Meet us at Cristo's

Image by Ande_Hazel from Pixabay

“Meet us at Cristo’s!” How many times did I say that or hear it from one of my friends when we were teenagers?  It’s long gone now, but the greasy spoon was a place where we shared dreams and made memories.

It was casual, clean and cozy, with cartoon decals of steaming hot dogs and hamburgers on the plate-glass windows. There was no flashy, neon sign; just the restaurant name in yellow lettering on the front door.  Inside, white, paper tablecloths covered small, square wooden tables scattered around the room. Four wooden chairs that squawked against the floor when we slid them out were placed at each table.

As teenagers, we ran as a pack so the first thing we did when we got to Cristo’s was to push a few tables together and crowd around them. There we could stay for hours, talking about everything and nothing as only young people can. Whether after school or a last stop after a night out, Cristo’s was where we could be found.

Spiros and Jimmy were the two young Greek men who owned and ran the place, neither of whom spoke much English. Spiros waited tables. He was slim and lithe, with dark eyes, and a lock of straight, black hair that flopped onto his forehead. He always wore a white apron tied at the waist over dark trousers, a white shirt and a scowl. The scowl gave him gave him a certain appeal, a hint of rebellion bubbling close to the surface, and he was just handsome enough to get away with it. Sometimes my friend, Benny, would get it into his head to make Spiros smile. I don’t know how he did it, but he often succeeded.

Jimmy, the other owner, couldn’t have been more different. Round and smiling, with black hair that waved away from his face, he was a Greek version of the Pillsbury Dough Boy (minus the pastry chef hat). He was always behind the counter, either at the grill or the cash.  He knew we would stay for hours and never spend a lot of money but he always greeted us with a warm smile.  And he made the best fries.

They were freshly-made, not those sickly-looking, frozen, matchstick fries that try to pass for the real thing. Jimmy’s were a perfect, crispy golden-brown on the outside with pale, piping-hot, white flesh on the inside.  We would watch him lift the fry basket out of the hot oil, then pile the fries into white porcelain bowls.  Spiros would swoop by the counter, pick up the bowls and drop them unceremoniously in front of us.  

Some of my friends sprinkled fine grains of white salt on them. Others reached for the old-fashioned, glass vinegar bottle and generously squirted some on their fries. Not me. It was the plastic ketchup packets that I reached for.  After making a diagonal cut in the corner of a small packet, I squeezed it gently from the bottom, carefully and methodically placing a tiny pearl of bright red ketchup on each and every fry. When I was done, it was a work of art. 

Sometimes after eating we’d order coffee. To be honest, it wasn’t very good, but it gave us a reason to linger a little longer. Then, reluctantly, we’d head for our respective homes, having had our daily fill of good friends, good fries and mediocre coffee, until we met up again the next day.

#SoCS: 5 Things You'll Never Hear in Canada in December

Written for Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt for November 30th: “Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is ‘shade.’ Use it any way you’d like. Enjoy!

5 things you’ll never hear in Canada in December:

  • Let’s sit in the shade.
  • Phew, that sun is hot. I wish there were trees to shade us from it.
  • Put up the parasol so we can have some shade.
  • Move our chairs into the shade under the tree.
  • You still need to put on sunscreen, even if you’re sitting in the shade!

If shade were a stock market commodity, its value would sky-rocket in the summer months and plummet in the winter.

Make the Time for Traditions

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

I had been thinking about how our lifestyle is chipping away at traditions, wearing at them like waves pounding at rocks on the shore.  Then I read Thanks-Giv-A  on J.P.’s Blog  and I thought: That’s what I’m talking about.  (The post pokes fun at the idea of Chick-Fil-A catering Thanksgiving dinner, even though the author enjoys its food at other times.) We all like restaurant food as a treat once in a while, but are the holidays the time to serve up a Big Mac Buffet or a Pizza Hut Platter?

Still, let’s be honest:  Did you ever reluctantly drag your feet to a Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner with extended family when you’d rather be home watching Netflix or a football game?  (Guilty.) Or if you’re hosting, do you really get excited about spending several days cleaning and cooking for guests?

I get it. The world has changed in a way that has us racing to check off everything on an unrealistic to-do list each day.  Down-time and self-care have become forbidden candy, which makes us crave them even more.  And there are things we can remove from that list – permanently. But family traditions and time together shouldn’t be one of them.

That doesn’t mean those traditions can’t be scaled back. It’s not about the magazine, picture-perfect table setting or food worthy of Martha Stewart. Women don’t have to wear fancy dresses that cost an arm and a leg.  And men can leave their suits and ties at home. Every family is different and there is no one-size-fits-all. But they can all come together around a table to enjoy good food and each other’s company.

So let’s keep those special days … well, special. This holiday season, make the turkey, or at least a very large chicken. Make the effort to set the table with the good dishes and silverware. But most importantly, make the time for family and friends.

Thanksgiving in Canada is celebrated on the 2nd Monday in October, but my American friends and bloggers are prepping for the holiday this month. Here’s wishing you all a Happy Holiday.