WHAT IS THIS BLOG ALL ABOUT?
This BLOG is all about food. Ever since I can remember I've had a special relationship with food. Like they say: When we're happy we eat, when we're sad, we eat! When we celebrate we eat again.
I grew up in a very food oriented household. Back then dinner time was always at home around the dinner table. My father always nestled a bottle of chianti beside his chair, which was at the head of the table. My seat was to his right and my mother was on his left, in the seat closest to the kitchen. My older brother and sister sat in the other chairs.
You would think, like most families, my mother was the chef. She did a fair portion of the cooking and we all enjoyed many of her special dishes. But the real cook was my father. Born in Italy, he had a natural way around the kitchen and although he was never officially trained as a cook he made the best spaghetti sauce in the world.
I spent many Sundays, as a youngster, sitting on the kitchen floor with what seemed like a hundred little cans of tomato sauce and tomato paste surrounding me. My father believed that the tiny cans held the most flavor inside and refused to use the larger cans for fear that they would spoil the pot! My job was to open each can and hand them to my father as he meticoulously added them to the pot along with his special formula of herbs and spices
The pot sat on the stove all day. Slowly bubbling and filling the house with the most delightful aroma of garlic, oregano, basil and more. Sometimes he would surprise us by throwing in a few pounds of cubed chuck roast . Sometimes it was chicken. He tried several different combinations.
When he felt the sauce was ready, (he always called it sauce, not gravy as you hear on tv) he would invite us into the kitchen to dunk a piece of bread and take a taste. Smoking from the heat like it was on fire, we held the bread with our fingertips and blew slowly to cool it down before popping it into our waiting mouths.
The sauce made a deep impression in our meals. We had evey type of spaghetti imaginable. Ziti, rigatoni, fusilli, liguini, penne, conchigliette (shells), or my favorite: plain old spaghetti #9.
Sometimes the pasta with meat would be our main course and the rest of the week we used up the leftovers as side dishes. When the spaghetti ran out we had white rice with tomato sauce or something else with tomato sauce to compliment our meals.
Each dinner was followed by our traditional salad consisting of escarole with red kidney beans in a garlic, vinegarette dressing. We kids would argue over who got the salad bowl to mop up the last of the dressing with a piece of Italian bread.
WHERE DID THE NAME COME FROM?
While travelling thru the backwoods of Alabama, back in the day, or the BC I always say, meaning Before Computers, I passed a sign advertising a greasy spoon up ahead. It was still dinner time and I've always had a penchant for independent, out of the way, mom and pop style diners, so I decided to take a rest from the highway and eased into the parking lot.
The faded blue letters printed on the buidling invited me in: "Home of the White Plate Special." A friendly waitress seated me with an ice filled glass of water in her hand. In addition to my eating hardware, the small square four top held salt and pepper, an overly full napkin holder, ketchup and a bottle of hot pepper vinegar.
"What's the best thing ya'll have?" I asked, half expecting the usual reply, "everything on the menu."
But I didn't get it this time. Without hesitation and without looking up from her dimestore order pad the waitress quickly replied "the White Plate Special."
I noticed a sign on the wall tauting the Blue Plate Special.
What's on the Blue Plate Special?" I asked, knowing that almost every diner had something they called the Blue Plate Special.
"Roast beef with gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, a drink and your choice of dessert. All for $4.95" was her response.
"And the White Plate Special......?" I asked.
Why would they have two specials but a different price, I thought? Must be one has more food on the plate. So I asked.
She answered that it was the same amount of food on both; the same exact food, cooked the same way.
Now I was really perplexed. Scratching my head, to show I was confused, I asked why then, was there a difference in the price?
She started with a smile that turned into a chuckle and finally a laugh and said, "When you're through with the White Plate Special, we wash the plate?
Blue Plate Special: The American Diner CookbookCooking, Food & Wine Books)