As the clock tick-tocked its way toward dinnertime, one recent afternoon, I was uninspired. I didn’t feel like cooking and if it wasn’t for two small dependants I could have happily gone without.
Fortunately, inspiration came home to roost, and just in the nick of time. An old summer staple, from my childhood, would be just the thing – not just for a make-do meal, but a suppertime adventure.
Shady Rest is an old, British-style fish and chip shop that goes back I don’t even know how far. My mum used to go there when she was a little girl, possibly on evenings when my Grandma suffered from cookers block as well.
I hadn’t been in years, although I’ve thought about it from time to time and considered it a good idea – you know, maybe down the road.
What started as a cooking cop-out turned into an occasion. I called Mr. Pear Tree to let him know we’d be picking him up from work, so don’t take the bus, then packed up some jars to supplement the baby’s meal.
Our next stop was Shady Rest. From the outside it looks essentially the same as it always did since, well, since I can remember. Inside, there were a few changes. The place has been repainted a rather passive grey (I seem to recall it being bright orange – can anyone attest to this?) and the big step beside the counter, which once enabled small people to peek over the edge and watch their fries – sorry, chips – being made, is gone.
The steps that used to go upstairs to the patio have either been built in or removed.
However, still present is the ancient cash register – the kind you’d expect to see in an old mercantile or similar, that pops the numbers up at the top when you push the buttons. And, yes, they still use it. Ditto the ship picture and the old soda cooler, which I believe dates back to at least my mum’s childhood days, when she would crack the top off her soda with the strategically placed bottle opener on the side.
I tried to help my pre-school-aged young son envision his Grandma using such a device, but he was much more interested in nicking straws from a box and trying to escape with them through a swinging oak door, probably also original to the place. So it was left to me to appreciate how he was now a fourth generation customer to this establishment.
Anyway, after picking Mr. Pear Tree up, we drove back to the park near our place, threw down a table cloth on the grass, gingerly unwrapped our booty and then saturated the battered halibut and chips in salt and malt vinegar. Then we launched into our dinner.
They’re not the best chips in the world (that honour goes to a little shop in Mousehole, Cornwall), although my mum would contend that their fish has it all over the British fish – not the least because they thoughtfully remove the skin for you before deep frying. But it was a chance to break with the standard supper, and take a trip down memory lane at the same time. A create your own adventure, if you will. Because what’s the point of summer if not that?
– Words and photos by Lori-Anne Poirier