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Lone figure at Getty Museum © Robert Sommers 2017

Friday, June 23, 2017

Pompadouche

I'm reading an interesting book about New York City that I got from the library. It is called Bowery Boys - Adventures in Old New York and is written by Greg Young and Tom Meyers.

I believe that the book started as a podcast and kept rolling and now it is a huge compendium of little known historical facts about the city, pretty much block by block.

I should point out that neither author is a native New Yorker, come to think of it, neither am I, yet I think we have all earned the sobriquet. People constantly ask me if I am a New Yorker, maybe it's the wisecracking jewish thing, I don't know. Even though I was born in San Diego, I answer affirmatively. I spent my formative years there and it's awfully tough to get out of your skin.

Learned a lot reading the book, very comprehensive. I automatically looked for some of the landmarks of my youth and was a bit disappointing to see them missing; nothing on Dave's Luncheonette on Canal, egg creams in the wee hours after hours of smoking nepalese temple balls. Nothing on Tad's Steaks, what were they $4.95? Ditto the late Fulton St. Fish Market where I had many a bowl of sea broth with unlimited oyster crackers for three cents a serving.

If you have an interest in the city, you can get it out of the library it is certainly worth a look.

And it taught me a new word.

Portmanteau.

If you know it you know it, I confess I did not, even contextually I was way off. If you want to cheat and look it up and play wise, well that is between you and the flying spaghetti monster.

What does it mean? Two things. It is a word for an old fashioned suitcase or chiffonier separated into two equal compartments and also a literary term for a word that is conjoined from two other words. Actually coined by Lewis Carroll who came up with a few portmanteaus of his own, like frumius and mimsy.

Here's Merriam Webster's take on the subject:

Definition of portmanteau
plural portmanteaus or portmanteauxplay \-(ˌ)tōz\
1
:  a large suitcase
2
:  a word or morpheme whose form and meaning are derived from a blending of two or more distinct forms (such as smog from smoke and fog)

It is a very good word but a kind of expensive word. Not the kind of thing one throws around in casual daily conversation too easily, a word that can make the user quickly sound like an erudite a-hole. I bet dollars to doughnuts Charles Bukowski never had the word stumble off his sodden tongue.

Now if your parents mortgaged the Connecticut house to send you to Brown or Vassar and you came out of the deal with a degree in literature and zero prospects for anything else, with the exception of that first novel which you never quite finished, the one the literary agent thought was crap and you now find yourself teaching high school somewhere near Dubuque wearing a corduroy jacket with leather elbow patches, commiserating with other poor souls in similar jackets and straits, well you can have at it with the word. You earned it.

But a guy like me, playing around with a word like portmanteau is like playing with fire. Way too heady, the distance between sounding bright and distinguished and sounding like a pompous douchebag far too narrow.

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As I get older I crave the simple things in life. Like a perfect egg salad sandwich. Do you know how hard they are to find around these parts? Good egg salad and good chicken salad, not poisoned by foul onionry, are scarce as hen's teeth in Fallbrook. I try to explain to some restaurant owners but they just don't get it; for many of us, any raw onion is too much.


But I am lucky. I know restauranteurs that like and even love me. So I went into Main Street Cafe today and asked Chris, the owner, to make me one. He doesn't cook anymore but he does for me. I love the greek. He has been cooking for me for over thirty years and I occasionally I go off menu.

Only honest diner in town. 

I got it on wheat bread, with the perfect mustard ratio. Egg warm, bread fresh, as I said, a beautiful thing. Lately I have been getting the patty melts, hold the onions and the barbecued chicken salad, hold the barbecue sauce. With ranch dressing it is just an epic hot weather salad. You can get the chicken grilled or fried. Very refreshing.

All the servers at Main St. are sweet. Place is just aces. Not fancy but an honest meal at a place where real Fallbrookians go to eat. Try it for yourself. And throw the cook a few bucks on your way out. Believe me it pays off, you will get more than your money's worth the next time you order a rib eye steak sandwich off menu. 

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sorry
Perfectly disgusting sandwich, makes me barf just reading about it,, forced to eat as a 3-5 year old still have awful memories off stuffing in my pants

ml

Anonymous said...

Boy do you have the egg-salad thing all wrong. It has to be cold, with onion and relish on toasted sourdough. Your creation sounds like a home for botulism. Guess I'm not serving you any egg salad.

And, the best off menu item at Main Street is the chilaquiles - best I've had anywhere.

See ya,
D