Izzy (and Mama) Eat: The Gourmand Grows up...

Tales of Empty Nesting ...The Next Chapter

Monday, December 15, 2008

Eating Great-Grandpa Style: The Edison Diner

Izzy's great-grandpa does not get out much, save for a weekly visit to his favorite restaurant, The Edison Diner. I have been able to avoid going there as he usually makes a weekly visit there with a kind friend who visits him nearly every Tuesday. When we visit, I usually bring something for us to eat with him at home.

This past visit, our usual routine was interrupted. My brother G. and my nephew D., visited at the same time so they decided Grandpa would like a trip to the diner. It was an outing. One I would sooner forget.

Once seated in our cramped booth (Grandpa insisted), I shuddered at the thought of what Izzy might eat there and searched for the least offensive choices on the menu. I offered him the choice of a veggie burger or grilled cheese sandwich. He chose the burger (as did his uncle) so I had the sandwich. Grandpa ordered Matzoh-Ball soup and fries. White food. What picky children like...

My nephew D., now 12, ordered several dishes from the menu, a burger, an egg sandwich and a Belgian waffle. I watched in amazement as he consumed everything in sight.

Everyone seemed thrilled with their choices (especially Izzy who was starving since it was nearly three p.m before lunch was served). He probably would have eaten whatever was put in front of him but it still pained me to watch him grab at my grandpa's greasy fries and take pleasure in that awful food.

As I sat, begrudgingly eating my grilled cheese, I thought about the countless people who flock to diners and why... I also wondered what Alice Waters would have done if her grandfather insisted on eating at a diner. "Bring your own olive oil" would have been of no use there...


Bean's Mum said...

Two things:

1. I interviewed to waitress at that diner after college. It seemed a proper way to slum it before getting a real job. I never actually took the job.

2. There does seem to be a real appeal to diners. A NJ thing? An everyone-knows-your-name phenomenon? I have waitressed at two others in Ocean County and sometimes I wondered if just the sheer choice of the large menus ("Where on earth will those cooks pull moussakka [sp?] from?") was the appeal.

Anonymous said...

Awww, it's OK, Lynn. Chalk it up to a New Jersey cultural experience.

I will say that I was *horrified* at how many of my former co-workers rotated through a different diner or "family-style" restaurant every night of the week. I'm thirsty and bloated for days after a meal like that ... can't imagine what it would be like to eat that way all the time.

Izzy's Mama said...

Bean's Mum: If only the food were good! There are some old-fashioned diners that do have good eats but most are mills of industrially produced foods. The land of bland. Though my brother claims to have eaten a "crisp" salad there.

Eileen: I know..just watching Izzy eat those fries pained me. And as you said I did feel rather bloated and awful after the meal.

Anonymous said...

Lynn, Lynn, Lynn….

I always get so dismayed when I open your blog to read the day’s entry and find that the tale of the day is radiating snobby, negative tones. Surely you must realize that your tales are at their best when they are full of the joy of food.

If being a foodie can only mean being a food zealot (which can range from fervent to militant), then I think foodies miss the forest while worrying about every single tree. Food is about freshness and quality and paying attention to what one eats, but food is also about fellowship. Food almost always tastes better when eaten in good company.

You described your Edison Diner outing as one you would sooner forget. That is sad. The number of meals left with your aging grandpa is dwindling. Wasn’t it more important to take joy in going out with him, in being with him, in watching him enjoy the meal he chose, rather than your ‘shuddering at thought of the food’, your worrying about ‘the least offensive thing,’ you ‘begrudgingly’ choosing an item of ‘awful food?’ You made it all about your view of the food, and not about Grandpa and what he wanted.

My aunt is 90. She eats a lot of bananas. She has arthritis in her fingers, so she doesn’t eat much meat any more because she can’t cut it. She orders a grilled cheese when taken out for lunch because it is easy to chew. She would feel uncomfortable in a nice restaurant for all of these reasons, so it is not so hard to understand why your Grandpa would choose to go to the diner. One can be anonymous. One can order something simple. And one can (joyfully) cram into a booth to feel happy and safe and surrounded by warm family or friends. (I am sure that is why he insisted.)

I would love for you to write a second blog entry on this topic where you describe your joy in spending time with him, and where you share your observations of his enjoyment of his meal, however quirky his choices were.

When being a foodie translates into demeaning the food choices of others, or making others feel bad about what they eat, then I say organic-schmanic.

The teacher with the cupcake tale a few days ago was another example of chastising others for their food choices. In this case, her wanting to give Izzy the cupcake and his eagerness to go back for it, seemed much more important (a shared human moment) than the cupcake itself.

It is important to teach children about making smart choices in food. But I have to believe, that there are times and situations when human emotions have to prevail over ingredients. For this blog reader, learning and showing tolerance and kindness are more important than worrying about eating one sweet cupcake or having an occasional meal at a diner.

Izzy's Mama said...

Miss B: Believe me when I tell you that this was not an outing worthy of a second post. Izzy and I gain greater pleasure watching grandpa eat the foods we bring him to eat in his own home. There was much more to this day than I chose to describe in my post.

Of course I agree that there are certainly moments to revel in food and the sharing of food with others. I explain this to mothers regarding eating with their children, all of the time.

Eating is certainly a social activity. Izzy, Grandpa and I have shared many pleasureable food moments at his own table. I would prefer to relish those.

My blog is not only for quaint tales of food but to get people to think about how and what they eat. I realize I should have handled the cupcake incident differently and said so in the comments.

I feel no qualms about enlightening people concerning their unhealthy food choices. My goal is not to demean but to point out that there is a better way. Sometimes it is seemly a matter of being pointed in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Miss B here. You've really gotten to be too condescending, I think. You need to have a "program of attraction" instead of lecturing, minimizing and belittling people and their choices. I understand that this is YOUR blog but, in my opinion, that is all this blog is about - you, not really food. Surely you have more depth. Maybe you should figure out why you need to keep people at a distance to feel good about yourself.
Sorry if these words are harsh, but I'd like more from your blog!