Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I wish there were a diner

Growing up in New York, we would occasionally visit a diner. There were several within striking distance of home and innumerable others by the road if you traveled farther afield. Many of these still exist today - in New York.

I confess I haven't been lately, but back in the day these were simply remarkable places. They somehow managed to bake (at least many of) their own pastries, cookies, and pies - generally at a high level of quality. These baked goods were real treats. I knew people who would travel to their favorite diner just for a cookie and a cup of coffee. And, believe me, it wasn't the coffee they were drawn to.

These diners tended to have remarkably, improbably, outlandishly broad menus and yet somehow, against all odds - the quality was generally good. And they did breakfast food worth paying for. French toast - thick eggy challah triangles. Hash - once upon a time even this was real. Pancakes with homemade and sometimes even interestingly distinctive batters. The people who owned and operated these temples of simple food done right were people of integrity and spirit. They delivered miracles at all hours for a few bucks.

As I said earlier, I haven't been back lately - and maybe things are as they were - albeit certainly more expensive. But who cares - if they're still turning out the real thing I salute them.

But outside New York - at least here in Massachusetts - I've never seen anything even approximately like the diners I remember. There are places that make a point of styling themselves as New York Diners, but - in my reliably traumatic experience - where food is concerned they have always failed in every respect.

I am noshstalgic - I wish there were a diner.

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