Memories of cafés no longer aroundPublished 9:50am Monday, March 19, 2012
Column: Something About Nothing
Insomnia one night led my taste buds on a trip down memory lane. Those memories took me back to reliving my favorite visited restaurants and foods of my youth.
Sunday was a day my mom and dad liked to take drives after working long hours in their shoe store. We would head to Albert Lea for Sunday dinners at the Canton Café.
The Canton Café in Albert Lea was my No. 1 favorite restaurant of all time, and it still is although it is no longer there. My taste buds have never forgotten my favorite meal. I would always have the same meal when we dined at the Canton. Keep in mind that as a child I was not one to try different foods but after tasting their pork tenderloin and the delicious gravy that adorned the mashed potatoes I was hooked. The flavor of the thinly sliced and lightly breaded pork tenderloin and the gravy makes my mouth still water for that recipe today.
Also I at an early age was talked into trying oxtail soup at the Canton and that, too, had to accompany my meal. I think my parents were very surprised at all the food I would eat when we visited the Canton.
The café was always full. The staff was always courteous and pleasant and the service was fast and wonderful. I miss that café today, and I wish I could get the recipe for their oxtail soup and their pork tenderloin, although I know I could not make it taste the way the Canton chefs did.
Another favorite café was the Town Pump in my hometown of Wells. It was on Main Street in a basement. There were no windows, but the atmosphere was quaint and homey and the food was outstanding. My favorite meal at the Town Pump was the fried chicken.
It was also a favorite of the many salesmen that visited our store and would dine at the Town Pump. It was fun going into the basement to enjoy a meal. There was always a crowd and even today when I walk past the spot where the stairs used to be I remember the fried chicken.
I am sure many people have memories of the other foods in these restaurants, but my taste buds late at night were missing these foods and these restaurants of my youth. I have had a lot of good food at many good restaurants since, but they do not seem to equal the memories and tastes of my youth.
It is interesting how many memories I have that revolve around eating out and restaurants. I remember eating at the Canton the night I first met my mother-in-law to be. The Torchlight near Mapleton, which actually did go up in flames just like its name, also brings memories of meeting relatives from Mankato each Christmas season to celebrate the season. That is another tradition I miss.
I loved the Bridgeman’s in Mankato and its piled-high ham sandwiches with real malts when my mom, and I would take a day to shop. I remember celebrating my son’s birthday at the Cubs restaurant in Mankato. Cubs was a fine dining establishment, not the Cub Foods that we know today.
I remember the first time my middle son had lobster. My uncle from California was visiting, and he wanted to treat our family. We visited Red Lobster, and my son had wanted to always try lobster. My uncle ordered lobster for my son to try. I don’t think my young son counted on a lobster waiting to be eaten with eyes still in its body. I don’t know if my son has had lobster since. There are so many milestones that people celebrate in restaurants that stay in our memories.
There is something about food that joins people together and makes memories. It is all the better if the food is tasty, the dining establishment is memorable and the occasion is remembered.
Pork tenderloin still continues to be one of my favorite foods to order if it is not the ready made patty. I have yet to duplicate the taste of the Canton Café, although a few restaurants such as Trumbles and Wedgewood Cove in Albert Lea have me ordering pork tenderloins. My taste buds make me crave that tenderloin as I am remembering foods and restaurants of the past.
“Feasting is also closely related to memory. We eat certain things in a particular way in order to remember who we are. Why else would you eat grits in Madison, New Jersey?” — Jeff Smith “The Frugal Gourmet Keeps the Feast” (1995)
Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.