I was the baby of the family and when I started school my mother went back to work. That meant the veggie garden in the back yard was abandoned, and the canning cellar emptied and was not replenished. I learned to cook and bake at my mom’s side, but as she got busier and we kids grew older, she cooked from scratch less and less. We started living on frozen fish sticks and pizza.
We watched her go through (what I now know are) the five stages of grief in a matter of seconds.
Take-out was a real treat and our favorite place was the Totem Pole Drive-In. This Native American-themed, completely un-PC place (slogan: “Heap Good Food”) was the casual outpost of a nearby fancy restaurant. My favorite menu items were the “Pocahontas” (french dip sandwich), the “Iroquois” (fried shrimp), and the “Cherokee” (wait for it–frogs legs!). But everything on the menu was great, and it was hard to choose.
My mother came home one Friday evening with five of the iconic white dinner boxes. Those were the days when Catholics didn’t eat meat on Friday so we knew they contained fish dinners. Imagine our surprise when we opened the boxes and found not fish but spare ribs!! Surprise and delight from us, consternation bordering on panic from our mother. We could all see she was exhausted from a long week and furious that they had given her the wrong order. Her first impulse was to forbid us to touch them, then slowly, realizing that there was nothing else to eat in the house decided that since we didn’t intend to break the law, God would forgive us this once. My mother was nothing if not pragmatic, and she was not going to waste that food or that money.
Patricia is a co-founder of Retrospect, and generally can be found two standard deviations from the mean on most issues. Lover of chef's tasting menus, cute shoes, and the music of Brahms.
What a great story and what an unusual place. I suspect that God not only forgave you, but arranged the whole thing.
In retrospect, I wish I had eaten more Totem Pole frog legs and Mohawks and fewer Big Chief burgers.
Friday take-out dinner? Those Catholics had it figured out.
Love this story, and now I want to know how the Teletray Service worked!
What a lovely story. And yes, talk about not very at all politically correct!
you show the racism we took for granted and let us do the reflecting.
and once again, i’m glad i wasn’t raised catholic. i missed out on all that guilt.
Well told story, with both great detail, good humor, and a very authentic story telling feel. And the photo of the Totem Pole Drive-in is priceless! Helps make the story.
Oh, man! this is an amazing slice of life story. I sort of cringed for you, reading those things you ate. “Heap Good Food” must be embarrassing to remember. Good onya for admitting to such a non-PC experience, and exploring it a little.
While it may be cringe-worthy now, I’m sure in those days the restaurant’s “Indian” motif was meant as an homage. After all there were cities, schools, even cars with Native American names, why not burgers?
Sweet story, given a time frame by those details, and especially the non-PC “fast food” and mom’s consternation at getting a “sinful” order!
I loved the Totem Pole, love this story (and loved your mother, by the way). What a treat for you all to have “forbidden” food…a special treat for you to eat and us to read about all these years later.
Still love the story and your mother, and you, for sharing this with us.
What a great story – and it made me hungry!
I love the visuals in this story. The abandoned garden and the empty cellar. I could see my grandmother’s cellar and her garden. They weren’t empty but they were good for a setting.
Your pragmatic mother made an excellent decision.
Love the slogans. So un-PC and so typical of the time.
Please keep writing.
This brings back some good memories of my favorite drive-in, which was one of the first Sonics ever built in Oklahoma City.