Sorta-Modern Dave's Cafe

There was nothing exceptional about the meal, but the experience was truly invigorating. Only six miles from our St. Elmo home, Dave’s Modern CafĂ© is in Tiftonia, a place very few people have any reason to go, unless you’re getting on the interstate, having glass cut at the Ace Hardware, or looking for a local hotel that accepts multiple dogs.

Modern Dave’s is plywood, literally, yes, but also figuratively—a piece-meal of old retro-modern booths from some long-gone diner, a waitress who may or may not have ever travelled the ten miles to downtown, Christmas lights, and a mauve toilet circa ‘85. In spite of all this, Modern Dave’s has a feel—perhaps it’s legitimacy, perhaps it’s just the dim lighting.

Chris’s dish Pork, Turkey, and Beef Penne utilized the smoke-house meats not consumed the evening before. And its smokiness deepened the red sauce to create a different flavor entirely. But what I truly loved was the recycled concept, the owner-chef mentality of it all. The rest of the food was good, satisfactory, but the experience—and the fake raccoon made of authentic unspecified pelt—will pull me back.

A few years ago, for a lone lunch, I went to a French restaurant located in a strip mall. The owner—in her eighties and wearing Bridgette Bardot’s eyelashes—offered me melon because it was good that day; she sprinkled it with freshly-ground black pepper. She also demanded that, after my quiche, I enjoy her Chocolate-Chambord cake; I had no choice. What I didn’t eat I was instructed to take home for my husband.

No matter how shabby or ill-located, restaurants like these have a certain intimacy that speaks of a simpler mentality—the sort of mentality that Chris and I try to live by but seem to forget when we leave the house: eating what is good, in season; utilizing what’s left over; making do. And maybe the magic of these places is that they make you feel like you’re eating in even when you’re eating out.


Shame Food

As I painfully admit in my SCRATCH draft, there are two particular foods I am embarrassed not to like: blue cheese and yolky eggs. My aversion to eggs is limited: I will happily mix and enjoy homemade aioli; I’m more than pleased to sneak finger-fulls of raw cookie dough; and I eat scrambled eggs—ketchup-dipped, lots of pepper—with great delight. And cheese of any sort except blue is good-grub (as are fungus foods like mushrooms and kombucha; fermented foods like sauerkraut and yogurt).

But here’s the part that stings: millions of non-foodie, taste-challenged plebians who can’t whip together a vinaigrette love these foods. I see them everywhere: ordering black-and-blue burgers for lunch; gobbling Maytag fondue with sweet potato chips at the bar; dousing their toast points and bacon in glistening yolk for brunch. Shame on me!

But there are foods I’m embarrassed to love as well—Peeps, for instance. Last week, half-price at $.49/package, I tried to hide four packages—two pucker pink, two anything-but-natural green—among my carrots, spinach, and celery and sneaked around avoiding A.) Anyone with dreadlocks B.) Those who would recognize me as the local spice artisan. Bingo! I gleefully decapitated two pink peeps as soon as I got in the car.

Peep love is simple: I do like my Peeps stale, but I never have them around long enough to get a good, chewy one going. Instead, I embrace the contrast of the neon sugar’s grit against the fluffy nothingness of peep-body. And I will not accept bunny, snowman, jack-o-lantern, or any shape other than true Peep. It’s in the way the tail curls, the i-like-my-body-when-it-is-with-your-body crease at the chin.

I’m coming to grips with my shame foods, from chicken-to-be to chicken-like-marshmallow. Share you shame foods, and we’ll offer a nice thanks-but-no-thanks together.