Monday, October 09, 2006

Amish Teens on the Town

My husband and I have both been buried in work lately, so tonight we decided to make a quick run to Max's, aka Market Street Cafe, for dinner. The house has been as barren as Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard all weekend because we haven't been to Publix in over a week. Hubby finally did the shopping tonight, but by the time he got home it was a little late to start cooking. Thus, we figured we'd hop into Crush and have a meal downtown.

Max's is a diner-style restaurant that serves "comfort food" like meatloaf and country fried steak. There are also burgers and a wide variety of sandwiches, and a few more "fru fru" items like coconut encrusted fish. No matter what your tastes, you're likely to find something to satisfy your craving. They also offer a discount for people with the Disney Dining Experience card, and they have their own rewards program as well in which you can earn free items, so they appeal to my intrinsic thriftiness as well as my fondness for their food.

When we arrived, it looked quite busy for a weeknight. Indeed, we were handed a pager and told that there would be a wait while a table was bussed. There was immediate seating outside, but even though it was a very pleasant evening, I didn't want to sit in a cloud of cigarette smoke. In Florida, outside eating areas are the final refuge for smokers, since most indoor puffing is banned. It reminded me of the old days in Chicago, when smoking sections often had immediate seating, even when the wait for non was an hour or more. But in this case, the wait was only a few minutes, and soon we were settled into a booth directly across from one of the outside doors. I didn't notice at the time, but my awareness level soon skyrocketed, as I shall recount later.

I was quite pleased to discover that breakfast was being offered even though it was dinnertime. I know they were experimenting with doing that a few weeks back, so perhaps that was a success. I hope it's a permanent change because I am a "pancakes for dinner" kind of gal. I immediately shifted my thoughts from country fried steak to a blueberry pancake short stack. Max's is my favorite place for pancakes because they cook mix the fruit (apple or blueberries) or chocolate chips right in the batter. Most places simply slop the fruit on top, which is not the same. I grew up with a Hungarian grandma who whipped up the most godly silver dollar pancakes liberally stuffed with apples. No fruit topping can match the sheer bliss of cooking the fruit inside.

I ordered breakfast, while hubby stuck to his original plan of meatloaf. Then we settled in, sipping my favorite mango iced tea, while we waited for our grub. Unfortunately, I noticed that every time the door to the outside patio was opened, it sucked in a goodly helping of smoke-laden air and whooshed it right in my direction. Ugh! It didn't look like there were too many options for moving to another table, so I steeled my lungs and pretended I was back in Chicago.

Soon the smoke became secondary to yet another annoyance: The Never-Ending Camera Flash. Living in Tourist Land, I'm used to people taking photos in restaurants. After all, you might want to memorialize your most memorable meals, especially if you are an avid scrapbooker. A photo and a copy of the menu might make a nice momento. Still, it does boggle my mind when the visitors snap a shot someplace mundane, like Cracker Barrel or Ponderosa. But hey, whatever...for all I know the Endless Salad and Dessert Buffet might be a high point of the trip.

But in this case, I think that the party with the camera was actually a group of Amish teens in disguise. They took a photo, which wasn't too surprising. Then, they took another...and another...and another.... And of course it was one of those annoying cameras that strobes before the flash. Hubby was ready to don his sunglasses in order to avoid blindness, and still the flashing went on and on.

The reason that I suspect they were Amish is that no one other than the technologically deprived could be that enamoured of a simple digital camera. After each photo, they would gape at the display screen and ooo and ahhh as though they had just discovered the cure for cancer. "Oooo, look! The magic screen has captured our image! Do it again! Again!"

I supposed they could have been Unfrozen Cave Teens, but I am loathe to make sport of cavemen after seeing the Geico commercials. They are apparently quite a politically active group, always on the look-out for breaches of political correctness. With the Amish, I figure that their aversion to technology will work to my benefit; if those kids are just discovering a digital camera now, they have to be at least five years away from internet blogging, so it's not too likely they will read about themselves any time soon.

Actually, for all that I know, they were in the midst of "Rumspringer." That is a period in which Amish teens are allowed to experience the modern world before returning to the fold and focusing on traditional life. They probably won't even discover the internet before they return to the farm, with only thousands of digital images to remind them of that one carefree year.

Eventually, between the smoke and the strobe lights, I simply decided to pretend that I was in a nightclub enjoying the special effects. By that time, our food had arrived, and I tucked into a giant blueberry pancake laced with brown sugar butter. I rarely eat syrup on pancakes, preferring to risk a heart attack by slathering them thickly with butter. Apparently, it is a family trait, as my brother does the same thing (although he goes for the syrup, too). My husband and my brother's wife have often looked on in horror when we've all gone out to breakfast together...oblivious to their shock, my brother and I dip each bite into the individual butter portions that we have ordered.

Another odd familial trait is our propensity for eating gum. Yes, eating it. As a kid, I wasn't taught that it was for chewing; my brother ate it like candy, and I followed suit. Hubby never believe me until the time that I ordered a box of bulk gumballs in order to pick out the flavors that I like best. Once I had culled the good stuff, I turned over the remainder to my brother's kids. Like a plague of locusts, they descended onto the box of gum and shoveled it into their mouths in frenzied handfulls. Just one or two chomps, then gulp! Down the hatch. My husband just shook his head in disbelief.

Bro and I also share an affinity for hackepeter...despite the cannibalistic sounding name, the meat comes from cows. It's a German dish which is made by grinding up a raw filet. It is served, uncooked, with a raw egg on top and onions and capers on the side. But instead of watching in horror, my husband will join right in on that dish. It's hard to find in restaurants for obvious liability reasons, but there is a German place in the Chicago suburbs that offers the best raw beef you've ever consumed.

But there is no hackepeter on the menu at Max's, so I contented myself with the pancake. Hubby didn't seem to be suffering too badly with the meatloaf, even though it had gone through an oven. It was a nice, quick meal to refuel us for Round Two of work.

Thankfully, the effects of the flash had worn off sufficiently by the time we left so that I didn't wrap Crush around a tree on the way back to East Village. Usually, dinner at Max's is quite uneventful but this evening will stand out in my mind as unique. Not only did I have a good feed, but I also learned what those poor Disney characters must feel like as they pose for photo after photo after photo after photo. I sure hope that they get extra opthomolgic coverage as a part of their benefit package. An hour was long enough...I can just imagine the effects of flash photography after an 8-hour shift, day after day after day.

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