Friday, October 20, 2006

Meet Your Family!

Returning from our trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, we stopped in Pennsylvania Dutch country where Wendy has roots. She was born and raised just outside Philadelphia.

After finding a motel, we hunted for a restaurant that served P. Dutch. Settled on Good 'N Plenty, a rather large establishment in the heart of Amish country near Lancaster PA. They advertised family style dinners, which sounded good to me as we've enjoyed the family style chicken dinners they serve in Frankenmuth, Michigan.

But . . . we didn't really have our whole family with us. No problem. The restaurant staff took care of that for us. They brought us to a banquet room and put us at a long table that sat twelve of us strangers together. It was like we'd just walked off a tour bus. Or walked into a wedding reception. No choice either, since everyone inside was seated likewise.

It was a surprise, which some people enjoyed, but made others seemingly uncomfortable. Chicken, roast beef, dressing, vegetables, noodles, sauerkraut and sausage, rolls . . . everything was passed out in serving bowls.

But hea, hasn't this happened to you at a big family meal gathering? The good stuff ends up at the other end of the table? Well, it happened to me. The fried chicken, dressing, and gravy were with the folks over yonder while the bowls of sauerkraut, spiced cole slaw and chow-chow landed next to my plate.

By the way, chow-chow is a Pennsylvania Dutch favorite, a mixture of pickled vegetables that include cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, etc. The other Dutch treat served with the meal was shoo fly pie, which is also baked by my wife Wendy. She says she prefers the way she bakes it. I wouldn't know because I don't like it.

So I asked for seconds on the fried chicken, which meant the bowl had to travel back through several sets of hands. The gentleman next to me said, "Here, why don't you take a couple pieces. You can have it all if you want. Just a few pieces in there." Some people do get grumpy when asked to pass food in the middle of eating their own dinner.

Gee, I just wanted what's coming to me. I just wanted my fair share. Never mind. I'll just fill up on the chow-chow here. Usually, I can fill up on the mashed potatoes, but it's tradition here to puree the potatoes to a texture resembling applesauce. Just didn't seem as filling nor as appetizing to me.

Afterwards, bellies full, we started chatting a bit. I learned that the couples directly around us were from Texas and New Hampshire. The ladies exchanged some pleasantries about their families and travels and the weather. Then the New Hampshire fellow had something he wanted to get off his chest.

"You know I can always tell when there's a Texan around. They're always the loudest one in the place," he said. Then he told the story of being in a classy European restaurant where a staff of waiters hovered over every table--filling glasses, carrying away dishes, meeting each diner's request instantly. But at one table, this service was too much. "Get the heck away from me," a man bellowed to the waiters. The New Hampshirite explained that this was a Texan. And he hadn't seen anything since to convince him that Texans weren't all similarly cultured.

I wanted to mention that I have some blogging buddies that are Texans who don't appear to be anything like his stereotype. But the gentlewoman from Texas spoke first. "On behalf of all Texans, I apologize," she said.

Holy cow! A bit of conflict around the dinner table? Somebody speaking his mind? A matronly type smoothing it all over? Eating too much food, even if you're not sure what it was or how it was cooked? This really WAS a family style dinner.


Blogger Kacey said...

It's always fun to eat in an Amish Restaurant, but Zhenderer's is better. I love their huge loaves of crusty white bread, applebutter and the chicken livers are stupendous. Please don't gag unless you have tried them! You make me want to head for Frankenmuth and some fried chicken. I wouldn't even mind if they gave me a rented family.

3:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dave, I wonder are New Hampshirites always RUDE??
Glad you enjoyed anyway.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Bernadette said...

A family dinner with a table that only seats twelve?!

I've heard that Texans can be like Ann Arborites: You never have to inquire as to where they're from because they will let you know well before you get the chance to ask.

5:21 PM  
Blogger Bernadette said...

Conversely, people from East Lansing find it hard to brag about being the town whose team just scored the greatest comeback in the history of 1A college football!!!

8:04 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Sounds like your dinner was quite an adventure, Lucy...oops, I mean Dave (he he).

How totally classy of the matronly Texan to take that N.H. man's rudeness and smother it with politeness. I would've given anything to see the look on his face!

...Wow, what must he think of N.Y.ers?!?

Take good care,

1:37 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Although it's not named, "chow chow", that is also a favorite here during the fall and winter seasons. We know it as "Lappskaus" - though some don't use cauliflower.

I miss dining at some of those Amish restaurants, but I can also remember walking away as if I needed someone to poke a hole in my stomach to let out some of the pressure.

8:49 PM  
Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

The Texas woman is INDEED a gentlewoman. And nice putdown, too.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Well, being from Texas, I'd have to disagree. I think Texans are a friendly bunch, too bad you had such and opinionated fella there.

Dave, I love fried chicken. I would have wanted to make sure I got my fair share too. I would have preferred a buffet where I could pick out just what I wanted, instead of having to pass around bowls and take a chance of not getting what I want.

I have always wanted to visit Amish country. Maybe one of these days I'll get my chance.

10:12 PM  
Anonymous cassie-b said...

What a wonderful vacation. I live in Bucks County, PA, also near Philadelphia, and we travel to Lancaster several times a year. I just love it there.

And we've eaten at Good 'N Plenty as well.

6:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're STILL on vacation stories? I'm laughing but I'm enjoying this series enormously. Chow-chow sounds gak, the dinner company sounds delightful, Ms. B deserves to brag and say, how's the weather?? I put up a weatherbug icon so you can easily compare with the other side of the BIG lake- sounds as though we're slightly better off than you at the moment.

10:13 AM  
Blogger vicki said...

That was NOT anonymous. C'est moi!

10:14 AM  
Anonymous squirrel said...

What a strange way to eat at a resteraunt! I would have been one of the ose "uncomfortables" lol

12:55 PM  
Blogger Teri said...

Wonderful Big Dave! Wish I had been around to observe and partake...especially the chicken and the Texan!

Ciao for now...

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I hate stereotypes for that very reason, I have to agree with Lucy; you'll find more friendly than unfriendly people here in Texas.

How rude of that guy to make a fuss because you wanted a piece of chicken. Hope you got some. :)

The restaurant sounds like a neat place though.

2:43 PM  
Blogger MSUgal86 said...

Great post

4:03 AM  
Anonymous Terri said...

Sounds like an interesting dinner and very family-oriented right down to the confrontations. But I must agree with the guy though on how Texans behave in European restaurants,as I've witnessed it more than once...granted, like anything else, not ALL exhibit this type of behavior, but enough of them to have Europeans slapping a label on them.

6:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12:43 AM  

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