From a member of the Silent Generation, for the new weekly challenge of Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist.)
Prompt 1: The First Time I Remember a Restaurant Dinner.
When a child back in the days of the Great Depression, during which we were actually better off than many families because my parents lived with my grandparents, who were solvent if not wealthy. Partly due to the living-in of my Great Grandmother, who owned the house in which they all lived. It was a big enough house to comfortably hold the whole family. Once my brother came along, in 1936, and my parents and I moved into rental housing of our own, we continued to spend a lot of time with the grandparents.
Few people during those years before World War II went out to restaurants for casual dinners, although there were various events like weddings or church groups, or lodge affairs, at which dinners were served.
I don’t remember going out for dinner at a restaurant until I was at least eight or nine years old, which would have been near the end of the 1940s. Then I recall a restaurant called Kaase’s… which was also a string of bakeries in the Cleveland area. The restaurant was known for its fine food, but as far as my memory goes the Star Attraction was the large tray of dinner rolls that was brought to the table from which we had choices of poppy-seed rolls, plain rolls in a variety of buns and twists, nut bread or bran muffins, and other bread dough delights. Being an incorrigible life-long bread enthusiast, that is my main memory of Kaase’s menu.
There was another restaurant nearby, which featured fish in various recipes…fried, broiled, deep-fried, seafood of various types. Of course the fish was served with french-fried potatoes (chips,) and other vegetables which were required fare.
All excursions to restaurants were in the late afternoon, early evening. Always it was my grandparents who took us out to eat in a restaurant, and they always included only one of us four children in the party at a time. Speaking for myself only, I always tried my best to show off my good manners…which included sitting up straight, ankles crossed nicely, no elbows on the table.
Ordering from the menu was encouraged, politeness at a premium, but no exotic choices, which meant reasonable care in ordering only what we knew we liked and would eat. Cost was a factor, of course. And as for that Kaase’s bread tray…the fact that the tray was laden with exquisite fancy rolls and luscious breads did not signal approval of helping myself to one of everything that appealed to me. It was necessary to choose…and that was very difficult for the little bread queen here. 🙂
In my young teens it was very rare to go out to eat with our parents. We did go out with friends or on dates to one of the few-and-far-between fast-food places…burgers and milkshakes if we had the money or else just an order of fries and a Coke to avoid being kicked out of the place for just hanging out. Real restaurant meals were an infrequent thing to me until after high school, and working in Cleveland. Even then financial restrictions limited activities that involved higher-class restaurants.