Milkshake reverie and soups of yesteryear


In the 80’s, I stepped away from the career in which I had spent most of my time working with seniors. I had directed the Homemaker Registry Pilot Program for the Area Agency on Aging along with others in the Midwest and Northeast, and it had been judged a success. It is still being offered to homebound seniors nationwide.

I had produced an award-winning television program on our local cable station for information designed to reach the homebound elderly and disabled, and I had been writing columns for a couple of papers directed to older adults.

I was tired.

So, when I mentioned I was looking for something fresh to try, my friend offered me her café. She was getting married and moving away, and since I had worked there part-time for years, she thought I would be a perfect fit. So did I.  I bought it and became the proud owner of the only place to eat in our one-block-long town.

I made very few changes to her menu, but I did announce in one of my columns that I was burying the milkshake machine in the backyard. That milkshake machine had been the bane of my existence. The ice cream was always as hard as a rock, and I came close to spraining my wrist every time I had to make one.

Sadly, apparently, more people read my column than I realized, and a few days later several of my customers showed up with a petition to keep the milkshake machine. They even offered to make their own if I kept it.

Of course, that never happened, but I kept the stupid thing anyway and milkshakes went on.

The café was already known for its hamburgers when I took it over. But I did add soups and stews that became very popular.

I had a wide variety of soups, including some different types, like lettuce soup, sausage, kale and potato soup and hamburger soup, among others.

The second year I began doing the lunches for our school. The first time I made homemade macaroni and cheese, I was informed by a committee of mothers that they knew it was a lot of work, and the kids didn’t like it – they preferred Kraft’s mac and cheese. Actually, the “Mothers Committee” became very helpful as time went on and empty returned serving dishes were always a good sign.

After five years of 18-hour days, however, the charm had worn off, so I sold the café and moved to Bisbee, Arizona to run a bed and breakfast for a few years.

Recently a friend and I stopped by Silvers Saloon in Olympia for lunch and were unable to resist trying the “Cow Pie” item on their menu. It was similar to Shepard’s Pie and quite good.

These memories came flowing back last week when I recently tried my hand at Curried Butternut Squash Soup. Since the Pacific Northwest actually has a winter, I make quite a few soups during this season and always kind of miss that part when the warmer weather arrives.

The first time I try something new, I always follow the recipe to the letter, adding, subtracting or creating on the next try. The Curried Butternut Squash Soup was delicious, but next time I will probably spice it up a little.

In our area, we have access to some of the best clam chowder I have ever tasted. I have tried the chowder at the Dockside Bistro, The Olympia Oyster House and Chelsea Farms and so far, I have never been disappointed.

Clearly there is no need to make my own, which also gives me an excuse to be out and about. And eating out in our neighborhoods is one of my favorite things to do.

Kathleen Anderson writes this column each week from her home in Olympia.  Contact her at or post your comment below.


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