Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summertime foods and treats

I grew up in South ST. Louis City, or technically the county.  The city marker, that shows people when you have entered St. Louis city proper and not the outside county area, was located about a mile away from my home.  I remember hot and humid summers in the city as my father would take my brothers and I on trips with him.  He did this to allow my mother, who was watching us during his work week, to get some rest and relaxation.

On really hot days like today, I remember that my dad would take us on small trips to the local Hobby Shop on Hampton or even the old army surplus stores off of Watson.  After these trips, we would often stop for something like some ice cream or a good soda pop.  But back then, in the 80's, I remember soda coming in ice cold bottles.  Also, the ice cream came from Ted Drews, so it was always good.  We may have also helped him with a trip to Hannake Hardware or Ace, where we would buy a bag of freshly popped popcorn for a quarter.  Sure it was the most salty and underflavored popcorn ever, but the idea of having your own small paper bag of popcorn while riding in the shopping cart and looking at cool hardware and doors and lights, as a kid, is the best.  I likely could waste a whole day doing this again with my kids.

Another thing that I remember was a Kool Aid stand.  Everyone had stands where they would sell drinks for like 5 cents a cup.  I know it isn't much but as a kid in the 80's any extra change you could get was a piece of candy waiting to be bought.  I remember making and buying drinks from these stands and it wasn't the best tasting Kool Aid or the best for you, but when it was a hundred out side, it felt great.

Ben Franklin was the name of a nickel candy shop and craft store that was located about a mile from our old house, in the Old Orchard Center.  My brothers and I used to get our bikes and ride up to this store where we would spend as little as $1 on candies, enough to fill our pockets, back when candies were as little as 5 cents each and there were even penny candies.  I remember buying Tootsie Rolls for a penny each and now they are sold for about 20 cents each; talk about inflation!

I also remember to beat the heat, my dad would sometimes take us to his job, so he could get some work done on the weekend and be ahead of the game on his job.  While we would be busy in his office doing "work", with the paper, pens and highlighters he would let us play with.  When he was in need of a break, we would go to the break room, which had a small refrigerator and inside was a pile of Vess orange sodas.  A sign on the door read "50 cents a soda".  My dad would spend $1 and we would have a cool and refreshing Vess soda.

The thing with STL is that there isn't a lot of street food vendors because the city has little to no residential and mostly old buildings for work.  So, the county area is where the food places would be.  I remember that there was a guy that would always sell pretzels, good soft and tasty pretzels.  He would walk along a section of street near Arsenal and would sell these 12 inch long pretzels, Gus's Pretzels, for as little as a quarter.  Nothing is better than finishing a soccer game, early in the morning and having a snack on the way home with a nice long pretzel.

Weekend or more specifically Saturday lunches were usually composed of fried balogna sandwiches, which is great with some mayonaise on the bread as well.  It is cheap and filling and made all of us happy.  I think of it now as a way of shaping my food views as what we eat and enjoy as food memories as kids is what we enjoy later in our lives.  Memories like this make up what we want to see in the future as well, as more and more of these things disappear. 

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