Sunday, October 02, 2011

I Remember


While in high school a buddy told me of an Italian restaurant that had this thing called pizza. Across the street from my grandmother's house was a walkup food place that sold hamburgers for fifteen cents ran by a couple brothers named McDonald. The Bell twins had an uncle who just knew he could sell this Mexican taco thing. Malts had malt in them. That Xlint tamale served in a paper boat with chili was 50 cents. The veal cutlet, mashed potatoes, gravy and peas served at the diner was a Saturday night family ritual. Every other night we sat down to a meal cooked by mom Yes it was the 1950's.


Later in college as an exchange student I experienced the adventure of eating in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines. After returning in the late 50's I looked for these exciting foods I had tasted. Living near Los Angeles enabled me to visit the areas of Asian ethic diversity. The sushi I ate in the Atomic Café with chopsticks made me feel cosmopolitan and secretly superior to friends who I loved to give exaggerated details on eating raw fish. Not far away was Temple Street and Filipino food. Couple streets north was China town. A wonder of smells and sights like the Asia I had visited.


You worked your way through the kitchen as apprentice chefs or talented dishwashers. Culinary school? There was one in Switzerland or someplace wasn't there? The work was hot, long and hard, sprinkled with fowl language and alcohol.


Within forty years left behind is the diner. The "exotic" fare has spread to every corner of America in all its forms and shapes. The word fusion has burst into our culinary vocabulary and mind. Culinary schools abound and churn out a new breed with bright eyes and willing hearts. Moms are no longer at home cooking. No smiling girl brings a tray to your car filled with malts, hamburgers and onion rings. Potato chips only come in bags.

But I remember.