DINERS (A Foodie Blog)

Diner in Colorado Springs.

Image via Wikipedia

There are many reasons to love living in New York but one of  the most important, to me, are diners. I wish I was kidding. We lived in Boston for many years and as adorable as the city is, they lack traditional diners. Huge, flashing signs, mirrors showing off svelte/swelled bodies, booths and knowing you can get whatever you want at any time, day or night, 24/7.

Diners are PERFECT for different taste sensations and choices. You can go to a diner (sometimes called coffee shop) and order pancakes at dinnertime or a gyro at 3am. (Gyro: a Greek dish featuring  lamb or chicken, sliced thinly off of a huge vat with spices stuffed in a big pita pocket and topped with a Greek salad, chunks of sweaty, salty, white feta cheese, hold the olives please, oh and the green peppers.) You want lamb, we have that too, a BLT with cheese, coming right up.

There are easily 300 choices and if you don’t see it on the menu, you either don’t want it or you can ask for it and they will make it for you. You can mix and match and yes, even if you want the fruit cup instead of the french fries and have to add a couple of bucks (some diners are strict) it’s still okay. You want breakfast at midnight? No problem, order the scrambled eggs and bacon or the Belgium waffle, or the pancakes (regular or whole wheat) with chocolate chips or blueberries or both. Feel like something upscale? Eggs Benedict or an egg white omelette with grilled asparagus and red peppers. Your child will only eat grilled cheese and fries? That is always available for the little guys (and the big guys too.)

For an international flare I’ve had spinach burritos stuffed with chopped meat, mozzarella cheese and spices, with rice, avocados and sour cream. Do you miss the comfort of Thanksgiving? Have it on a hot day in July: the open-faced turkey sandwich with stuffing and cranberry sauce and thick brown gravy served with velvety mashed potatoes. Potato pancakes with applesauce? Sure. Fried clam strips, no problem, eggplant parmigian with roasted peppers, fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce served with a Caesar salad? Of course. Falafel and humus, gourmet salads, a wrap, a crêpe, a hard poppy-seed roll, blueberry muffin and…..well I could go on forever but that’s my point. The menus are endless and you get great quality at a cheap price.

Caution: leave room for dessert because diners are also known for their variety of pies: blueberry pie, lemon meringue pie, apple pie… and cakes: chocolate mousse cake, vanilla coconut cake, rainbow cookie cake, cheesecake, chocolate layer cake with nuts or without. They also have large cookies as big as salad plates with your choice of sprinkles, sugar, chocolate chips, oatmeal raisin, and black and whites. Your wish is their delight. Most places have three-tiered revolving dessert cases, talk about joy. Standing there watching your mouth-watering favorites spin around slowly.

Ever see the beverage section of a diner? That in itself is special. For me the egg creams (no, sigh, there are no eggs in egg creams, just seltzer, syrup and milk) it’s the amount of each that is so important! They also have milkshakes, malteds, ice cream sodas, regular and diet sodas (free refills at some places) lemonade, iced tea, and a whole page of alcoholic selections with funny, frou-frou names.

Can’t figure out a place where all the family members can agree? The answer, of course, is a diner. Gather some quarters, put them in the music box, listen to the tinny sound of The Beatles or Arrowsmith and have fun. When you go up to pay your bill, be ready to see a free cookie tray or chocolate covered mints to “thank you for coming” as you leave. By the way, the portions are so large that you never need to feel ashamed of asking for a doggie bag; at a diner, it’s delightfully de rigueur.

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Sadly, The Biggest Fibromyalgia Fog Ever (And Food)

Stairs.

Image by ЯAFIK ♋ BERLIN via Flickr

A few weeks ago on a Saturday morning, my husband woke us up from a deep sleep at 7:45 am, which on the weekends is basically the middle of the night. We went to meet his parents for brunch “in the middle” of our two houses in two different States. What I thought would be a one hour drive ended up being two hours for us. Two long hours, coiled like a bright pink hair scrunchy  in the front seat of a very small car. I didn’t move around in my seat, didn’t ask to stop the car so I could stretch, I just sat there like a block of white marble. Why? What was I thinking? Apparently, I was NOT thinking.

During the trip there I totally forgot that I had Fibromyalgia. How could I forget that I had a chronic illness? I really don’t know but that is exactly what happened. It didn’t occur to me until I felt locked in place and could not get out of the car. I couldn’t turn, I couldn’t extend my legs out, I couldn’t move and finally, the long, first step from the car to the pavement was pure agony.  It was the greatest Fibromyalgia Fog of all:  Blissfully forgeting I had Fibromyalgia…until we got there.  Had I remembered the illness I would have stopped every half hour to get out of the car, stand up and stretch. I should have been prepared, physically and mentally but I wasn’t. I just wanted to arrive at our destination. When we got there every inch of my body hurt like thousands of razor blades performing a pain symphony.

We walked up a long winding, flight of stairs, my new arch-enemy, to get to the restaurant we were going to for the brunch buffet. I looked up the winding staircase and had no idea how I would be able to get up. Being stubborn and independent I clutched the banister with the strength I had left, my stiff legs and knees protesting at every step; I walked like a small child, one step with both feet at a time. I realized anew that Fibromyalgia is a horrible, debilitating disease and forgetting about it entirely was a terrible burden for my body and my feelings; I felt stupid and embarrassed. “Loser” I muttered to myself.

Finally upstairs we were treated to a lovely meal. The brunch was a buffet, a man played the piano, my teenagers were well-behaved, there were mimosas available and it looked festive. We feasted on made-to-order omeletes, mine with mushrooms and cheese. On display were cinnamon buns with drizzled, sweet vanilla icing. They served eggs benedict. an array of cheeses and fresh vegetables and Belgium waffles with a vat of whipped cream and another close by filled with bright red, plump strawberries. They had croissants and rolls and blueberry muffin tops coated with brown sugar. They had serving stations of steak with horseradish mayonnaise and grilled sirloin, all too carnivorous for me so early in the day. There were smoked salmon platters and my personal favorite, a lovely poached pear, the color of burgandy, with brie and walnuts.

Once we were finished I dreaded walking down my nemisis, the evil staircase. I had to take a deep breath with every painful inch that I could move. Each step sent electric shocks down my legs, my hands were red and swollen, as if arthritis had landed in my body unannounced. I stayed behind the family this time and managed with one hand to clutch the banister down and with the assistance of my husband holding on to my other arm. I felt like a 95 year old grandma and while I appreciated my husband’s help, I loathe that I need it. I don’t like feeling dependent, at all. The food cheered me up, it was lovely and presented gorgeously. I tried to remember that and not getting there or going home. Next time, please, someone remind me so I can avoid a Fibro Fog as stupid as this one.