Saturday, May 17, 2008

1962, your table is ready.

What better way to kick off the long weekend than with a trip down memory lane? Not my lane mind, but my mother’s. I was just along for the ride and I am glad I was. Friday morning found the parents, sister and I flying along the back roads of southwestern Ontario towards Lake Erie.

I use the word ‘flying’ as lead-foot Mitchell was at the wheel and managed to get stopped by the Old Piss Pots (aka the O.P.P.). He was 25km over but since he “seems to be such a nice guy” the rather cute officer of the law, dropped it to 10km over. No points, just the $40 fine. As we pulled back onto the road, we agreed that if we had no appetizer with lunch, the ticket would be covered. We made the best of it and headed for Port Dover.

Not far from there, at Turkey Point, is where my mother’s family had their summer cottage. Port Dover was one of the stops they used to make on the way. On a regular trip, it was for foot long hot dogs and orange soda. On a special trip, it was to stop at the Erie Beach Hotel for their “World Famous” perch and salads. All trips included a stop at the local bakery where my great-grandfather would take 20 minutes to buy a loaf of bread. Actually, the bread only took one minute. The other 19 were spent in the neighbouring bar having a drink or two before getting back behind the wheel. Ahhhhh, the good old days. My mom, sister and Nana sat in the car waiting for the bread.

Ticket aside, we managed to make our reservation. As I stepped into the Erie Beach Hotel’s “most formal dining room” a wave circa 1962 washed over me. The waitresses were all in starched, crisp white uniforms, the walls were a pastel pink/peach colour, faux vines climbed the walls and the chairs were covered with a pea green/yellow ultra-suede type material. Napkins were folded into little hats and vases of pink carnations with baby's breath adorned the tables.

Already on the table were their five “world famous” (they had a few such items on the menu) salads. There was cucumber salad with a dressing of sour cream AND Miracle Whip, coleslaw, bean salad, horseradish salad (yes, that's right) and a large plate of assorted pickled items (including a yummy pickled pumpkin). But the pièce de rèsistance was the Sunshine Salad; 4 cups of sour cream, 500g of tiny marshmellows, ½ C. shredded coconut, 1 tin of pineapple chunks and 2 tins of mandarin orages. Did I say 1962? I meant 1952.

How do I know the recipe? Well, I asked and they gave them to me – for all five salads! So much for secret recipes!

Of course with all those bad ingredients, it tasted incredibly good! It was just a well we agreed to no appetizers because the salads alone were a meal. The “world famous” celery bread certainly earned its reputation. SOOOOO GOOD! Hot, soft, crisp edges covered in butter – yummy!

Since we were on butter, miracle whip and sour cream, we didn’t hold back on the tartar sauce when our fried perch arrived. And we didn’t say no to pecan pie when it was offered. Suffice it to say, we could have walked home and still been stuffed! We managed a brief walk around the beach and out on the pier. The town was clearly gearing up for Friday, June 13th as we saw several shops selling Harley Davidson t-shirts proclaiming the big day. Apparently every Friday the 13th, the town is over run with biker gangs?

I tried to picture the Cove Room waitresses serving pickled pumpkin to leather clad bikers and have to say I am tempted to go back just to see that.

On the way home, mom pointed out this place and talked of fond memories. She pointed out that she was starting to sound like her mother. Reading the street signs to us to make sure we didn’t miss anything. Pointing out the hotdog stand were you could get a foot long – the sign proudly boasting of 85 seasons of being in business and many other childhood memories.

As she spoke, I remembered the lyrics from the sunscreen song “Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.”

Mom and Dad, thanks for sharing and letting me get to know you. Next time, we hit the hotdog stand and Julie’s buying!


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