STATEN ISLAND, NY – Last week’s column focused on family summer vacations and the topic drew some nice feedback from our small food community. Your stories were highly appreciated and it is amazing how many of us share similar experiences. (Go, Lake Lake people and descendants of the “Board of Ed”!)
Based on your interest, let’s dive into a nostalgia for hotter weather and, as my mom would say, let’s just go with the flow and see where it leads us.
This flow leads us to a time of fondly remembered family routines, back when WPAT FM was “Easy 93” playing “beautiful music” – aka easy listening – all day long. This will serve as a backdrop to our history. They were quiet, fresh and stress-free days with Grandma filled with happy rituals. In sunny weather, we would hit the pool of the retirement community, which pulled the grandparents out at 1pm Then, we would return home for a quiet lunch in the sunroom with orchestral versions of Barry Manilow and Karen Carpenter playing on the radio.
Grandma’s food roll in the summer included tuna fish or egg salad made with chopped celery and onions on whole wheat bread. Sometimes she cooks bacon strips in the toaster oven for BLT. But restaurants were my grandmother’s real strengths. She did not like to cook and an Early Bird Special was a good way to end the day. We would dress up for dinner – always a skirt and white shoes if between Memorial Day and Labor Day – and set off to find our evening meal.
With our routines: Monday through Thursday were easy days to reach an agreement focused on the main ribs – comprehensive shebang could be had for $ 15 or less. Chicken was not an option. Grandmother thought beef or fish choices were the best value.
In the car we would go for dinner to places like Wall Street, a classic ’80s place that can be compared to an Applebee mixed with Pennyfeathers. (This is the former Pennyfeather of New Dorp Lane for those who may recall the purple-themed restaurant with the sunroom.)
Wall Street was one of Aunt Alia’s favorite places. Although with the mentality of Aunt Alice “The Great Depression”, as my mother called it, I can not say that the restaurant returned her love. With Aunt Alisa, accompanied by Uncle Larry on occasion, everything on the table was fair play – sugar packs, parts-controlled spices, wet sleep, tea bags, you call it. Aunt Alisa ate slowly but carried a large bag.
Once when we were on Wall Street, Aunt Alisa finished her salad and showed us the clean plate. She said, “Look, Larry, if we get this we’ll have a set!”
Aunt Alice was my grandmother’s older sister. And Lillian and Alice together were just hilarious. They would be frivolous about everything. And as soon as my aunt Alice started laughing, that would be the end of them – in the car, in the pool, at dinner … even in church, for better or worse – all completely dissolved in giggles ponds. After a glass of wine, Aunt Alice really opened the humor.
A well-remembered conversation on Wall Street was the time Lil and Alice took a bus from Greenbriar to Manhattan to see a Wednesday matinee. They could not take seats in any of the most popular shows and settled on something called “O, Calcutta”. Minutes after the show, as Aunt Alice recalled, “The actors took off their clothes!” Lil and Alice were stunned and laughing so much that they had to leave the theater. Back on the bus they went, returning to the tranquility of the Greenbriar pension community, where Sinatra sang Bossa Nova in the background.
Like I said, in those days we went with the flow. Grandma is almost 103 years old, so I think the routines and this attitude have served us all. Now, let’s start the band for some elevator music and let go of those old times – slowly, peacefully and filled with Patti Page.
Family summer vacation and a smorgasbord everything you can eat | Pamela Food Service Diary
Summer Heat, Warm Nostalgia: When Time (and Meals) Moved Slower in NYC
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