From My Window
Going, Going, Gone!
By Jane Thibodeau Martin
I was in Marinette County last week; and of course a lot of memories flood my brain when I return "home." One of the topics of a family conversation was "things that are going away." Now, I am NOT one of those older people that are "stuck in the good old days." I welcome nearly all of the changes that have occurred during my lifetime and don't have rose-colored glasses about the way things used to be when I was young, in general. But one of the things we talked about most certainly does make me think, "Ah, I sure miss that."
The thing we agreed we all missed was supper club salad bars. These days the top of any menu in such a place has a lengthy list of "appetizers," and a salad usually precedes the meal, sometimes included in the dinner price but sometimes not. The old-fashioned salad bar was normally included in the price of a dinner, and it was both the appetizer AND the salad. Some of our nostalgic discussions covered the liver pate; the cheddar cheese spread with breadsticks; the pickled fish (not a fan, but my husband loved it,) and the raw veggies and dip. Among the best dips of all was the spinach dip at Schussler's supper club. I can make it at home but it simply never measures up to theirs. Not to mention a nice variety of pickles and olives.
The salad bar often included a soup (French onion, typically,) but some had a choice of two soups. And the bread or rolls, the pasta salads, potato salad, the tossed salad toppings, the coleslaw, and on and on. You could easily make an entire meal out of the salad bar, and often you'd finish a big plate of the offerings and be less enthused when your entrée came. (On a similar note, my Mom was mentioning the "Dutch Windmill" gingerbread cookies that were served complimentary post-meal at the legendary Shaffer's chicken restaurant in Crivitz.)
We were trying to think of any local place that still always has the full, true old-fashioned salad bar and came up empty. (If I am missing a place, send me an e-mail at the address below. I live in Oklahoma, I easily could have overlooked a place.)
My sister-in-law used to work at a place called the Buck-A-Neer in Rozellville (near Marshfield,) that still had the "real deal," salad bar, and we ate there just before it changed hands late last fall. The rumor was already afoot that the salad bar would be a victim of the change of ownership, so I made it a mission to fully appreciate the visit.
I have no doubts at all what is creating the demise of the salad bars " it is cost. It's expensive and labor-intensive to stock the necessary fresh ingredients and prepare all the various offerings every single evening. There is no doubt an incredible amount of waste, as well. So I do understand, and we'd have to accept higher entrée prices if the traditional salad bars came back.
I have an in-depth appreciation of what is involved in offering full salad bars, since I worked for one full night as the "salad girl" at one of the old classical supper clubs in the Marinette County area as a teenager. It was a desperate rush for peak dining hours to keep the salad bar full, cleaned, and fresh-appearing as an endless line of diners attacked it. People used the wrong ladle for the salad dressings, and dribbled ingredients all over the salad bar and onto the floor. I had the necessary high energy level for the job, but turned in my apron after my one night worked due to an incident of what is now illegal (and completely inappropriate) conduct by employers in workplaces. Thank goodness " this is another excellent example of how the good old days weren't always so great.
At the core, a salad bar is an example of a bountiful offering of choices we don't even offer ourselves when we prepare food and eat at home. Few of us go to the grocery store and buy 30 ingredients to have so many choices, so the classic salad bar was a "dine out" experience we simply didn't get at home.
And, apparently, can't get out any more, either.
Next week: The inexorable disappearance of drip coffee makers, formal china, and wine glasses with tall stems.
You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.
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