June 7, 2009, is a date which the history of the Wabash Valley may ever commemorate. Perhaps the historical society could mount a plaque. We could even declare the day a local holiday.
June 7, 2009, is the day when -- as it must to all places where civilization flourishes -- White Castle Restaurants came to Terre Haute.
Because of circumstances above and beyond my control, I was not able to dine at this new center of culinary exceptionalism until recently. It was worth the wait, albeit an impatient wait.
Inevitably now there will be those born and bred in Brazil who will contend Eddie's burgers are just as good -- some declaring them better. This misses the point.
It is not about the sandwich -- neither is objectively all that great. It is about the memories.
White Castle vs. Eddie's is about being 7-years-old seeing real, live carhops in neat white uniforms; and hearing for the first time about how they were a nickel each when White Castle opened in 1927. My parents recalled the first, and only, newspaper announcement offering "20 for $1." During the Depression, as I recall the story, if you had a dime you could share a burger and a Coca-Cola. If you had a dime you had a date, if you had a dime. By the time I came along a nickel burger cost twelve-cents.
White Castle vs. Eddie's is about being very, very good at church; good enough we got to go to White Castle -- daddy, mommy, big brother Terry, and snotty little sister, Diane.
White Castle vs. Eddie's is about Terry getting his Learners Permit and being allowed for the first time to drive in heavy traffic. Where did he want to go? White Castle, of course. To his dying day Terry could each six, plus fries. I never could down that many in one setting at any age.
Mostly, though, White Castle vs. Eddie's is about The Bet with Terry. Sometime after one of us turned 50, we made The Bet: Whichever one died the youngest had to buy White Castles for the brother who lived to be oldest. It was, as we well knew, a sucker bet. There was no way for the "winner" to collect.
I wrote about this bet in a blog back on Dec. 11, 2008, when I had officially won our bet by living longer than Terry. At the time I wrote to White Castle Restaurants inquiring when they'd open in Terre Haute and telling them about my wager with Terry.
White Castle responded with a "3 for Free" Coupon, which is what I used the other day to get my White Castles. I like to think redeeming that coupon as redeeming my brother's "marker" due me when he lost the bet. Markers being a gambling term -- or so I was told -- by my brother.
White Castles are now 61 cents each. For that price I might as well have an Eddie's.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.