i was a picky eater when i was a child. this might have been my dad’s influence. to this day he hasn’t met a tomato he likes. [my mother was most certainly not at all picky and is willing to try almost anything at least once]. it might have been my tastebuds [apparently they are quite different when one is young].
i grew up in LA. the land of the coffee shop. the sprawling, suburban, 1950’s, pies in rotating cased, pleather booted, astro influenced architectured, fries with everything coffee shops. you had your upscale versions [more restaurant like], your downscale versions [smaller, dingier filled with old time regulars that sat and drank coffee all. day. long], and your somewhere in-between these two extreme versions.
NORMS was the family friendly in-between version. There are still NORMS peppered throughout LA. there was one close to our house. the sign is simply iconic. i don’t know who norm is. i don’t know if they are a chain owned by some corporate conglomerate now. and frankly i don’t really care. [i’m sure i could look it all up]
what i do know is that i loved when we went to dinner at NORMS. when i think about all the places we ate [ok LA people remember these? hamburger henry’s, hamburger hamlet, floppy’s burgers, bob’s big boy, [[how are there so many “hamburger” joints??]], the velvet turtle a couple times -NORMS is at the forefront. it could have been the fried chicken. maybe it was the golden brown, slightly bigger than mcdonald’s, but usually perfectly fried fries [i didn’t like the too crispy or brown ones then]. it could have been sitting with my folks in a booth. it could have been the smile on my mom’s face simply because she wasn’t cooking. it could have been that when i was in kindergarten the teacher’s assistant for my class was also working as a waiter there. i adored him. tall [really tall, especially for a small kindergardener], gentle, glasses, always smiling. i can’t remember his name, but i have a foggy picture of him in my brain.
i think, though, why i always get that pang of nostalgia when i drive around LA and spot a NORMS sign is that because we were out to eat i was usually allowed a treat. and the treat at NORMS was a hot fudge sundae [did it come with my meal? i can’t remember]. by no means gourmet, it was the classic: vanilla, fudge from a bottle, whipped cream, nuts, a cherry [sometimes extra whipped cream and cherries if my teacher assistant was working].
of course those sundaes were good. delicious to my childhood palette. but really, if i’m honest, it was more than that. somehow a feeling of family got wrapped up in those sundaes. 1 sundae, 3 spoons. my dad loved the ice-cream. mom thought they were too sweet, but would dip into the chocolate and the whip cream. me… i loved the whole thing. and that’s probably why every time i visit LA if i see a NORMS i break into a smile.