Nostalgia Sometimes Wins

Here I am, enjoying one of the best meals that I adore. I’ve written about Luby’s before  but I felt it pertinent to write again, perhaps from a different angle.

Sometimes I wonder why we like the things we do. I’ve eaten at many wonderful restaurants and have had some extremely good dishes done wi such precision and thoughtful composition, I wonder why it is, I still consider a square of fried fish, corn and macaroni & cheese amongst my top meals that I want to take to Heaven with me.

Sometimes nostalgia counts for more than taste. I mean, fried plank o fish, in a shape that no fish known to man exists in, served with carbs. I eat them in a certain order, in a certain way, and every time I am brought back to the mid-1980s. I can still see it: the dark wood interior of my childhood neighborhood Luby’s, my parents making it feel special. The coffee lady, the cubes of jello, the shiny pies and the heat lamps making the place smell a little burnt, but home style in their own right.

It was also how grown-up it made me feel. I remember the faded dark green napkin rolls, and the inevitable moment where my sister would drop one of the utensils on the floor in her need to consume macaroni & cheese as soon as possible. I used to get my own tray, and remember when I was old enough to carry it myself. As a young tot, I once wore a mink stole my dad brought home from a tag sale, to Luby’s. Clearly, this was fine dining for me.

So the one lapse in good dining my parents once experienced included a carefully worded letter to Luby’s Corporate Office from my father. This letter, which I wish I had a copy of, included phrases that still get my mom and us girls laughing with the drama they imply, “the only part of the meal that approached warm…was the green salad.”….amongst others. That said, Luby’s made up for it by comping the meal, and I learned to speak up to companies when they don’t deliver.

So I continue to return. Perhaps the roaming coffee service has been replaced by traditional service staff. The interiors are brighter and less fancy than they used to be, today’s moms don’t have to deal with wheeled wooden chairs kids can have way too much fun in. (A small win for my own mother I’m sure) But the heat lamps, the cloth napkins, the real whipped cream piped onto pie crusts…stand the test of time.

Each time, I sit down my tray, remove the same whitish grey plates, unroll my silverware, and take a bit of corn. It’s canned corn, it’s the same though, since 1981. Or before then, I just didn’t chew before then really. I find myself in this spot any time I need a mental reset, a moment to not emotionally eat, but to remember a time when I was a kid, when life, and the world even, was simpler and less complicated. That calm and peace, beats grilled octopus with chimichurri and blanched asparagus with crab bearnaise any day.

Today I bring you comfort food, but however you find your peace, I hope you find it.

My Own Macaroni and Cheese (as close to Luby’s despite their own recipe being out there.)

Luby’s Fried Fish & Tartar Sauce – From JustAPinch.com

Ingredients

1 c flour

2 1/3 c finely crush saltine crackers

1 c buttermilk

3 eggs

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

6+ cod pieces (i use kroger brand)

Tartar Sauce

1/4 c finely minced yellow onions

1/4 c finely minced fresh parsley, stems removed

1/2 c dill pickle relish, drained

2 c mayonnaise

Directions

Place flour in a bowl and place crackers in another bowl. (Make sure bowls are big enough so you have enough space to coat fish)

In medium bowl, wisk together buttermilk, eggs, salt and pepper.

Coat fish pieces with flour, shaking off excess. Dip into buttermilk mixture, then crackers, coating evenly and pressing crackers firmly onto fish.

Deep fry in oil (350-365) till done & gold brown.

For tartar sauce: In a medium bowl mix onions, parsley and relish. Using a rubber spatula, fold together mayonnaise and the onion mixure. Refridgerate to chill before serving.

I always make the tartar sauce ahead of time so the flavors can blend.

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