Mae's Real Stories

Memories for Miriam, Alice, Theo, Delia, Tessa and anyone else who would like to be here

Friday, November 03, 2006



My mother made hamburgers, meatloaf, chicken, steak, spaghetti and meatballs, salmon croquettes, and lots of other normal foods. We all ate dinner at the kitchen table together every night. We ate whatever my mother cooked: usually meat, potatoes, vegetables, salad, and bread. When she made hamburgers she put onions in the meat, except she made one for Arny without onions: he hated onions.

Our cousin Chuckie was about the same age as Elaine. When we were pretty young, sometimes Chuckie and his sister and parents "dropped in" at our house on Sunday afternoon (meaning nobody knew they were coming over). My mother would invite them to eat dinner at our house. Chuckie's mother didn't think he could chew normal food, so while my mother was cooking, Chuckie's parents would go to a hamburger place named White Castle to get his dinner.

White Castle looked like a little castle made of shiny white stuff. It was near the Wabash railroad station -- not close to our house. Sometimes some of us kids would go along to get the hamburgers. We would get a big bag of little hamburgers for Chuckie and for the rest of us kids too. My parents thought that Chuckie was being spoiled, but they didn't argue when his mother did this.

"How many do you want?" Chuckie's mother would ask everyone. The hamburgers were so little that even kids could eat more than one. My mother and father didn't want any. The hamburgers were little and greyish with half-cooked onions on them, and my parents didn't like them. I thought they were ok. At that time our family never, never went to any restaurants, so I also thought going to White Castle and getting a bag full of hot hamburgers on little buns with funny onions was a good change from eating food that my mother had cooked. I don't know what Elaine and Arny thought.

When we were older, my parents, Elaine, Arny and I would all get in the car and go to a drive-in restaurant called Steak and Shake. We all liked the hamburgers, french fries, and chocolate milk shakes there. A waiter called a car-hop came to the car and found out what you wanted to eat. Then he or she brought your order on a tray that fastened on the car window.

We all ate our food sitting in the car, trying to be neat and not drop food on the seats. Each hamburger was wrapped up in a little square piece of wax paper. The milkshakes were in big, thick drinking glasses with a straw. You would put all the paper and glasses back on the tray to be picked up when you finished eating. I don't think those little pillows of catsup had been invented yet.

Finally, much later, McDonalds opened a restaurant near our house. It looked a little like the one in the picture. My father liked McDonalds even better than Steak and Shake. He thought the hamburgers were good and a fair price. At that time, there weren't any chairs and tables in McDonalds, just a take-out window on the outside of the building.

McDonald's still makes hamburgers pretty much like the ones that we first tasted there, but also makes lots of much bigger burgers now: the Quarter Pounder and the Big Mac. I think that they are much better than those White Castle burgers.

I still like Steak 'n Shake, but there aren't any near us in Pennsylvania. This May when we were on our way to see Elaine and Larry in Indiana, we stayed in a motel in Ohio right next to a Steak 'n Shake, so we walked there for supper. The hamburgers were good, as always. One new thing that I've only seen a couple of times is a special half-and-half shake. Somehow the two flavors are NEXT to each other rather than one being on top and one being on the bottom. By the time I've had a hamburger and fries and some cole slaw or baked beans, I don't have room for a shake, so I don't know how the new ones are, but they look interesting.
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