What Would Don Draper Do?

The Madison Avenue of 1960’s ad agencies is just a hop and a skip from Fifth Avenue and 56th Street. I’d suspect that when Don took clients out to lunch that Miyako might have been one of the places he’d frequent. Sukiyaki! How exotic a thing in the early 1960’s!

Dining with clients from out of town can be hazardous, in a city like New York. Sukiyaki is not for everyone. Perhaps Don would take the clients he suspected might not like Japanese food here, to the Stockholm Restaurant. After all, a Swedish and Italian smorgasbord would have many options for picky eaters.

Our postcard sender reports it is the best. And that she and her companions emerged as ‘four stuffed pigs’. Ahhhhhhh. How perfect!

The Capacious Salad Bowl of Louis Pappas

The idea of a salad can be one of many things. And the idea of a salad also includes not only the food that is skewered onto the fork, but the way the salad is set before you.

It ‘feels’ one way if you set it before yourself. Another way, if someone shoves it without care onto the table. Yet another, if somehow a sense of care and thoughtfulness  imbues how the plate finally reaches your hands and eyes.

The very taste of the food can be heightened or utterly ruined, by this thing which is part detail, part art, part craft, part theatre, part mystery – this thing which is called ‘service’.

Louis Pappas is famous for a Greek Salad, a Greek-American salad actually – a salad one might term ‘fusion’, if it were not a salad which wouldn’t probably bother with trying to gain a flossy title to impress those prone to the stun guns of buzziness, but rather just a salad trying to hold its own in a quiet somewhat undemanding way.

I went to Tarpon Springs once, several years ago. I was trying to fill time while my children were busy with their father who lives in that part of the world. I’d heard of Tarpon Springs, so drove along the road to what turned out to be a place more quiet than I’d expected in ways, a place more private than I’d expected. I was feeling slightly lost, lost in what I was doing – filling time – the air seemed heavy and bland . . . and so did I. I felt aimless and stupid, mindless, driving along in the small rented car, just ‘being there’ because my children had asked me be there close to them  in case they wanted to go home. I drove, and floated. Sometimes, these years as my children have grown, I’ve been immersed in this feeling. Bland, floating, just ‘being there’ – a suspension of self required, to do the task of ‘being there’, for them.

If I had to serve a salad in that moment, I’d have to snap out of it. Because the salad would have to be served, to a real person, with something solid and real, something good, poured into the movement of putting it before them. This thing, ‘service’, is actually a wonderful thing. Nothing less, than a wonderful thing which can be full of a startling magic when heart and mind are engaged in it fully.

It’s not always just the food, the recipe, the raw ingredients, the cooking method, which makes the sense of dining a delight. Actually it never is just the food.

Like Bobby says . . . we all gotta serve somebody. He says it so well.

More on Louis Pappas Restaurant in Tarpon Springs

More on the Art of Serving Food Well from Penelope Ptsaldari

Let first the onion flourish there,

Rose among roots, the maiden-fair,

Wine-scented and poetic soul

Of the capacious salad bowl.

Robert Louis Stevenson

To fill the very air with this ‘wine-scented and poetic soul’! A rather endearing call to action, no?

Peas (Like Atoms) Split

The carrot hung in the bowl of soft velvet pea soup like a missile, a bright orange missile ready to self-destruct, just the size of a man’s thumb. This was to be her first bite. Nothing was very enticing about any of this – not the name ‘Split Pea Soup’, not the bowl of glazed pottery resembling a mistake thrown and shaped by a first-time potter at a summer camp for young Christians, not the spoon tin-cheap and slightly bent.

Homemade split pea soup. The spoon scooped the carrot.

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I’d like to have a bunch of little fat and skinny men all dressed in white dashing to and fro splitting peas, creating an atmosphere of care and passion, throwing delicious things into steaming steel cauldrons for me to approve of and to finally eat.

And so it is, apparently, at Andersen’s Restaurant. Hap-Pea and Pea-Wee await me there. Of course I’d have to go cross-country to California, where people have been before me – where people went to grow and split peas then to open restaurants all based upon split pea soup.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

There never had been such a taste as when the carrot touched the tongue, when it melted, exploded, missile-like, hot and sweet.

The green depth of brothy peas (split) swam around the carrot taste as if a river unbended.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

When atoms split, miracles occur. And so it is with peas.

Poor Man’s Feast has a lovely recipe for split pea soup. Tomorrow I’ll post my own recipe here, with some ideas for further diversions and divertissements.