Food for Thought
by: Russ Lancaster
Have you ever been asked the question, "If you were stranded on a deserted island and had just one choice for food until you were found, what would it be?"
I have heard the question asked of others many times before and have myself been asked the same question. My answer is simple, yet it usually causes raised eyebrows.
My choice is simple and always the same. I always choose a hamburger steak with gravy, mashed potatoes or french fries, a slice of tomato on the side and home made biscuits. Surprised? You are not alone.
I learned to like that meal in a way different from most of the other foods I like. My mom was a fantastic cook and I am lucky enough to have a wife that learned to cook from her. My wife even became better at it than my mom though I would never have told my mom that when she was still alive. But, its true.
I learned to like the hamburger steak meal with all the fixings I outlined above (with the exception of the home made biscuits) at two places in Hamlet that are no longer in existence.... The Hamlet News Stand and the Pink Platter. No one can make the biscuits like my wife.
I ate my first hamburger steak at the Pink Platter back in the 1950s when Donald Harris' mother worked there. I was hooked.
Donald was my best friend back then. Sometimes after school, we would go down to the Pink Platter at the corner of Hamlet Avenue and Raleigh Streets and beg a meal off his mom. The day she served up a hamburger steak was one I won't forget. Donald and I spaced our visits out quite a bit so we wouldn't be seen as pestering his mom. We might stop by only three or four times a year and each time was great.
The second place I got hooked on hamburger steaks was at the News Stand down by the old passenger station back in 1969. My wife, Helga, had taken my youngest daughter at the time on a visit to her folks over in Germany. I quickly found out that I was not a good cook. She was going to be gone six weeks and I couldn't eat peanut butter sandwiches or soup forever. I needed FOOD!
I found myself down at the News Stand one afternoon with a young lady working behind the bar who recognized me. She struck up a conversation with me and seemed to know all about me even though she had been several years behind me in school. She knew all about my time at Syracuse University and about my Air Force career which had ended back in 1963. She was quite attractive and interesting and I was flattered by her attention. I may have even entertained a thought or two into areas I shouldn't have had I not been so hungry. I finally interrupted her and asked what she would recommend off the menu.
"Honey," she said, "Let me fix you up with a good old hamburger steak!"
My thoughts quickly went back to the "Pink Platter" days of nearly a decade earlier. I wondered if she could fix one up as good as the ones I remembered. I was in for a pleasant surprise.
A few minutes passed as I sipped on my coke and smoked a cigarette trying hard not to look at this young lady. Soon, she put a meal in front of me that impressed me even more than her beauty.
There, just for me, was a juicy hamburger steak, french fries, a slice of tomato and some bread. I ignored her completely as I quickly devoured the meal. It may have been the best meal I ever ate.
I was to spend many afternoons after that for the next several weeks down at the News Stand. I felt pampered there. I had a good looking young lady who was a great conversationalist and who really knew how to please me with food. I never let the temptation of her friendliness get the best of me though I'm sure I came close many times. I remained faithful to my wife until she returned from her six week vacation.
My wife knows of my love for that particular meal but doesn't understand why. I guess its a man's thing. It is really hard to get her to cook that special meal for me but thankfully she is such a great cook that I don't ask for it very often. If we go out to a cheap restaurant and it's on the menu, I will order it even though I get "the stare" from Helga. She thinks I am wasting my money. She just doesn't understand.
Don't get me wrong, I have eaten in some of the best restaurants there are from Texas to New York and all in between. I have eaten in fine restaurants in Germany and some special places in Detroit, Philadelphia and Miami. Some of those places don't even have prices on the menu so you know how expensive they are. They all have served me fine food from prime rib to seafood and everything in between. I know how to order the expensive stuff in those fine places without batting an eye.
But, if I'm ever stranded on a deserted island somewhere and someone is kind enough to ask that silly question.... Yes, the answer has not changed.
Give me a hamburger steak please, with gravy and mashed potatoes or french fries. A slice of tomato on the side would be just great and please don't forget the biscuits.
But, if at all possible.... could you please order it from the Pink Platter or the News Stand in Hamlet, North Carolina?
Yes, those places are gone now, but the memory will stay forever because... I remember Hamlet.
This section is to honor the works of Russ Lancaster who started the “I Remember Hamlet” web site years ago. Without his pioneering the web at that time we might not have gathered all these memories of our Hamlet, NC. We thank you Russ for what you started in 1996, may you Rest in Peace. Russ was kind enough to let me download his web site before he took it down. Thank you Russ.
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