When I was a little girl and lived in Roseland, there was only one real restaurant which was situated within a reasonable distance from where we lived. There was a Tastee Freeze which served hamburgers and ice cream but beyond that, other restaurants might come and go, some of which were quite memorable, but only the Anchor stayed put for many years. It was attached to a motel and I think that it was owned by Syrians. This is what I seem to recall. Or perhaps (and I am loathe to admit my ignorance here) it was Persians. Whatever their nationality, I remember them as gracious and their accents charmed me.
And so it was that the Anchor was our go-to on evenings when dining out was a consideration. We mostly went there with my grandparents and I assume they paid the bill since my mother's salary as a third-grade school teacher did not stretch to the point of the luxury of eating in a restaurant very often. My grandparent's friends ate there too and my brother and I sometimes accompanied Granny and Granddaddy when they went out to meet them. This mostly happened during the summers when my grandparents took care of my brother and me while my mother was in Gainesville, working on her teaching degree. She had been hired with no more qualification than a Bachelor's of Science degree because the school needed a teacher and well, at least she had a college education.
This subject in and of itself could be a very long blog post but for now, we shall leave it, and I will just say that her getting that job was a very fortunate thing as she was newly divorced and needed an income desperately and the job opportunities in that part of Florida were, to say the least, scarce. But she did go on to get that teaching degree and then a Master's Degree as well and that is to her credit as women in those days were not expected to get higher degrees.
But she did.
But back to the Anchor. I have to say that I have very fond memories of that place. It was the farthest thing from fancy. Terrazzo floors, Formica tabletops, booths and tables. I even remember the name of some of my grandparent's friends. There were Rene and Oliver, and Rene was so racy with her red lipstick and the fact that she was far younger than her husband, Oliver. Frank and Katie Baisden came sometimes, he an artist and she the very, very striking, rather-bohemian wife. I loved her and her long skirts and her silver bracelets. Frank was a talented watercolorist but sort of a mean old thing to children whom he mostly ignored. Mr. And Mrs. Kretschmer, Helen and Ed, and she was beloved to me. Her kindness was legendary and I will never forget the way she made me feel- as if somehow I was special. Her husband had what I am sure was Alzheimer's and it was not unusual for her to have to reassure him that yes, she had made certain that the horses were tied up and safe.
This is just the way it was and he was gentle and he was kind too in his fogginess.
These were the people I knew as a child. Good people. Talented people. Interesting people. All of them who had retired to this crazy little jungle town/fishing village perched on a river with orange groves plotted here and there and no comforts to be found at all beyond the Woman's Club, the Garden Club, the Community Church where I never once heard about hell, and canasta games at each other's houses. No air conditioning, no condo maintenance, no gardeners, although some of them had a maid who would come in once a week to clean.
And yet, somehow they felt as if they were in paradise.
And they were, in a way.
They lived in already old cottages and houses which amazingly are still there, right where they left them when they died, still being lived in. Still being taken care of.
So a supper out at the Anchor was a sort of festive thing and I don't remember much about the menu but it certainly wasn't exotic.
What I do remember was that they had hamburgers (like the Tastee Freez, only better) and they had clam chowder and they had strawberry rhubarb pie.
I loved that clam chowder. It was the New England kind and I would not be surprised to learn that it came from a giant can but I'd never had it anywhere else and it seemed pretty exotic to me, although certainly not Persian.
They served it in those little thick, white crockery bowls which I call diner-ware, on a saucer, of course, and it was delicious.
Once I ordered clam chowder in another place when I was older and I got the tomato-based Manhattan kind and was almost angry with disappointment.
I also remember the strawberry-rhubarb pie and it was also very fine and to this day is probably my favorite pie. The sweet along with the bite of the tart together, tucked between a good crust.
Granddaddy would always order a slice and when the server asked Granny if she wanted a piece too, she say, "No, I'll just have a bite of his."
Granddaddy would shake his head and say, "Bring her her own piece. She'll eat all of mine."
This was the eternal joke and Granny always got her own piece of pie.
At least in that regard.
I think about that place, the Anchor Restaurant. I remember the Shrafft's mints in their silver and green wrappers which Granddaddy would sometimes buy us when he paid the check, the rack of earrings and broaches made with tiny, impossibly-colored dyed seashells by the cash register. This sort of jewelry seemed to be ubiquitous in restaurants and tourist stops in those days and I don't think I ever actually saw anyone buy or wear any but they have been branded into my mind for some reason.
All of this was adventure for a little girl in the early 1960's in a literal wide place in the road on the coast of Florida. My brother and I would get toothpicks from the rolly thing where they were dispensed and if the prickly pear cactus was blooming we'd poke the scarlet fruit with them, feeling guilty and yet thrilled at the way they bled. Sometimes we'd put our mint on our toothpick and hold it up and nibble from the edges with as small a bites as we could take.
I'm going to make a snapper and clam chowder with leeks tonight and I am thinking of all of this. I hope it's good but I have a strong feeling that no matter how good it is it will not be nearly as delicious and wonderful as the chowder served in those small, white, cup-sized bowls at the Anchor was.
It's raining. We need it so bad.
It smells like heaven and wet dirt.
I hope it's been a good Monday for you.