'Cheeseburger, fries and gravy' was the favourite order. While the smell of burgers sizzling on the grill wafted from the greasy kitchen, I would excuse myself to visit the bathroom. This unnecessary visit to the amenities was just to pass the time and to exercise the small amount of autonomy afforded a child of my age*. When I returned to our booth, usually my meal would be waiting for me.
The french fries and gravy would be piping hot and I'd have to eat some of my cheeseburger first to allow them to cool down. The burger never had lettuce and tomato, because Dad always said they were 'rabbit food', but for me it had to have a melted slice of processed cheese, a crisp dill pickle, dollops of ketchup and mustard and a smear of relish. When the fries and gravy had a chance to cool slightly, only then would I take a tentative bite. The gravy was always made from a packet, but had a familiar taste that I cannot seem to replicate in adulthood. If there was room for dessert, we'd have cherry pie made from canned cherries, and sometimes it would be 'à la mode', the ice cream melting in creamy pools over the warm flakes of pastry. Dad would always turn his plate so that the tip of the triangular slice was facing away from him. This was so that he could start from the crust edge combined with cherry goodness and wasn't left with a last bite of filling-less crust--logical if you think about it.
Dad would always have a cup of coffee in one of those thick white ceramic cups with a painted line circling the rim. His working man's hands would look out of place holding the child-sized handle of the cup, as he'd sip and return the cup to its saucer. He'd tease the waitresses good-naturedly, and after the meal he'd light a cigarette and chat with my mom about grown-up stuff that never interested me. I busied myself with daydreaming and make-believe, as I knew that once the meal was finished I was expected to wait patiently until they'd finished their casual conversation and it was time to go home.
There would often be country music playing as a backdrop to this comforting scene from my childhood, but today, I'm sharing, For Your Listening Pleasure, this song from Kristina Train. I've had this song tucked away for a while, listening it to it every now and then, not realising why I was drawn to it. But now I realise there are two reasons. First, is that the opening sounds a lot like the old music that I've always enjoyed despite its being from a musical era long before I was ever born. The second is that the video is set in a diner and it brings to mind all the sights and sounds of sharing a simple meal in a diner with my parents.
Do you have fond childhood memories of meals out with your family?
*My nine-year-old son has inherited this strange behaviour from me. At the moment, we cannot go to any public place without his asking to visit the loo, even if he's just been to the toilet before leaving home.