Only have a minute? Listen instead
HARLINGEN — It’s a late Sunday morning and the cars in the parking lot announce the presence of many people in a popular restaurant.
The customers at Lonnie’s Down Home Restaurant at 816 Morgan Blvd. are rich in personality with their hats and their business suits and their veterans’ caps. I always say a restaurant experience is not complete without its people, and I know this will be a fine Sunday meal.
“Anywhere you like,” says a waitress in a red shirt and wearing Christmas antlers who moves swiftly about the dining area with a pot of coffee.
I take a table next to the front windows and look over the menu beneath the thick glass and I see the “Good Morning” greeting and the usual breakfast items of hash browns n’ eggs and bacon ‘n eggs and chorizo ‘n eggs. My eyes land on something called Jake’s Scramble which comes with ground beef and onion and peppers and tomatoes.
That’s curious enough and I might perhaps order it but then I see the “garbage omelet” which has “everything but the kitchen sink.”
I consider the novelty of this for maybe a minute, and I find the idea of eating an omelet filled with garbage most alluring and captivating.
The waitress comes to my table to fill my coffee and I say I’d like to have the garbage omelet and as if programmed to answer the obvious question she replies “everything but the kitchen sink.”
She takes my order and I sip my coffee and consider the nature of garbage and all the possibilities of garbage and how it could be prepared and how it would taste. I consider how much garbage changes from place to place.
For example, garbage in Harlingen would probably mean something rather different from that in Istanbul or Brooklyn or Amsterdam or Denver or Mexico City. But what does that mean?
So perplexed am I by the many possibilities of garbage that I become quite overwhelmed and seek to distract myself with other matters. I take in more fully now the collage of personalities around me. The woman at the next table wears an eye-catching mauve top or perhaps maroon or hot pink which contrasts sharply with her broad black hat and she speaks rapidly to the two gentlemen at her table. Her speech is quick, spontaneous and colorful.
“That’s the best vacation you can have! Yes! Absolutely!”
A waitress gestures toward a customer moving to the cashier.
“There she is! It’s a miracle!’ she says to a customer in the short gray hair and the brown suit using her walker. Everything about her says independence and vitality.
The customers moving in and out of the restaurant appear to be older retirees, and their attire indicates some have just left church and they’re stopping by their favorite Sunday restaurant. Probably many are Winter Texans but some of the accents are local.
Now I see a woman walk in with her teenage son and they head toward the back room where even more activities and rhythms animate the experience. While the customers on this Sunday seem to be older, the following day when I have meatloaf and mashed potatoes in the back room I see younger customers, including one couple with their two daughters and an infant.
Lunch on Monday is a much quieter affair and I enjoy one of the lunch specials, the meatloaf. I could have had Salisbury steak because I have not had Salisbury steak in many years and my mother made a fine Salisbury steak. She made a fabulous meatloaf too, and so I order meatloaf, and it comes with toast and vegetable soup and a piece of chocolate cake, and it is all very good.
But on Sunday morning I eagerly and anxiously await my garbage omelet. Soon I have an omelet with hash browns and I am confused and perplexed because I have ordered garbage and this does not look like garbage. I had been looking forward the past 15 minutes to eating garbage and discovering what garbage tastes like and what it smells like.
I sit there for a moment dreading the consumption of this omelet. I had even hoped the restaurant might even add the kitchen sink just to be nice, but there is no kitchen sink here, just a warm omelet with melted cheese on top.
After some anxious moments, I open the omelet. Perhaps outer appearances are deceiving. Perhaps behind the warm yellow glow of the egg and the tantalizing melted cheese I will in fact find garbage.
But no. I do not find any rubber tires but instead crisp bacon and chopped tomato and green pepper and ham and lots of warm cheese. I begin exploring this omelet and eating slowly and absorbing all the flavors.
I must admit I was disappointed that I did not get to eat garbage and taste garbage and have the experience of garbage, but I was delighted by what I got instead: a fine and delicious smorgasbord of flavors expertly assembled by a talented cook.