Monday Late Autumn

Lilac Bushes Dec. 14, 2020

I hope to address food in my autobiography by putting a dozen or so recipes in an appendix. That won’t be enough.

My earliest memory of food is from when we lived at the Fillmore Street duplex. I walked through the screen door from Grandmother’s kitchen, outside to the rear porch, and smelled cooking grease coming from Riefe’s Restaurant across the alley. I was a toddler. Insofar as Riefe’s became a recurring theme in my life, until it closed in 2015, I plan to write more about it and what we did there. For example, when I was an altar boy a friend and I went there for breakfast after serving Mass. A group of men from Northwest Bank across the street often met in the basement while we were there.

I’ll mention Happy Joe’s Pizza, not for the stores, but the story about Joe Whitty and his family living two doors down from our American Foursquare when he first came to town and worked at Mercy Hospital. He next worked at Shakey’s Pizza where my pals and I from Turn-Style would go after a shift. I don’t have a memory of actually eating in a Happy Joe’s Pizza restaurant, although I’ve been in his ice cream stores plenty of times.

In my files from the 1980s there are lists of types of meals and meal settings. There is plenty of material. Spargel in Mainz, my uncle’s coffee shop in Davenport, military food, fast food, catered food, Mom’s food, Grandmother’s food, the Deaton Diner… there is a lot.

There are also many snippets of writing like this:

Notes on Funeral Meals

A person at work went to his grandfather’s funeral. He chose to talk about food when I asked him about it. All home cooked, not like at Perkins.There were all kinds of food, main dishes, vegetables, desserts. They held it at the Lion’s Club after the burial.They had to hire a hall. He said the most significant aspect of it was going back to the table for food three times.

Personal Papers, undated, early 1980s

The broader narrative is not about food, though. To the extent food played a role beyond sustenance, it will be used as a narrative device which contributes to the main story. Like a pasta sauce, the volume needs to be reduced for it to be palatable.