Sunday, January 3, 2016

Food Privileged - Hotel Dining





I grew up in a food privileged household of the 1950's.

As a child, my mother's cultural activities took us to to the major cities of the day... Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Newark and of course New York.....   all of which were treasure troves of wondrous foods and uncommon tastes.  We stayed in the finest hotels for days and days.  Imagine a child growing up so food privileged!  

We'd breakfast in our room on a polished, wooden table that had been wheeled from the kitchen many floors below. The table was covered with a heavy damask cloth of the purest white which reached the floor to hide the wheels.  The over-starched, over-sized napkins practically covered my whole body instead of just my child-sized lap. 

There, on the table set out before for us, were tiny porcelain egg cups each holding a single, perfectly prepared soft boiled egg - one for me and two for my mother.   Lightly toasted, richly buttered English muffins (a trendy food of the day) snuggled along side waiting to be drizzled with honey or marmalade.   The orange juice at these grand hotels was always freshly squeezed - never from a bottle.  

Like the English muffins, grapefruit was also a trendy food, so there were hot broiled grapefruit halves each with a ruby red maraschino cherry proudly peaking out of its middle.  Delightful!  In those days, we didn't know it was bad to eat artificially colored food. 

My mother's coffee came in a big silver pot.  The room steward poured it into her cup, elegantly whisking away spout drips with yet another starched napkin.  Not even one wayward drop spoiled our perfectly white damask cloth.  

From a smaller but equally elegant silver pot, the room steward would pour my hot chocolate. "There you are little miss," the room steward would say after pouring my hot chocolate,  "enjoy your breakfast."

At noon or 1 o'clock we'd lunch with hats on at some fashionable department store.   Dinner was mother and me with a few of her friends in an elegant hotel dining room.  Sometimes dinner was a banquet with hundreds of people all clamoring to meet or chat with mother.  I was young, but my manners were impeccable and I fit into any social situation.  Mother saw to that.     

Sadly, most cities today have lost their style, charm and elegance.  The grand hotels are long gone.  Hotel silver has been replaced by stainless steel. 

But most sad is the loss of wonderful, elegant, really delicious food respectfully served in gracious surroundings with the company of lovely people.   These memories I've just shared from my childhood are more than fifty years old yet they are as vivid to me as if they were yesterday.  They graced my soul.

Food today is adequate and abundant but not really great - not like it used to be.  There are pockets of delicious-ness here and there but they are few and too far between.  Worse yet is the cost.... Sky high prices for average fare served by marginally trained personnel in less than gracious environments.  

Dining out just isn't magical any more.... not like it used to be. 
I miss it.    




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