A tall stack for the man with the hat

July 2, 2012

I’m a sucker for children’s books about food.

The other day while browsing the New York Public Library website, I saw an ad for Frank and Ernest by Alexandra Day. In this short story a well-dressed lion and elephant run a diner for a weekend.

The story begins with them sitting in a library and learning that diners use specific lingo (I am also a sucker for stories featuring  libraries). For instance, “First Ladies” are ribs and “Put out the lights and cry” means liver and onions. The rationale behind adopting this secret language escapes me, still I like it.

Here a gentleman orders “a stack with Vermont and a blonde with sand.”

Inspired and hungry, we had oatmeal pancakes with blueberries (on the flip side)–or, rather, “Beat up a Pile of Horses in Vermont” (I made that one up, but I think it jives well with the other machismo examples).

When considering with whom to share this breakfast feast, I turned to the origins of diners. However, as the American Diner Museum  indicates, it would be difficult to credit one person. Do we thank Walter Scott for the first walk up covered wagon eatery in 1872? Or Thomas H Buckley for beginning the first lunch car company? Or Jerry O’Mahoney for producing 2000 diners shipped throughout the United States from 1917 to 1952?

Then I had a second thought, and decided to put the business men aside and invite the man who captured the image of the American diner.

They say Edward Hopper was lonely. Perhaps he was, but for the second half of his life he had a lovely wife, Josephine Nivison, and they would go on painting and drawing road trips together up and down the east coast. Since the Hoppers lived modestly, I imagine they ate in many diners along the way.

Though Aunt Jemima pancake mix had been invented and popularized by Hopper’s time, the syrup was not yet a household staple. I used to prefer my pancakes with corn syrup, which, although bland, is at least honest.

“More maple syrup?” I asked Hopper. He politely accepted. We discussed his show at the Brooklyn Museum in 1923. I told him that I hadn’t visited yet, but planned on going soon. It’s just down the road. We talked about his favorite places to visit along the Atlantic coast. We spoke of the importance of balancing solitude and companionship. I showed him my first watercolor from the previous post. It’s a crab in an oyster, I explained. He politely suggested that I should keep practicing.

Hopper iconicized the image of the American diner at night. One imagines that same diner in the morning might have been full of contentment and pancakes. Just like our bellies.


One Response to “A tall stack for the man with the hat”

  1. halenancy said

    I cannot believe that you do not remember reading this book as a child. I am sure we still have our copy, and I will gift it to you if you are willing to go through the attic to find it. Your pancakes look yummy. I like mine with blueberries inside and loads of salted butter with real maple syrup. I love the story of Hopper and his wife traveling together. So very romantic.

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