Griswold's on a Saturday or Sunday
I was about to tell you exactly what Frank ate when our family carried him to Griswold's, the fine lollapalooza of a Scandhoovian restaurant and breakfast buffet extraordinaire, a real snikerdoodle of a schpred! They said it was Swedish, but it was a mix!
(But first, a reminder: I started all this backtracking on the restaurants and types of food Frank took with us because once upon a time, ten or so years ago, a woman music writer said she wanted to know everything there was to know about a favorite rock star, even down to the food they ate. I think she was writing about David Bowie in Germany at the time. Also now, I write for those zappafiles who seek to recreate Frank and really get to know him intimately. Those fans should read all the books and magazines and billboards and any other printed matter he read, listen to all the music he listened to on records, radio, tape, cassette, onstage live, or any other media, and also hear all the sounds he heard, be immersed in the historic socio-politcal climate of the times, and otherwise broaden their own horizons while listening to his records or otherwise thinking about him. And they should eat all the kinds of food he ate, sympathize with his diseases and frailties, and try to understand his sometimes quixotic temperament and irrepressible drive. So back now to Griswold's, which was located on Foothill, old Route 66, right next to the old Claremont High School, a stone throw's away.)
We had to go on a Saturday or Sunday morning as that was when my Dad was off work (and he was picking up the tab for us all). My mom always postponed an early start, my grandmother perpetually late for any appointment, and Frank would chat with my Dad while we waited for my sister to ready herself (which was hours in the bathroom, as she was attentive to her makeup and appearance, so she was always running late, too, and her dates would have to wait), so I'd sit for a bit with the gentlemen at the modern formica kitchen table. When lo! My grandmother had arrived wearing a necklace of faux pearls and was seated on the couch, her glasses held by a thin string around her neck, and my mother finally readied herself and emerged wearing a brown linen suit with matching accessories (my sister had helped make up her face, and there was a mark of powder on her lapel, and I could smell pancake and a bit of sweet perfume as I helped brush that away).
While the gentlemen were in the kitchen my mother asked Nana for the once-over ritual, were her seams straight, hem straight (meaning no slip showing) and she turned like a model. As we walked out the door, I noticed my grandmother's slip was showing a bit, the lacy edge peeking out from the bottom of her blue wool skirt, and she wore a salmon colored cardigan for the chill. My Dad dressed casually informal for meals out on special occasions, and likely was wearing dark brown wool trousers with cuffs, heavy leather dark brown shoes with leatherpunch pinhole designs, and maybe even that new shirt my sister and I had got him which was a sheeny green import with an Italian style collar rather than a flap collar. And the sleeves puffed a slight bit as they reached the cuff. He never liked that shirt but he wore it sometimes. He always wore a hat, and selected a brown fedora from the clothes closet in the hall, and we were off! We would be lucky to get to the restaurant before noon when the breakfast buffet changed to lunch, and we just made it.
Frank wore well-ironed gray peggers, without the ivy-league buckle in the back that was so popular at the time, a thin black belt, a thin striped shirt ... that was the way he dressed then ... and he did not wear those thick suede oxfords that were so popular at the time, but black shoes. I believe he even carried a sweater with him as this was a chilly day sometime in late fall or winter. Neatly folded, which he stored on his lap as we drove up to the restaurant, but which he left in the car once we'd arrived.
I just keep wondering sometimes just how much detail zappa fans want, it breaks my head and neck to try to recreate even a simple meal out.
What an uptight place and prissy place that Griswold's could be sometimes, even the waitresses's lace about the scoopneck seemed over starched. The whole place demanded sit up straight proper behavior. The Fräulein
in the embroidered apron with small yellow flowers like eidelweiss stitched close handed us menus after a bit of a wait. Awfully stuffy for a recreated regional cuisine.
We killed time prior, first seated on the long brightly colored benches with flower-like cut outs in the sides, and as we settled in, everyone (suspicious krauts abounded in the environs) seated near us became quiet, so that sitting on the bench was like being in an unfamiliar church waiting for a priest to show up at the pulpit or riding on the Orient Express with a feeling the Nazis might board the train for a search at the next station. "Mein Gott!", I said to myself in German! And scooted off the bench to browse the postcard rack, a countertop revolver that held small items for sale (photographs of famous local sites, even a photo postcard of Griswold's itself ... such vanity!)
So we killed more time before being seating (as this was a popular place with a long line and no reservations) browsing through the assortment of metal toll ware coffeepots, creamers, and pitchers, and plates, when a little doorknocker caught my fancy, which was a little like a Nordic zither, little wooden balls would hit the strings and make a jingle jangle when you opened or closed the door. Obviously designed for people who had an open door policy, as this device assumed no doorbell and any who came to visit would announce themselves by walking in through the front door. But after playing with it a bit, and listening to the repeated uncontrollable high pitched near spasmodic jingle, even that got on my nerves. Though near the kitchen you could smell the pea soup on the stove in cauldrons, to be brought out when the tables were cleared for dinner. And near the kitchen was a waitress trying to fit in with the old staff, and she wore a lovely bright white blouse but with more of a V-neck and the old fraus would glance at her disapprovingly. "She's new!" Frank, my sister, and I would laugh.
Eventually, we faced a luscious spread, as we sailed down the fjords of the buffet line. Like a Viking longship, it was ... and we oared down the coast and oars up! stopped for the pickled herring served in small cut crystal bowls (pickled herring and other pickled fish salads for breakfast!) With the most delicate spoon for serving and floating on a small iceberg of crushed snow. An amazing scandahoovian repast, it was. We plied the passage further and moved closer inland to find eggs perfectly done! We gathered some small bits of apple with a slight sprinkle of cinnamon, some potatoes, coffee, and after disembarking from our culinary cruise along the buffet line, we seated and dined. At the end, the breakfast desserts arrived, a fine cruller to finish the stuff fest fit for the hungriest Man or Woman of the North. No harsh coarsely crusted heavy struesel here, sweet things, these were most delicate and light!
Oh, and in the store! They sold real lederhosen with suspenders for the boys to take home as souveiners to continue their Nordic fantasy in schoolyard play, they weighed about 10 pounds per pair, in soft grays with a turned up cuff on the lower thigh, and as I once watched the John Birch Rifle Club Drill Team highstepping on the high school campus, I knew who some of those boys might be because one tow-haired lad was sporting such shorts. While I, when I wore the proud uniform of Brownie, stared amazed at the sturdy white enameled bookshelf in the den mother's music room, a support holding many years worth of hardbound editions of American Heritage, an expensive collection and an expensive publication when purchased individually, as the pages were glossy and the photos and maps exquisitely assembled.
(Stay tuned, and I will eventually tell you exactly where Beefheart's perpetual communal shopping command for yet another drug fueled excursion to Ralph's might have come from ... but in the meantime, eggs, milk, butter, cheese!)
(and how some of the other kids in my class and town eventually grew up ... ShaMEd in Hollywood)