Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why don't you make like a banana and...

Yesterday was beautiful and warm. The days get long early in the year this far north, and it was still bright and blue when Ulysses and I walked off the park playground around quarter to eight. We crossed the street to Culver's, a locally based chain of frozen custard and burger joints.

Ulysses's eyes lit up at the sight of the carpeted dining room with padded banquette seats and chairs, the busy counter. The place was humming with couples and families enjoying that great Culver's fare.

I ordered a cup of turtle, the flavor of the day -- they mix each serving by hand when you place your order -- and filled a plastic cup with ice cubes and water at the soda fountain. We sat down at a little table. Ulysses was contented to sip water, and I ate the entire dessert myself (oops). The pecans were crisp and fresh, with just enough salt to set off the milky sweet caramel. The custard was creamy and rich. Ulysses looked around at the busy dining room, the counter staff carrying trays of hot onion rings, fried fish, Culver's famous butter burgers and more to the eager customers.

He looked at me. "What a great party!" he said.

Then Ulysses noticed the cut-glass salt and pepper shakers on the table. He shook some of each into his water. Then he shook in a little more. Then a lot more. After a few shakes, I tried to call a halt to the seasoning project. He resisted -- loudly. I had some choices: leave, continue to forbid the salting, or lift the salting ban. After a few loud minutes, I decided to go with the last. What the heck, I reasoned, what's so bad about what he was doing, really? How much could a shakerfull of salt cost the restaurant -- it's not that outrageous to help ourselves to that much condiment. Probably it's comparable to the cost of a few packets of ketchup, I figured, which no one would begrudge us, after all. And it would be easy enough for me to clean up when we left.

(Yes, I backed down to the demands of a four-year-old. So sue me.)

Finally Ulysses was satisfied with the seasoning in his water. He slowly lifted the cup to his lips. I kept my face straight, ready to suppress the laughter I knew would come when I saw him squinch up his face in disgust at his saline creation.

He sipped. He smiled. Then he swigged.

"Mmmm!" he said. "Yummy! Delicious! You try, Mama!" And he passed the cup across the table to me.

I sipped, and nearly choked. I thought it would be really salty, but I hadn't counted on how potent all that pepper would be. Plus, his enthusiasm was so great that I had been sort of hypnotized into thinking that, somehow, it would actually be tasty. It wasn't.

I passed the cup back to the chef, and he continued salting and peppering -- and drinking -- until the salt shaker was empty. The ice cubes and much of the water had frozen into a solid mass on which lay a thick, dusty coat of pepper.

"Can I have some ice cream?" said Ulysses, sweetly.

About a tablespoon remained of the custard I'd bought for us to share. I gave him a spoonful, and then had another bite myself. It tasted strongly of pepper -- that his lips had left on the shared spoon. And then it was gone.

"Ice cream?" he asked.

Well, I did promise him ice cream. It wasn't his fault that I bought it twenty minutes before he wanted to eat it, and then ate it myself. We went back to the counter and bought a small vanilla cone.

Back at the table, Ulysses jumped up after only a few licks at his cone. "I know!" he said, and ran back to the ordering area. I caught up with him to find him talking to the tall young man behind the counter.

"A banana split, please," he said.

"Our banana splits are bigger than him!" exclaimed the young man.

"I don't even know how he even knows about banana splits," I said to him, and then, to Ulysses, I fibbed: "I don't think they have banana splits here."

"Hmmm," he answered, and looked thoughtful.

"Let's go back to our car and go home," I suggested.

"OK!" he chirruped. There was still plenty of cone left for him to show off to Donald by the time we were home.


  1. wow! sounds like the kid's got a great future in show business! lol

  2. Ulysses!! That is a cool name, I Love it!! Very different from most of the common names! My daughters middle name is Roma. I wanted a different name for her. But her 1st name is Alexandra which is common. I like your blogs, I have been reading them since I found your olive oil mayo recipe. I made it and have it in the fridge now. I found it in Low Carb Friends.

  3. Thanks so much for your comments, both of you! Our primary inspiration for the name "Ulysses" was the movie "O Brother Where Art Thou." The George Clooney character's name is Ulysses Everett McGill. One of our favorite movies of all time.

    Thanks for the nice words on my blogs, Michelle. I made the mayo with half coconut oil, half peanut oil this time, and boy, is it coconutty. Really good, but definitely not neutral, which is generally what I seek in a mayo.

    Michelle, what's your LCF handle?