It is entirely possible that Littleton, New Hampshire is the pancake capital of the Northeastern United States.
The Littleton Diner uses buckwheat from a gristmill down the street for their thin and gritty pancakes. Real maple syrup costs an extra 50 cents; after all, Littleton is eight and a half miles south of the Vermont State Line. The town nestles in the north-east cradle of Interstate-93. There is a Hampton Inn, a Walgreens, one human cemetery, one horse cemetery (where Maud and Mollie Wallace, Mrs. Eli Wallace’s horses, currently reside), and a railroad depot. The Ammonoosuc River flows soft and still below the babble of tourists ogling Chutters: The World’s Longest Candy Counter. Drowsy from the mountain air and rich food, fat old folks and grandchildren straddle the sidewalks. It is a sleepy town punctuated (or punctured) by the occasional skateboard punk or hobo. After a pancake dinner, you might want to waddle to Bishop’s Homemade Ice Cream. A scoop of maple nut does not cost more than any other, despite the long walk to proper sugaring grounds. Continue reading
Sunset Park smells like barber’s lather and masa.
I went for breakfast on a Saturday, just as the barbershops started opening for business. Electric clippers, the faintest match strike of a razor strop, rumba on the radio; but I smelled the shaving cream first.
These are my morning smells: black coffee, dried figs, the clean emptiness of yogurt, which has no smell at all, and is intended to fertilize the bowels with cleanliness, and Gillette shaving cream. I am always thirsty for coffee in the morning, as soon as I wake up, and smell someone walking past on the sidewalk with a cup from a corner donut cart. Then, my mouth and nose water and I want coffee. I have not shaved in a few weeks, so I cannot honestly say I miss the scent of shaving cream. I can experience shaving well enough from the voyeur’s vantage point. Continue reading
Two skinny cooks, backwards baseball caps and shriveled biceps, split buttermilk biscuits, fry them on the flattop, and slop them on fake china. Thick glutinous gravy ladled over biscuits: medicinal when taken beyond the brunch hour. Nevermind the inch of snow shutting down St. Louis County—I hunkered down in the Olivette Diner, drinking coffee, eating fatty ham, safe from white collar traffic. My biscuits cost three dollars, a cheap prescription for comfort. A perceptible layer of grease coats everything in the diner, from teal vinyl seats to the saltshakers. Once called the Riteway, “the Diner”—as I have always known it—lays a small claim on history. Head East, “the Midwest’s Legendary Classic Rock Band,” photographed the back cover of Flat as a Pancake behind the counter. The album’s front, of course, depicts a beautifully browned pancake complete with melting butter pat and maple syrup. I wolfed down BLTs three decades after the diner’s Riteway days, but the menus, manual cash register, and malteds cling to past allure—not during long thin days (of construction workers eating hash and lonely business lunches), but at night, hot September nights after soccer games in the park, after the roar of mosquitos drowned out sneakers scuffling on dry grass. Continue reading
by Jonathan May
Clinton St. Baking Company is a haven for your taste buds located on the Lower East Side, where good conversation brews and sinfully delicious food soothes your soul. Its seating is comfortable enough that you and your friends can catch up on each other’s lives, and yet intimate enough that you can eavesdrop on the table next to you and find out the city’s latest scandalous gossips. It is imperative that you refuse the menu and demand the Wild Maine Blueberry Pancakes with Warm Maple Butter as soon as you set foot in this luncheon hotspot, for it would be nothing but a crime to keep anyone from those pancakes for even one extra second. Continue reading
When I arrived at Columbia, the first thing I did was drop my bags in my new dorm room. The second thing I did was stand in line at Absolute Bagel for twenty minutes. 9:38 a.m. and it was time for breakfast, a meal that reasserts its persistent necessity every morning hour. Since I eat breakfast three or four times a day, I like to try novel dishes. A serving of Pride and Prejudice, a scoop of cheesy grits, and a generous helping of The Red and the Black, green figs, yogurt, coffee, very black. Enough for first breakfastses. There’s a new item on the Absolute menu, a whole wheat everything bagel. I ordered it out of psychotic compulsion. Waiting to fork over my greasy creased $1 bill, I palmed the brown paper bag: baby’s breath hot, an auspicious sign for crusty bagel skin and steaming doughy meat. After a three month stretch of sobriety, a New York bagel fix felt so wrong, felt so right—on the sidewalk, I dragged the bagel from its bag and took an eyes-closed bite. Grunting in pleasure, I weaved between pedestrians oblivious to my Absolute high. I liked it. My dendrites untied their own knots; my fingers flexed off onion garlic and sesame scent like a ballerina unlacing pointe shoes from ankle to metatarsal, unwinding pink ribbons in little curls around the thumb.
Bill Livant, author of untidy Marxist monologues like “The Dialectics of Walking on Two Legs,” published a piece in Science & Society titled “The Hole in Hegel’s Bagel.” Continue reading
After I watched Smoke Signals for the first time, I sat in the dark and thought about Thomas Builds-the-Fire’s breakfast story:
Hey Victor! I remember the time your father took me to Denny’s, and I had the Grand Slam Breakfast. Two eggs, two pancakes, a glass of milk, and of course my favorite, the bacon. Some days, it’s a good day to die. And some days, it’s a good day to have breakfast. Continue reading
Michael Symon cooks with soul. Or so Michael Ruhlman famously proposes in his book The Soul of a Chef, and so Food Network has carefully engineered his “brand” over the past years. Supposedly Symon, a Food & Wine Best New Chef 1998 and member of the Iron Chef America cast, inflects his food with boisterous energy that leaves little room for subtlety. He is a gentle giant, shaven head, booming smile that shows too much tooth. He is, to employ the cliché, larger than life. While no longer in the kitchen at Lola every night, his presence looms over the menu and casts a shadow across the dimly lit dining room. Lola belongs to Symon, he possesses her, and thus his celebrity chefhood never feels phony. Although the restaurant, much like Symon’s television personality, feels overly tweaked, an admirable layer of authenticity persists. If Symon himself appears absent, his soul remains present, lending the food itself a similar degree of depth.
The best diners are the dirtiest.
Determining the authenticity of a diner proves difficult in a town like Cooperstown; a proliferation of tourist traps confuse the eye and bewilder the tongue; main street, three ice cream parlors, a wax museum of baseball legends, the hall of fame: everything dances wildly between the bases of reality. Nevertheless, somewhere between the Triple Play Café and a hidden ballpark hot dog joint the Cooperstown Diner takes a daring leap. No gimmicks, no cheap tricks, no sideshow thrills. This diner is “dirty”—the tablecloths feel waxy and get a quick wipedown after each guest (a hint of stickiness remains), and dinge crowds the walls with a veneer of shabbiness. A fly buzzes idly and then nosedives into a recently poured cup of coffee, drowning. The Cooperstown Diner feels dirty without the actual grime, age and wear accumulating a palpable presence. It is deliciously authentic.
I finally yielded to practicality and decided to head home, back to the Midwest and the Mississippi.
Although I engaged the assistance of a few contacts, no concrete opportunities arose. With the days ticking away till my inevitable departure from the city for Vermont, continuing the search seemed useless. This morning, I went to El Castillo de Jagua for breakfast, a gritty Dominican diner serving regulars and hungover hipsters alike. Crouched over a plate of mangu, boiled green plantains, I felt a twinge in my stomach. While the thick, olive tinted mash topped with pickled red onions and two fried eggs probably contributed to my brief gastronomic distress, I attributed this sensation to failure. Proof of the James-Lange theory of emotion? A firm no. Reason to question my homecoming? A tentative yes. Continue reading