Christmas Hamburger

I grew up thinking everyone must have fried potatoes each night for supper. Southern Illinois is close enough to the south for the evening meal to be referred to as supper. In our part of the world after supper at a restaurant, the waitress or waiter would ask who wanted a cup of complimentary coffee. Yes, we consumed fried green tomatoes long before the movie was filmed. We also loved a big ripe red tomato fresh out of the garden as we plucked it and rinsed it off…if we had time…and took our trusty salt shaker out to liberally sprinkle it. Did you know that the tomato is a fruit?

Earl swore that there was no better steak than Hamburger Steak. Neva J. laughed each time he said this and informed him again that Hamburger Steak is just a hamburger with gravy on it. Earl also loved Chili-Mac and swore that you could not get good Chili-Mac around Eldorado…but that central Illinois had some delicious Chili-Mac.

Shawneetown had wonderful fried catfish. Shawneetown had been famous and had declined to have the railroad run through their booming town and thus lost the opportunity to Chicago… Neva J. and I often drove to Shawneetown for the catfish. It was fried at a bar and I often thought how fun it would be to get some beer to go with the Cat.

Photo by RDNE Stock project on

Eldorado had several little family-owned restaurants. When I was a boy I do not think we had any franchise eateries in town. When I would see advertisements for McDonalds I assumed they were located in the big city. The little restaurants in town were fun and served you your lunch or breakfast on a heavy plate and your coffee in a large white mug. It was a bit like a family sitting down for a meal. As the popular television show Cheers theme song says…’Where everybody knows your name.’

Smorgasbourghs were the ticket in my youth. Two Tonys had one in West Frankfort and one in Carmi. Earl and Neva J. considered them the epitome of fine dining and I agreed. All you could eat…that said it all. I soon discovered that the bread and vegetables and sweets were at the beginning of the line and the succulent meat was at the end. I endeavored to save space on my overburdened plate for the meat. One Christmas Neva J. swore that we were going to enjoy Christmas Dinner out that year. Earl assured her that there would not be anything open but she proudly proclaimed that she was certain that Two Tonys would be open and ready for business. Christmas we drove first to Carmi…it was a bit closer…and found it closed. Next, we drove to West Frankfort…closed. Finally, we found succor at Poor Boys Market in Harrisburg and purchased some ground beef for some wonderful Christmas Hamburgers.

The children of the Great Depression had a great respect for having enough to eat and a restaurant with a bar of food that was available for the taking was like Christmas in July! Earl and Neva J. loved Ponderosa Steak House in Harrisburg. Often Neva J.’s sisters Guelda and Wanda would accompany them and Earl and Neva J. would buy their meal. They rejoiced in the Food Bar that had sundry kinds of delicious salads and hot food as well. Finally, their stomachs got the best of them and they began taking some home for later…as they knew that they would be hungry again. They performed this feat by wrapping the culinary treasure in several napkins and placing them in their purses. Earl and Neva J. stopped taking them as the management told Earl what they were doing.

3 responses

  1. Wow! Love Hamburguers, don’t eat very often, love the idea hamburguers for Christmas’ dinner.
    Wonderful post and photos, friend now I’m hungry, excatly is time for lunch.
    Thank’s for share, friend.

    1. Thank you, my friend. 😃

      1. You are welcome, my friend 😃

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