The Growth of a Nation

By BOB ZIMORINO

I thought about calling this segment “The Girth of a Nation” because according to the Centers for Disease Control while men have gained an average of an inch and a half in height and women an average of one inch in height between 1960 and 2002, we gained an average of twenty five pounds during the same time period.

About the time I went to my first McDonald’s, there was a paradigm shift going on in retail America. Up until the sixties the retail center of my hometown was literally the center of town. The buildings were older, brick and stone style construction and typical of downtowns in the area, at the time.

In the late 50’s a plaza was built on the west end of town. It offered amenities that downtown could not, which were basically a huge parking lot and a covered walkway between stores. There was a grocery store on one end and a box store at the other with a department store in the middle. There were an assortment of businesses that in-filled between the anchor stores, a pharmacy, a couple of shoe stores, a laundry, an upscale clothing store, a hardware store and only one restaurant if you didn’t include the Carvel ice cream shop. It was designed for one stop shopping.

Neisner Brothers or the “Big N” as it was called had a cafeteria. It was brightly lit, had fake plants and cafeteria food. Why, you ask, is this of any importance? Newark was typical of other towns of the time. Life was getting busy. Women were becoming a more visibly dominant part of the outside of the home workforce.

There were restaurants, including a bakery/cafeteria, a Greek Tea Room, a newsroom with a soda fountain, a pizzeria and a luncheonette in the downtown area of Newark, as well as a diner car style diner (just off of downtown) and the fancy place in town which was a steakhouse on the eastern edge of town called Speck’s where the owner kept a live alligator (not on the menu) in a pit in the back. When they built the plaza the only restaurant was a cafeteria. It was convenient for shoppers. They could take a break from it all and grab a cold pop or a quick bite…because that is what we were looking for…convenient and quick.

We were a meat and potato society. Served cafeteria style you could have a choice of meats and potatoes, accompanied of course with canned veggies. Still hungry? Then go buy another entrée. They are right there and ready to be eaten. Of course there are an assortment of desserts to help you finish off your meal. All on display for your easy purchase…convenient and quick. And so we ate.

I had roast beef for dinner at my friend’s house one night. His Mom was June Cleaver. For dinner in her household, you got two slices of beef, a spoonful of mashed potatoes, an even smaller spoonful of canned veggies, a slice of white bread and a half of glass of milk. That was it. You were done. This family had been trained to eat appropriate amounts of food, a healthy diet so to speak.

Never mind that when my friend ate at my house he would plow through food like a Mongol horde plowing through Eastern Europe. It was there in front of him. He would have used a shovel if we had run short of silverware. This is what cafeteria style eating did. You could see the food and it called to you. If only you could pay one price and eat as much as you want…like…you know…a buffet.

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Bio:  Bob Zimorino is a full-time real estate agent with Lambros/ERA Real Estate, a retired Certified Executive Chef, a Musician with the popular local band Hellgate Rodeo, a dad, and a grandpa. He shares the experiences from his life that helped shape his careers and hobbies. What better place to start his weekly “Taste It” blog than his take on the evolution of food in hislifetime?

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