In my book, Winter Wish, Jessie loves to eat at Carlin’s Barn Diner, a homestyle restaurant in her (fictional) town. Jessie isn’t “me,” certainly, and in many ways, she’s not like me at all. (For example she is a runner. Need I say more?) But in this way, in her love for Carlin’s, she is like me. I love diners and small, local restaurants that serve homestyle food.
Some of these places serve breakfast all day. Bacon and eggs, biscuits and toast, and in the South, a choice: “Grits or gravy?” To me, the smell of bacon and coffee is one of the best smells in the world. It is the smell of morning, of a new start. Of grandparents’ houses, and black iron frying pans and coffee pots that made a comforting percolating sound.
If you don’t want breakfast food, you can have a “meat and two” plate, (a meat and two sides), or my preference: a veggie plate. Turnip greens and black-eyed peas. Creamed corn. Deviled eggs. (Not a veggie. I know. But they are one of the choices; suits me!)
And then, of course – as Special Agent Dale Cooper on the TV series, “Twin Peaks” knew so well – there is pie. And coffee. Agent Cooper loved his “slice of cherry pie” and his “strong, black coffee,” but I think, pretty much any kind of pie will do. It’s hard to go wrong with pie. I mean, it’s pie!
In the cold, in the rain, on a long road trip, on a dark night in a big city, people can come into a diner, and it’s warm. There is the clink of silverware, the sizzle of the grill. The server who greets you, usually with a smile. Who will talk to you if you’re lonely.
I notice, sometimes, the people sitting at the counter, talking to the cook or the server. Lingering over their meal. I suspect that some of the people who come in every day are there in part to be chatted with, smiled at, recognized.
On the other hand, a diner can be a great place in which to be alone. Well, sort of alone. The idea of writing a song or a poem on a napkin, of drinking endless cups of coffee in the wee hours of the morning may be a cliché, but it is something that happens. I am sure of it. (Okay. . . the writing doesn’t have to be on a napkin.)
A haven. A solace. A too-brightly-lit room, filled with familiar sounds and smells. For me it can be all of the above. As long as the coffee is fresh. . .