Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Sunshine Inn Menu

Greetings, friends! It’s so dreary today, I decided to share a little “sunshine” with you—in this case, an old to-go menu from the Sunshine Inn, a wonderful vegetarian (well, mostly vegetarian) restaurant that used to be one of the best reasons in the world to visit St. Louis’s Central West End. It opened in 1972 and quickly became a landmark. Plants in the windows. And rather plain, but somehow quite elegant decor. Cloth napkins.

Ahhhh . . . the Garden of Eden Salad; the house Creamy Sesame dressing. The quiches. The Great Harvest dinner rolls. Cream Cheese on Date Nut Bread. I used to like their egg salad sandwich, served open-faced, with cheese. Let’s not forget “RZOJ,” iced Red Zinger (Celestial Seasonings’ hibiscus blend tea) with orange juice, and the Viennese coffee (they were serving that waaaay before there was a Starbuck’s on every corner). And, joy of joys, the Golden Lion—the Sunshine Inn’s signature vegetarian burger.

It closed in 1998, and ever since then, the earth has always been a little off-kilter. Losing restaurants like this are a prime reason I needed to learn how to cook.

This to-go menu was printed on both sides of a single sheet of paper, and I’m pretty sure it dates to the late 1990s—I wish I had one from the late eighties, which was when I went there the most. (Alas.)

I’m posting this because I know there are other people out there who pine for the Sunshine Inn perhaps more than I do. Of course, I mean no copyright infringement. I’m keeping the files kind of big so you can hopefully read the type better. (Remember: you can click on the images to see them larger.)

I see value in old menus like this—what were the main ingredients of a dish you liked so much. What things went well with other things. Ideas for reconstruction and inspiration for new construction. I’ll bet there are restaurants you miss like crazy, too.

If you’re someone who misses the Sunshine Inn, I hope you’ll leave a comment and tell me which menu items you loved the most.


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Lois Update

Lois the kitten is becoming Lois the cat. She’s about two months shy of her first birthday, and she’s finally showing signs that napping is something she enjoys as opposed to something that comes upon her suddenly and arrests her playing.

Also, as she’s grown older, she’s gotten fluffier and fluffier. We had no idea that she would be a long-haired cat. But there you go. Long-haired, silky, and fluffy. With a long, amazingly luxurious tail. What a surprise!

Here’s another item: Lois likes to go sight-seeing with us in the car. Ever since we rescued her from her “wilderness” ordeal last summer, she’s been okay with being in the car. We’ve taken her to the vet’s only once (to meet our vet and do the follow-up for the vaccinations she got at the shelter), and we leave her carrier open in the room with her all the time, so she doesn’t necessarily equate her carrier and the car with being poked with needles.

So, on random weekend afternoons, we’ve been taking her out for drives. We call it her “enrichment activities.” One Saturday afternoon, we drove her clear to Brazito and back! We stopped at the Burger King drive-thru and got a cheeseburger (plain, with nothing but the cheese on it), and shared some of it with her. Guess what—she liked it. (Duh. Cats have a thing for cheeseburgers, right?)

I believe that’s what behavioral specialists call “positive reinforcement.”

I’ve taken her to Columbia a few times to “visit Grandma and Grandpa” when I have something to drop off or pick up at my parents’. I close the bedroom doors so I won’t have to spend time trying to get her out from under a bed. (Though maybe my parents would like her to do a little dust-mopping while she’s visiting; she’s a really great dust mop!) And she loves their screened-in porch, with its excellent wide railing, which is perfect for watching the birds and squirrels that visit their backyard.

One afternoon, we drove with her to the Mari-Osa Access, east of town off Highway 50/63. We parked in the lot, with a nice view of the Osage River, and stayed in the car with the windows down just a little bit. We had a little picnic, with cheese, crackers, and fresh and dried fruits. It was so exciting when a grizzled old dog from the nearby trailer park trotted near our car as he performed what was undoubtedly his routine inspection of the perimeter of the lot.

Yesterday, we drove up Route 179 to the Marion Access to the Missouri River. Lois and I enjoyed the sunshine in the car while Sue walked down the boat ramp and took photos of the river. On this curvy road, Lois got experience in keeping upright as the car veered back and forth, up and down.

Today, we drove to Tebbetts and back. On the way out, we headed east on Mokane Road, just to give her experience with bumpy gravel roads. Hey, no problem! And there was a small herd of black angus munching on corn crop residue just off the little road we took north to 94. I stopped for a few moments to let Lois see them, and they started to approach the car (just an electric fence between them and us). They probably thought we’d throw them a bale of hay or something. And boy, this was exciting for Lois, too!

When we drive with her, we leave her cat carrier open in the back seat. She goes in and out; it’s her safe space. When she gets tired of looking out the windows, she rolls around in her carrier.

So, maybe someday Lois will travel with us in the car somewhere. Like, on a weekend trip. I think that’d be pretty neat. We should probably also get her used to a leash and harness. Meanwhile, these excursions are getting her used to the car, and not terrified of going for rides. And they’re giving her the excitement she craves! Weeee!!! . . . And we have fun, too.

(Photos, except for the "cheezeburger" pic, are by Sue. She sits in the back seat and keeps an eye on Lois, while I focus on driving.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Potato Soup

If ever there was an opulently opossumish dish, this is it: It is humble, it is sublime. I have based my recipe on a few versions of it that Sue’s mom has provided. I feel justified in offering my own rendition because Sue’s mom has tinkered with the recipe plenty herself.

This is a perfect supper for a cold wintry night! So comforting and warm!

I encourage you to improvise your own version, too. After my version of the recipe, I’ll provide two of the potato soup recipes just as I’ve received them from Mrs. Ferber, so you can get ideas for alterations, substitutions, and shortcuts.

Julie’s Potato Soup

2 pieces of bacon
1 onion (white or yellow), chopped
1 carrot, coarsely grated
2 or 3 potatoes, peeled and diced into bite-size pieces (Yukon golds are good)
3/4 tsp. salt (or to taste, remembering that bacon adds saltiness)
1/2 tsp. pepper
water or chicken or vegetable stock
1–2 tbsp. cornstarch, mixed into a pourable slurry with about 1/2 cup water
1–2 tbsp. butter
parsley (or other herbs—summer savory? basil? oregano?) for garnish

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or soup pot, fry the bacon until crisp. Put it on a paper towel to drain and set aside. Pour off the grease into your grease jar. (You do save it, right? I mean, you’ll need it later when you want to cook kale!) Don’t clean the pan; leave the cooked bits of bacon and some grease at the bottom.

Put the onion and carrot into the pot and sauté them in what’s left of the bacon grease. As moisture comes out of the onions, scrape the bottom of the pan to liberate the bacon goodies. You might add a little water to help the process. When that’s accomplished, add the potatoes, salt, and pepper, and cover with water or stock. Cook on medium, covered, until the potatoes are done.

While the potatoes are cooking, crumble up the bacon—it will be a garnish. This is the time to make the cornstarch-and-water slurry if you haven’t already. Also, get out the saltines (or Chicken in a Biskit crackers; both are traditional), pieces of cheese or summer sausage, pickles, and whatever else you’ll be having. Set the table. Get the drinks ready.

Once the potatoes are cooked, stir in the cornstarch slurry and cook to get it really pretty thick; then stir in some butter, and thin it out with milk to get the consistency to your liking. Make sure it’s heated through, stir in any parsley or other herbs you want, and then serve. Garnish with the crumbled bacon.

Betty Ferber’s Potato Soup (Version 1, her preferred way)

2 nice-size Idaho potatoes (or less)
1 onion
coarse-grated carrot
salt, pepper
chicken stock (or water)
margarine (Parkay)
crumbled bacon (optional garnish)

Peel and dice about 2 potatoes. Chop the onion. Add carrot, salt, pepper—cook until done in water or chicken stock. Thicken with cornstarch—get it really thick—then add milk to get consistency right. Add a hunk of margarine. Garnish with crumbled bacon; serve with saltine crackers.

Betty Ferber’s Potato Soup (Version 2, as of Dec. 2006)

1 onion (white)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
about 5 lbs. (4 large) potatoes (Irish) (or more)
1 stick butter or equivalent of “I Can’t Believe”
cornstarch (note, as of 2015: Mrs. F says you can use some instant potato flakes instead of cornstarch)
crumbled bacon (optional, for garnish)

Chop onion and add to soup pot. Cover onion with water; add salt and pepper. Peel and dice potatoes, cover with water. Add parsley to make it pretty. Add thickener (cornstarch)—get it pretty thick, then add milk to make it the right consistency, and add the butter/margarine. Garnish with bacon crumbles. (Sue likes to ladle the soup over some crushed saltines in the bowl.)


. . . And now, a bonus related recipe from notes I made during an Ohio visit during Christmas 2013: it’s very, very easy to make, though the sodium is probably frightful. Still, when you’re both disabled, can’t drive anymore, it’s cold out, and you’re eating out of the cupboard, this hits the spot! It’s probably from the back of a scalloped potatoes box.

Corn Potato Chowder

3 tsp. margarine
1 small onion, chopped
1 box scalloped potatoes (yes, including the seasoning packet)
2 cups hot water
2 cups milk
1 can of corn (drained)

In a saucepan big enough to hold everything, sauté the onion in the margarine. Then add the rest of the stuff and simmer, covered, for 20–25 minutes.

Thanks Mrs. Ferber, for letting me share your recipes, and thanks much more for sharing them with me! (Susan says thanks, too!)