where life and lunch meet

All posts tagged where life and lunch meet

Okay, so I admit it.  I missed a day.  I messed up.  I was at a convention and I just missed a post.  So in order to make up for it, I will write the post I missed yesterday and do another post on Dancing Deer baked goods.  Hopefully that will make things right.

With that being said, I wanted to talk about:

Comfort Food

If you know me at all, you know I have issues with the term “comfort food”.  In my mind, it’s too close to “stress eating” or “eating when unhappy”.  That’s bad, mmm kay?

However, with that being said, there is something about eating the certain foods that can  get you through a rough spot or an illness or just take you back to happier times.  I know when I get sick, all I want is hot and sour soup and wontons.  When I visit my grandma, I want her chicken and noodles.

Dancing Deer CEO Trish Karter’s ride to raise awareness for family homelessness got me thinking about comfort foods.  As she talks with women across the country struggling with homelessness, she is going to ask them about the foods they miss.  I never thought about it before, but if I am homeless, the chances of getting my favorite comfort foods are pretty much out the door.

I mean does the Chinese delivery guy go the shelter?  Would there be a communal stove to make chicken and noodles or tuna fish patties and noodles for my wife?  I’m guessing not.

It’s adding insult to injury that people who are homeless, even if they can find food, probably have little to no chance of having their comfort food.  In the grand scheme of things, not being able to have their favorite meal may seem like the least of their worries.  Still, think about the last time you struggled with the bills (let alone getting tossed out on the street)…wouldn’t your favorite treat have given you a moment’s respite against the worries of the day?

All I can hope is that for the few women that Ms. Karter talks to (few in the grand scheme of the larger problem), she can provide some comfort.  Carrying around a load of brownies on her bike might not be feasible, but it is my sincere hope that those she talks to might get their own bag of brownies in the mail like the ones Dancing Deer sent me.

Sometimes a little comfort can go along way.

So last week I got the chance to eat at The American Restaurant where I had a pretty darn good meal (read my review here.  I actually used the word supercalifragilisticexpealidocious.)  And while Chef Debbie Gold was the star of the evening, there someone else whose company I found very enjoyable: Mister Willie, who has tended bar at The American from the day it opened thirty-five years ago.  In fact, he was handpicked by the owners for the position even before the restaurant opened.

Willie is everything you would expect a man who had worked thirty-five years in one of Kansas City’s finest dining establishments to be: calm, courteous, patient, and quick with a story.  He was more than game for the challenge of keeping my water glass full.

When we weren’t sitting and listening to the piano player fill the restaurant with soft melodies, he and I talked about food and life.  He told me how he taught himself to cook and where to buy a deep fried turkey.  He told me about his grandkids.  All his grandkids. 

We talked about the twelve to fifteen chefs (by his recollection) who had run the kitchen since it opened (he gave thumbs up to Chef Gold) and we talked about the interior design of the restaurant.  He assured me that The American looks now how it did when it opened and that it would look the same fifty years from now.

Chef Gold taught me about lamb belly, molecular gastromy, and ramps.  Willie taught me about the restaurant’s soul.  I am deeply grateful to both.

I don’t think there are many Willies left.  Do you anyone who has worked in the same place for the last thirty-five years?  How about someone who has worked at the same place six nights per week from the afternoon until the late hours of the night?

No, probably not many Willies left.  But for now, you, too, can meet Willie and shake his hand.  He’ll serve you with a kind word and he’ll hum to the piano whether he realizes it or not.  In all the glamor, finery, and great food that is The American, Willie will be at the top of the steps, keeping people’s drink glasses full and their faces smiling.

And despite the spectacular view, when next I go to The American, I’ll be sorely tempted to take my seat at the bar instead of at the table so that I can talk some more with Mister Willie.