A Summer Trip Down Food Memory Lane
Memorial Day weekend is but three weeks away, when summer seems to officially kick off. While some of us are dusting off the grills and bringing patio furniture out of storage, others are packing bags and hitting the road.
I remember piling into my mother's orange Pinto hatchback for our annual summer exodus to the Jersey shore, a 70-mile-trip that took about three hours because my mother hated driving on the highway. As a result, she'd drive through every little town in south Jersey instead, put-putting in that Pinto at 35 or 40 miles an hour. It was like driving to Egypt in this nine-year-old's mind.
Also along for the journey were my two kid brothers and our dog, Mumford, who inevitably would get car sick. We always knew we were almost there when the salty smell of the bay would replace that of canine car sickness, and our road-weary bodies would perk up, excited at the prospect of several weeks "down the shore." (That's how we say "at the beach" in Philly.)
It was there we'd ride bikes on the boardwalk and spend hours every day at the beach, eating sandwiches and plums dusted with sand. My mother would make a thermos of "ice tea" that we'd drink out of paper cups, also laced with sandy grit. I can still hear the ice cream man, called Paul, shouting "Get your fudgie wudgie" and we'd beg for change to buy a frozen treat on a stick.
After a day at the beach, we'd sit by the bay with our feet hanging over the dock's edge, wolfing down cheese steaks, and at home, we'd feast on local tomatoes and corn, bought on the side of the road on Blackhorse Pike.
Sometimes we'd play miniature golf, and once a week, we'd head for Ocean City, and stroll the boardwalk there and go on the rides (I loved the bumper cars). Occasionally, we'd succeed at persuading my parents in buying a box of fudge or salt-water taffy.
But it took no convincing my mother of a weekly visit to Betty's, the local ice cream joint, where we'd pile into a booth and eat hot fudge sundaes. She loved those sundaes, particularly when dusted with malted milk powder, a garnish that eventually I'd warm up to. We were a hot-fudge family all around, but I do remember my brother John occasionally ordering the banana split.
On special occasions, we'd clean up real good, dress up and go out to dinner for fried seafood at Capt'n Starns, a legendary restaurant in Atlantic City near Steel Pier that's come and gone. I can still hear the waitress asking me if I wanted applesauce, French fries or baked potato (wrapped in foil) to go with my flounder plate, and I always chose the applesauce.
I loved to crunch into those oyster cracker balls topped with a spoonful of horseradish, washed down with a Shirley Temple, my special outing drink of choice.
It was heaven, and when those three weeks came to an end, the ride home, squeezed back into the orange Pinto with a dog about to barf, never seemed long enough.
Share your favorite childhood road trips and the eats and drinks you still savor, if only in your memory.
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