I DO a lot of revisiting my childhood. When I was stressed out at college (thesis season, exams, midterms, finicky profs, the stomach flu, etc), I’d check out a couple of young adult novels and a few picture books from the library to soothe my raging mind. When I carp about current stressful situations, I hit up my Netflix queue and order up Mermaids.
Sometimes, though, it’s happiness and contentment that give me the same warm-fuzzy feeling as memories of sneaking cake for breakfast or Lex’s little sister describing braces as a “teeth necklace.” After the Big Move of last Sunday, a week of never-ending work (I really ought to be doing some Right Now, but who has the time?!), and a trip to New Rochelle, I fell back against the new sofa this morning and thought to myself, “This has been an extraordinary week. I should reward myself with IHOP.”
Technically, I thought to myself, “This has been an extraordinary week. I should reward myself with the Rooty-Tooty-Fresh-N-Fruity Special,” but that’s semantics.
After running a few errands for the apartment–a new wireless router (!!!), spackle, stemless wine glasses, dish towels, etc–we headed out to the promised mecca of IHOP. A morning of Best Buy, Pier 1 Imports, Ikea, and Lowe‘s is enough to make anyone need a refresher course in how to be sane, and there’s nowhere better to cull that lesson than a trip down memory lane.
It bears noting that I haven’t been to an IHOP for over 3 years; the last time was while I was in college, when Lex and Jeremiah road-tripped over from Chicago, and we got one of the Rooty-Tooties for free (hence the positive association). It should also be noted that the Guest of Honor this week was none other than my mother, in town to oversee the moving process and make sure I keep the floors of the new apartment clean. Amen.
So, with the backseat of Shreya’s car loaded with the spoils of our shopping trip, we pulled into the IHOP parking lot on Snyder Avenue (right by Modell‘s) and made our way into the establishment. Now, there’s something to be said for chain restaurants. Sure, they rarely vary, either in decor (think Applebee‘s) or in menu. But you know what you’re getting. And sometimes that’s more important than culinary experimentation or a challenged palate.
Certainly I went out on a limb this time and had a slightly more grown-up meal than usual; instead of pancakes or french toast, I ordered the Big Steak Omelette ($10.99), which comes with three buttermilk pancakes and is stuffed full of steak, mushrooms, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, onions, and served with salsa. My mother went for the Spinach & Mushrooms Omelette ($8.99), which is exactly what it sounds like, and is topped with hollandaise sauce. Shreya got the Two x Two x Two: two eggs (she got hers scrambled), two pancakes, and two bacon sausages. She slathered it all with hot sauce, downed a couple cups of coffee, and then regretted having already eaten breakfast.
None of us were obeying the laws of the Guru of Eating, Paul McKenna. Instead of listening to our stomachs, we were listening to our memories. Twice during the meal, the IHOP staff came out to sing their version of ‘Happy Birthday.’ And even though I wasn’t scarfing down the Rooty-Tooty-Fresh-N-Fruity, I was remembering countless other IHOP breakfasts scattered across Tennessee and the landscape of my childhood.