Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I began my love of coleslaw at Friendly's. Do you know Friendly's? When I moved to Atlanta in an ill-fated pique of commitment to the wrong man I discovered that Friendly's was region-specific and oh, my taste buds, - I missed Friendly's. And not even the ice cream; good ice cream is easy to come by - B&J's, Breyers, Edie's - but good coleslaw is another story. I lived a couple long years without good coleslaw (sometimes you can get decent stuff at a grocery-store deli, but none of the grocery stores in my part of Hotlanta complied) and I might admit, though barely, to considering the coleslaw factor when M and I first had the idea of moving to the frozen north. Just a few days after trekking a bleary thousand miles up the eastern seaboard in a super-sized moving van (car towed behind) while trying to keep three violent dogs far enough away from each other so they couldn't mutter bad dog words under their breath, we stopped for lunch at Friendly's. I can't remember what I had - probably a chicken sandwich - but I do recall the coleslaw was...disappointing. Like so many other things in life, the memory and anticipation was better than the actual moment. But. Several years and children later, in the midst of a farm share allotment that was a bit heavy on the cabbage, I learned how to make my own coleslaw. I use purple cabbage and extra dijon. I am awesome at making coleslaw.

I only read up to page 110 in that book, You Can't Go Home Again (which is why Thomas Wolfe's house burned down the night before I was scheduled to visit) but I think the title is the most important bit. I could never go home to Friendly's coleslaw. Or to the exact Friendly's where I first found with that crunchy, pickley taste; yesterday, driving around my old hometown with my oldest boy in the back seat I discovered a Dunkin Donuts parked on the spot where there used to be a Friendly's, where we used to celebrate school chorus concerts, where we went for lunch on certain Saturdays, where I'd walked up and down the stone wall that rose and fell beside the ice cream window. There's another Friendly's in town, up by the highway where most of the development of the last few years has fallen. We had lunch there a couple of years ago and while guiding my middle boy to the bathroom, infant hanging on one arm, I noticed a black and white photograph of a bakery with its name high in the window: Danforth's. There, amidst the near-tangible aroma of greasy of diner food, the smell of that bakery rose high in perception and I could have been three again, holding the weathered hand of my grandfather on his weekly trip to Danforth's. You may not be able to return home to your truest starting point, but stay open to evidence and it will find you: restaurant photographs, the cabbage on your counter.

I’m a Sort-of -Vegetarian, I think that’s the technical term. I eat poultry and seafood, but not pork or beef. During my senior year of high school my boyfriend bet me that I couldn’t go a year without eating meat. Never one to pass up a challenge, and having been heavily influenced by the Smith’s song “Meat is Murder,” I set about eating other types of protein over the course of the next twelve months. And vegetables, I made sure to include some of them in most meals. Though I am not one to take joy in a meatless menu, I do have a fondness for a variety of vegetables and have come to associate them with different memories and meals. Onions sautéing in the pan when I come home must mean we are having paninis, T wouldn’t eat a sandwich without them. Carrots are wonderful in a ginger soup, which happily no one will eat but me. I could eat bowl after bowl and never tire of the earthy orange broth. Green beans are best cooked on the stove with tomatoes, garlic and red pepper flakes--I have been known to pinch a flake or two too many. Tomatoes are lovely; especially the tiny ones that can be popped into your mouth, anticipating the flavorful explosion before your lips are closed. Corn on the cob, fresh picked, reminds me of Morning Glory farmstand and the ease at which it is cooked and then eaten. Yellow as the sun, chins dribbling with butter. I’m not a fan of cabbage, nor coleslaw or sauerkraut. Instead cabbages remind me of the now closed bookstore, Cabbages and Kings. We always stopped there during our vacations to the Cape. We visited right before it closed and it saddened me to know that kids wouldn’t go there anymore with fistfuls of change in order to buy themselves a ticket to a new world. It saddens me too to think of all that is lost, like my grandmothers recipes. I would love to have her knowledge of piroghis and Sunday soup and turkey ala king. If only I had the chance to sit down at her table I would eat Salisbury steak, meatloaf and even cabbage rolls.

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