother wrote me that her daughter no longer lives with the family. Without explanation, she said that she, the grandmother, had become head of the household. She asked that I simply continue the monthly shipments as before. Which I did.

The grandmother also told me that the youngest boy likes cream of chicken soup, and he adores chocolate in any form. I always made sure my shipments included plenty of both.

Being a Family-to-Family “cyber-sponsor” may have its advantages, but tailoring the food items to the recipient is not one of them.

That bothers me.

The shopping list for my first food shipment, January 2006.

My final food box, decorated by my granddaughters, December 2010.

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Let’s Eat!

From a menu in Beijing:



Item on restaurant menu in Hanoi, marked out with black ink:


Same menu item as corrected in longhand:



On a menu in New York City:




Menu items from a restaurant in Hong Kong:




Advertised in a Turkish restaurant in Boston:




At a breakfast buffet in Taiwan:




On a menu in the Galapagos Islands:



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Seafood Soup

A few days ago, an errand took me to Winder, the next town south of Jefferson. Winder is one of my least favorite towns in the area. It’s unattractive, overbuilt, and perpetually choked with traffic. When the town is in the news, the subject invariably is drugs, crime, or political corruption.

But they have a pretty good bookstore, and that’s where I went on my errand.

It was lunchtime when I finished. Determined to try a new restaurant, I pulled into a strip mall that housed one of those ubiquitous, hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurants. Rain was falling like crazy.

Inside, the place was quite nice. Also quite empty. I stood at the front counter for a moment, and soon, a tiny, stoop-shouldered old Chinese man emerged from the kitchen.

“How many?” he asked. I held up a forefinger.

“You come,” he said and ushered me to a booth.

“What you want drink?”

“Hot tea, please.”

“No sweet tea?” he said with a cackle. “All people here drink sweet tea.”

“Well, I like hot tea in Chinese restaurants,” I told him.

“Good, good,” he said, and away he went, still snickering.

A few minutes later, he brought my tea. I ordered the house special, seafood soup, and settled back to await my meal.

As I sat gazing absently out the window on my left, a medium-sized bus pulled up to the curb in front of the restaurant, blocking the view, such as it was.

“Magnolia Estates” was emblazoned on the side of the bus. On board, I could make out numerous heads bobbing.

The door of the bus opened, and a 30-ish woman in a nurse uniform disembarked. Behind me, I heard the front door of the restaurant open.

“How many?” I heard the Chinese man ask.

“Can you handle a big group?”

“We can handle.”

“There are 14 in all.”

“We can handle.”

“It will take us a while to unload and get everyone inside.”


The woman from the bus went back outside. The old man was joined by an elderly Chinese woman, and the two of them began pushing tables together.

Unfortunately, they chose to do it immediately adjacent to my booth. The 20-foot-long table they fashioned was slightly behind me, but a mere four feet from my elbow.

At first, I thought why me? Then I realized that most likely, an entertaining spectacle was about to unfold.

I was right.

I glanced out the window. The two attendants were busily helping the passengers de-bus in the rain. At that particular moment, the wheelchair lift was lowering an old man to the sidewalk. He was standing unsteadily on the metal platform, clinging to an aluminum walker.

If I had any doubt that Magnolia Estates was an assisted living facility, it was thenceforth erased.

Several residents were already out of the bus and lined up against the wall, out of the rain. The other attendant was helping a white-haired woman carefully exit the front door of the bus. The woman was using a magazine to shield her hair from the rain.

As predicted, it took a while to get everyone off the bus and lined up against the outside wall. When the deed was done, the attendant came back inside.

“You ready for us?”

“We ready.”

Behind me, I heard the door open. The passengers began to file in, chattering like a flock of birds. I didn’t turn to look, but I got the audio.

“Janie, just follow him. Not too close. Don’t run your walker up his leg.”


“Go slow, people. We’ve got plenty of time.”


“Something without chicken in it.”

“Why are you stopping? Keep going!”

“Bob, move to the end of the table, please.”

“That’s what I’m doin‘.”

“Raise up your behind. I’ll push your chair in.”

“Ruthie, let me have the walker. I’ll move it out of the way.”


“Not right now you don’t. I’ll bring it back after we eat.”


“Carl, roll up closer to the table, please.”

“Come here and lock my wheels.”

“Hey, watch it!”

The Chinese lady materialized at my booth and placed a steaming bowl of soup in front of me.

“Seafood soup,” she announced formally. She backed away several paces, turned, and went back into the kitchen.

The bowl of soup was steaming ominously, like molten lava. I sampled it very carefully. It was insanely hot, impossible to eat yet.

Suddenly, something whacked me hard on the right elbow.

I looked up, and in the aisle stood a woman with a walker. “Oops, sorry!” she said. “Bob, scoot your chair in. I can’t get by, and I ran into the gentleman.”

I glanced back at Bob, whose chair was two feet away from the table, blocking the aisle.

“I can’t scoot any closer,” said Bob. One of the attendants arrived to help him.


“Orange chicken. Soup and orange chicken.”

“Oh, do they have soup? Soup sounds good!”

“Of course they have soup. All Chinese places have soup.”

“What kind of soup do they have?”

“I don’t know. Look at the menu.”

“People, listen up! They want to get your drink orders first.”


“DRINKS. What do you want to drink?”

“Diet Coke — sweet tea — water — tea for me — Diet Pepsi — tea –“

“Wait a minute! One at a time! Start with Janie and go around the table.”

The group grew silent for the first time. Drinks were ordered per the instructions, then the chatter resumed.

“Here’s the soup list. I want the egg drop.”

“I never heard of some of these.”

“Why do they have Vietnamese soup in a Chinese restaurant?”

“Can you get a side salad?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Mary, do you want a bowl of soup, hon?”


“What kind?”

“I don’t know.”

“They have egg drop, wonton –”

“Oh, I love wonton. I want wonton.”

“Yuck! I don’t like wonton!”

“Bob, you don’t like anything.”

“That’s not so!”

“They have hot and sour soup, too, people.”

“Oh, not that stuff!”

“That’s terrible!”

“Lord help! If I ate hot and sour soup, I wouldn’t get a wink of sleep tonight!”

“Well, I’m having the hot and sour. I love it!”

“Lord help!”

The table talk next to me ebbed and flowed. My molten lava soup, after it cooled to a tolerable level, was very tasty.

A couple of times, I glanced to my right to get a quick look at my lunch companions. Everyone in the group was white, white-haired, and in the 80s to 90s range. Only three were men. One of the attendants was black, one white.

After the initial hubbub, they had settled down and seemed content. Around the table, six or eight different conversations were underway.

Soon after I finished eating, the little Chinese man appeared at my table. “You like seafood soup?” he asked.

“It was excellent,” I told him. “Very good.”

“Hot tea okay?” I said it was terrific, too. He nodded vigorously, placed my check on the table, and departed.

I got up, collected my rain jacket, left a tip, and headed for the cash register. The Chinese lady was waiting there. I handed her the check and a $10 bill.

“You like soup?” she said. I replied that the soup was superb.

I gestured toward the contingent from Magnolia Estates. “Too bad they planned this outing on a rainy day,” I said. “The rain makes it harder on everybody.”

“Oh, no,” she replied, shaking her head. “Rain not hurt anything. Rain make day more exciting. That good for the old folks.”

She counted out my change, hesitated for several seconds, then handed it to me.

“Sorry, I very tired today,” she explained. “Sometimes, work all day, get very tired.”

“Maybe old folks home a good idea,” she said with a chuckle.

“Maybe my daughter take over restaurant, and we go live at old folks home,” she said. “No more work. We come to eat at daughter’s restaurant!”

We were still sniggling about the idea when her husband walked up.

He said something to her in Chinese, probably “What’s so funny?”

“I decide to go live at old folks home,” she said with a grin. “You and daughter run restaurant, I go take it easy.”

He looked at her blankly, which made her laugh anew.

I thanked them and turned toward the exit.

“You come again,” she called out, still chuckling. “I probably still here.”

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Weaver D’s

Last week in Athens, I had lunch at the popular soul food restaurant Weaver D’s Delicious Fine Foods.

You may know Weaver D’s for the motto, “Automatic For the People,” immortalized by R.E.M. as the name of its 8th album.

I knew about the restaurant, but oddly, had never been there. Somehow, over the years, I never got around to it.

The place was opened in 1986 by the gregarious and entertaining Dexter Weaver. The name “Weaver D” comes from roll call back in his Army days.

In the early years, Weaver D’s was a regular hangout for the members of R.E.M. and other Athens rock groups before they got famous.

Later, Michael Stipe said he wanted to name the album “Automatic for the People” because he had heard Dexter shout it so often.

By the time the album was made, Stipe had gone from struggling college student to prosperous rock star. He showed up at the restaurant one day with cash and a lawyer and sealed the deal.

The R.E.M. connection made the restaurant famous, but there is more to Weaver D’s than hype. In 2007, the James Beard Foundation recognized it as one of America’s Classics — a series of restaurants recognized for serving high quality food that reflects the character of the community.

I knew about all that, so I figured my lunch would be worthwhile. I wasn’t disappointed.

When I walked in, the man himself was there, taking orders, dishing up the food, chatting up the customers. His photos (and President Obama’s) are all over the walls. He has a cookbook for sale for $10.

I ordered a classic Weaver D’s meal: fried chicken, two sides (collard greens and squash casserole), buttermilk cornbread muffin, and, of course, iced tea.

Everything was superb — perfectly prepared.

As I was finishing, Dexter strolled over to my table and asked, “How was it, friend?”

I said, “Well, the collards were perfect, and the squash was as good as my grandmother’s, and the fried chicken was as good as any I’ve ever had.”

He grinned and said, “Automatic, my man.”

This video came out when Weaver D’s won the Beard Award.


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I lived in Germany during my high school years, and unfortunately, I acquired a taste for German food.

I say unfortunately because German restaurants are not very common in the United States. Ironic.

Every now and then, I run across places that serve bier and schnitzel and the like. Frankly, they usually aren’t very good.

But last month, on a trip to Oregon and Washington, I found a real wiener — I mean, winner: Gustav’s Pub & Grill.

Gustav’s is a small, Portland-area chain that’s the real deal. They serve authentic, high-quality German food in a setting that resembles an upscale beer hall.

As much as I enjoyed my meal and the atmosphere, I’ll probably remember Gustav’s most for a series of conversations I had with the employees. Before I left, I think I spoke to everyone on staff except the cooks.

It began when the hostess escorted me to my table.

“Having a good day?” she asked over her shoulder.

I said I was having a fine day, but sadly, it was the last day of my vacation. I had to fly home the following morning.

“Where’s home?”

I told her I was from Atlanta. That’s what I usually tell people. Jefferson always draws a blank.

“Oh, wow!” she replied. “We just hired a new guy who moved here from Atlanta!”

“Small world,” I said.

We arrived at my table, and she handed me the menu. “How long was your vacation?” she asked. I told her two weeks.

“Where did you go?”

I told her everywhere — along the Pacific coast, around the Olympic peninsula, up the Cascade Range, through the Columbia River Gorge.

“Sounds great,” she said. “This area is so beautiful. So much to see.”

The hostess left, and I turned to the menu and zeroed in on the beer list. I noted with pleasure that Gustav’s serves authentic Hofbräu beer on tap, imported from München.

Soon, my waitress appeared.

“Hi!” she said. “I hear you’re from Atlanta. We have a new guy on staff from Atlanta!”

“So I hear,” I replied.

“His name is Doug. He’s a young single guy, and he was just curious about the Northwest, so here he is.”

She told me more about young Doug and bragged on the region a bit. I ordered a stein of Hofbräu, and she departed.

A few minutes later, another server arrived with my beer.

“Here you go,” she said brightly. “I hear you’re in the area on vacation, and you drove down the Pacific coast! My boyfriend and I are gonna do that next week!”

She sat down in the booth across from me. “What was it like?”

She listened intently as I gave her a summary of my trip. A few times, she asked about specific towns and attractions.

Then, suddenly, she jumped up. “Oops, I HAVE to get back to work!” she said. “Thanks, I really appreciate the information! Bye!” she said and hurried away.

Soon, my regular waitress returned. I ordered dinner — a sausage platter, the Food of the Gods.

As I sat there waiting on dinner, playing Hangman on my iPod Touch, a man in a suit appeared at my table. He had bossman written all over him.

“Good evening, sir,” he said with a formal smile. “I hope everything is satisfactory.” I said everything was quite satisfactory.

“Someone mentioned that you’re from Atlanta. I just hired a young man from Atlanta.”

“So I hear,” I replied.

“He’s an interesting young fellow. He was curious about this area, so he just packed up and moved here to explore the region. He’s young, so why not?”

I asked the bossman about the Gustav’s chain and bemoaned the scarcity of German restaurants in our great nation.

“Preparing German food well is not easy,” he said. “Many places try and fail.”

Soon, my time was up, and the bossman moved on to other customers.

My sausage platter arrived, and it was exceptional. I spent the next 15 minutes in culinary heaven.

During the meal, a waiter, a young African American fellow, walked up. Aha, I thought, this must be the famous Doug.

“Hi,” he said. “I hear you’re from Atlanta. Me, too.”

We shook hands and talked for a bit about the Atlanta area, the Pacific Northwest, and the people in both places.

“I miss my family,” he said. “But there’s so much to do around here, especially if you’re an outdoorsy person. I really like it. The people here are almost as friendly as in the South.”

He said he wasn’t sure how long he would stay out West. He figured it would work itself out in time.

Doug went back to work, and I finished my delightful dinner. Soon, the waitress appeared with my check.

I held up a jar of Gustav’s Bavarian Whole Grain Bier Mustard, which I had practically emptied during dinner. “This stuff is excellent,“ I said. “Do you sell it?”

“You bet!” she said. “I’ll go get a jar for you.”

A minute or two later, a red-haired woman in a suit arrived, carrying some paperwork.

“Hi,” she said. “About the mustard… we have a situation.”

She sat down in the booth across from me. “I can’t believe we’re out. I just ordered four cases last week.”

“I’ll get more in a few days,” she said. “I can either mail a jar to you when the new stock comes in, or, we have an online store going live in about a  week. You could order it from our website when you get back to Atlanta.”

I told her to mail it.

I paid the bill and headed for the door. On the way out, I got a goodbye wave from the hostess, two servers, Doug, and the red-haired woman.

If you’re in Portland, be sure to try Gustav’s. For more about the restaurant, and to purchase some of that excellent Bavarian Whole Grain Bier Mustard, check out their website.

The place is a real wiener.

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You have to love a story that has no bad guys.

Last fall, the pastor of a small church here in Jefferson, Darrell Rewis, was having breakfast at Beef O’Brady’s with his friend Steve Perry, the owner of the restaurant.

I don’t know either man, but based on what followed, I have a sense of their characters.

Darrell is pastor of the Corner-Stone Baptist Church, which is relatively new in town. Considering his line of work, it isn’t surprising that he was contemplating ways to involve his church in a project that served a genuine need in the community.

Nor was it surprising that the topic of food came up when Pastor Darrell mentioned this to Steve Perry.

By the end of breakfast, the two of them had worked out a simple and elegant plan. They would serve a free meal, every week, to anyone in town who showed up.

Specifically, every Saturday during 2010, from 8:00 AM until 10:00 AM, members of the Corner-Stone Church would take over the kitchen at Beef O’Brady’s and serve a free pancake breakfast.

Everyone welcome. No questions asked.

Right now, halfway through the year, the project is operating very well. The cost of the breakfasts, which is minimal, is shared by the church and the restaurant. There is no shortage of volunteers to cook and serve.

The turnout of families and individuals happy to get a free, nourishing meal has been steady, quiet, and appreciative.

Jefferson is not an affluent town. Plenty of people here are low-income. Naturally, more families than ever are in a bind right now, owing to the bad economy.

Yes, I know — one meal a week isn’t much. But when a hungry kid sits down at the table, at that moment, it means the world.

I’m impressed with this project because it’s so effective and so uncomplicated.

I’m impressed because it tells people who are down on their luck that someone cares about them.

I’m impressed because it represents genuine charity.

I note that the final Saturday in 2010 is December 25, Christmas Day. A meal will be served that morning, too.

Whether the project will continue in 2011, I don’t know. I hope so.

It would be nice if another church or restaurant in town would step up to the plate — pun intended — and maybe add dinner.

Good deeds have a way of taking root. They can spread like weeds if you let them.

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Six Generations

For some reason, my little town of Jefferson has three Chinese restaurants. All have been open for years, and none seems to be hurting for business, which is surprising in a place this small.

One of the restaurants is best avoided, but the other two are pretty good. My favorite of the two serves a dish I’ve found only rarely over the years — jum bon, described on the menu as “spicy seafood noodle soup.”

Actually, jum bon is not so much spicy as fiery. It is a heaping bowl of rich chicken broth, to which is added chunks of beef, shrimp, chicken, and assorted vegetables — all of which is dumped on a mound of thick-cut noodles.

Most attention-getting of all, a bowl of jum bon also includes several dried Japanese or Thai chili peppers — some whole and some in tiny pieces — hiding among the ingredients. You bite into those things at your peril.

Dried chilies -- tiny and lethal.

But I like hot stuff, and jum bon is my kind of soup. It’s yummy, causes sweat beads to pop out on your forehead, and one order makes two meals. What’s not to like?

Not long ago, I discovered why jum bon has been hard to find. I found out from Mrs. Tso, who operates the restaurant with her husband.

Everyone in the Tso family except Grandma speaks English perfectly. Better, in fact, than many Jeffersonians I know. While waiting for my take-out order of jum bon one day, I asked Mrs. Tso where her family came from originally.

She said that her ancestors came from Korea, but her family had lived in China for five generations. In the case of her husband’s family, six generations.

“In China,” she told me, “We are considered ‘Chinese Koreans.’ We are not of pure Chinese ancestry.”

“We’ll never be completely accepted as Chinese, no matter how many generations pass,” she said. “The Chinese are funny about things like that.”

I told her Southerners were funny like that, too. You can live in a town for 50 years, but if you weren’t born there, the locals will always detect on you the aroma of an outsider.

Mrs. Tso is well aware of my fondness for jum bon. “Jum bon is a traditional Chinese Korean dish,” she told me. “In America, you won’t find it in Chinese restaurants — only Chinese Korean restaurants.”

I told her that explains why the only other restaurant I know that serves jum bon is 40 miles from here in Chamblee, a suburb of Atlanta.

“I know the place you mean,” she said. “They are Chinese Korean, too.”

Now I know why the Tsos don’t call their place Great Wall or China Wok.

The Tsos are very nice people. The food is good, the restaurant is clean.

And they work hard. The restaurant is open seven days a week, half days on weekends.

Their daughters Victoria and Sarah, ages four and nine, are thoroughly Americanized. After school, you’ll always see them in a booth, drawing, writing, or working on their laptops. The girls’ latest projects from school are always taped to the walls of the restaurant.

My take-out order arrived. I thanked Mrs. Tso and headed out the door.

As I opened the door of my car and placed the soup container on the front seat, a voice not far from my ear boomed, “Who elects the President of the United States?”

Startled, I turned and looked toward the black SUV parked next to me. The voice had come from that direction.

After a pause, the voice boomed again, “The Electoral College!”

One window of the SUV was open a few inches. The voice had come from inside.

“What are the three branches of our government?” the voice demanded. It had an odd, metallic resonance, like a radio or CD.

After another pause, the voice thundered, “Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary!”

Whoever was inside the SUV had the volume way too high. I wondered who the heck it was.

“How many stars are on our flag?” the voice bellowed.

The light in the parking lot was dim, but finally I could make out a male figure sitting behind the wheel. His head was back, his eyes closed. It was Mr. Tso.

He was lost in concentration and had no idea I was there. His lips moved a little, but I couldn’t make out what he said.

“Fifty!” the metallic voice declared.

Mr. Tso nodded, eyes still closed. I quietly got in my car.

“What do we call the legislative branch of government?”

I started the engine and glanced toward the SUV. This time, I could make out the word Mr. Tso formed: Congress.

“Congress!” roared the voice.

Mr. Tso nodded again and smiled slightly. He never opened his eyes or was aware of my presence. I backed out of the parking space and drove away.

I wish you well on your test, Mr. Tso.

And I promise you, becoming an American will not take six generations.

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Lewis Grizzard, the late Georgia humorist and author, was the archetypical comic who wasn’t laughing on the inside. The hard-drinking Lewis died in 1994 of a congenital heart defect after a series of surgeries. He was 48 and had been married four times.

Like many white Southerners of his era, Grizzard was not fully comfortable with the changes, social and political, that came with the South’s new prosperity. He wrote fondly about the old days and the old ways, but he also wore Gucci loafers (always without socks) and was proud to have eaten caviar at Maxim’s in Paris.

Lewis riled many readers with the barbs he hurled at gays and feminists. But he was at his best when he stayed in safer territory. Take, for example, his discourse on Georgia barbecue…


There was an annual Fourth of July barbecue in my hometown. The menfolk would sit up all night and barbecue hogs over an open pit, which doesn’t take a great deal of work once the hogs are cooking.

One year, a man from North Carolina was passing through and stopped in to partake. He asked for cole slaw.

“What for?” somebody asked. “There’s plenty of stew and light bread.”

“I want to put it on my barbecue,” the man from North Carolina said.

Somebody pulled a knife on the man, and he got in his car and went back to North Carolina.

After I left home, I roamed freely about other parts of the country, and I came to understand several truths about barbecue:

— The best barbecue is pork served in Georgia. In Texas, they barbecue beef, which isn’t barbecue at all.

— The best barbecue is found in family-run operations. Harold Hembree of Harold’s Barbecue in Atlanta can’t count the number of cousins and nieces and nephews working there. There are three generations of Sprayberrys cooking and serving at Sprayberry’s in Newnan. And it was Jim Brewer’s father-in-law who started Fresh-Air Barbecue in Jackson, Georgia, 51 years ago.

— If there are religious posters on the wall, you can usually count on the barbecue being good.

— Good barbecue restaurants rarely serve beer. “Mama won’t allow it in here,” is why Harold Hembree doesn’t serve it. “You’ll lose your family trade,” says Jim Brewer.

— The best barbecue restaurants are careful what kind of bread they serve with their meat. Normally, it’s buns for sandwiches and white bread for plates.

— Brunswick stew is too complicated to get into. Everybody has a different idea of how it should be cooked and what it should contain.

— Same with the sauce. There are hundreds of varieties of sauces. If the meat is good, the sauce will be, too.

— It is important to put up a sign in a barbecue restaurant that reads, “No shoes, no shirt, no service.” This will add class to the place by keeping out people from Texas and North Carolina.


Lewis Grizzard.

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