Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Comfort Food (Part 2) Eddington's

My first job was busboy for a famous soup restaurant in Minneapolis. Many of you who are from the Twin Cities know this incredible eatery - Eddington's. I worked during Christmas Break, 1982. My family had moved to Minnesota the year before, and I was still getting used to the bitter cold winters that make the mid western state famous. 

I would arrive early because I would go into the city with my father (my first carpool experience). Imagine the comfort I felt as I left the cold street and walked up the warm, hardwood staircase to the level where the original Eddington's was located. The smell of garlic and butter would fill my nostrils as the bread sticks were being pulled out of the oven. The aroma of large sugar cookies would compete with the savory scents of wild rice soup, or Wisconsin Cheddar soup. These were (and still are) hearty soups, so thick that you can devour them without even using a spoon - just a supply of 4 or 5 soft bread sticks for dipping. As I write, I miss this food almost as if it were a family member!

The large dining area would start to fill with loyal patrons at around 11AM, as lunch break started. By the time noon arrived, there would be a line that stretched from the soup counter all the way back to where the stairs started, down the staircase and out the door. Eddington's would turn 4-5 tables every day at lunchtime. The busboys were very busy! I learned a few things working for Eddington's. 

First, it is amazing the kind of emotions that a warm bowl of comfort can create. My family was in Minnesota this past August for my sister's wedding, and we all (7 siblings with spouses and children plus Grandma and Grandpa) converged on Eddington's for dinner the day after the wedding. It was just expected - part of the week's agenda. We could hardly wait! The happiness of sitting all together in that restaurant and enjoying food that we had loved for over 25 years was an important, emotionally bonding experience that was an essential part of being in Minneapolis that week (no offense to my sister and her husband - you guys were the main event!).

Second, the smell of a delicious meal warms me almost as much as eating it! It goes back to walking in from the school bus to the smell of cookies fresh out of the oven, or walking in the door after a tough day at work, to the smell of dinner cooking. Its called comfort food for a reason. The aroma feeds the anticipation of putting that food in your mouth and sooths the senses. 

Finally, I learned about hard work and rewards at Eddington's. I saw hundred's of business men and women come into that downtown restaurant. This was before the age of cell phones (pagers were a shackle reserved for the very busy of the day - doctors, lawyers, sales execs). People connected for a respite from the hard work of their day to enjoy an hour of pure, uninterrupted comfort. No emails or text messages to answer. Just good food and good company for one hour!

My feet killed me after each day, and my forearms were sore from carrying tubs full of dishes back to the washer. For a skinny 14 year old boy this was a work out! Yet, I was never unhappy with the work I was doing. Perhaps it was the bowl of Wisconsin Cheddar and the pile of bread sticks I would dig into after my work was over that comforted me, that soothed my aching muscles. No... it was the food, no "perhaps" about it!

What are some of your favorite comfort food experiences? Please share your stories with us. We look forward to hearing from you!


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