Last week I went to Joe Squared. While talking to the owner, Joe, I mentioned that I am Robert of Cross Keys. He responded with disbelief. “You’re RoCK. No way. I thought you were like 50 or something.”
I’ll admit that I was probably born after my time. I spend a lot of time thinking about the past and what life used to be like. Now, I’m not talking about what was life like in medieval Europe or colonial America, I’m talking about what adult life was like . . . when I was only a child.
At work I find myself seeking out the veterans and asking what was Accounting like back in the 70’s or what was going on in Human Resources during the 1980s. Most of these conversations end up with me going on a rant about how lame office parties have become. I’m not sure why, but somewhere around 1985 the highlight of these festivities moved from Seagram’s 7 to seven layer dip. ...
My favorite foray into past, however, is talking about restaurants that I didn’t get a chance to visit. I will always welcome the opportunity to talk about Baltimore’s food scene from days gone by.
One time I was in Petit Louis eating sweetbreads. I started talking to these two older guys sitting next to me about how sweetbreads used to be more common in restaurants, but now they were more of a special treat. Well, the next thing I knew they were telling me about everything from the shad roe at Danny’s to chocolate sauce at Marconi’s.
The history lesson isn’t limited to places that closed up shop years ago. A few days ago I was down in Annapolis at Middleton Tavern, which has been a tavern since the 1700s. I got a chance to meet Jimmy. Jimmy has been working in the kitchen at Middletown since 1946. I probably could have spent hours talking to him. To think of all the things he has seen change -- while staying at the same place.
While meeting Jimmy, I couldn’t help but think about Elizabeth . The longevity of these two individuals is somewhat of an anomaly in their respective fields. How many cooks or journalists are you going to see staying in the same place for years, let alone decades?
What I’ll miss most about Elizabeth is her institutional knowledge and local history, because that will not be duplicated. There will be other reviewers, and I’m sure they will be able to describe what the food tastes like at Roy’s, what the room looks like at Pazo and what the servers serve like at Birches, but they’re probably not going to know what Danny’s was like back in the 1970s or what was going on at Marconi’s in the 1980s.
(Photo of Jimmy courtesy ofTamar Fleishman)