Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Chipped beef

When I was seven or eight, my mom and I took my grandmother to eat at a restaurant inside a department store. It must have been Christmas time, because that's when my grandmother used to visit, and the store must have been Higbee's or Halle's in the Westgate shopping mall in Fairview, Ohio--all now kaput, except Fairview, which is more or less OK. The mall in fact was razed last time I was home, but they are building a new outdoor one. Bear in mind this is Ohio we're talking about.

Anyway. Nana ordered the "chipped beef" which, if I recall correctly, is a pile of shredded beef in cream sauce on toast (so regional! so not possible to order anymore, probably not even in Ohio!). Memory and family legend perhaps distort the story, but the pile was huge. And Nana had a rule that you chewed each bite of food 32 times, or anyway far more times than anyone else ever chewed. I don't know how long it went on. As we finished our meals and the lights dimmed and all the other customers left, the employees gathered at the counter, waiting to close. Nana chewed. She was undaunted. She finished. My mom and I were mesmerised.

This episode is known in family lore as the Chipped Beef Episode, or Chipped Beef for short.

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