Memory, it has been said, is a treacherous mistress: It will betray you when most needed and abandon you as age takes its inevitable toll.
Soon after White Castle opened in Terre Haute, having succumbed to the vagrancy of memory, made a trip thereto. It was not hunger driving me on, but the cravings which only childhood memory can enlist in an old man.
The first Blog in which I mentioned memories of White Castle had to do with an anniversary of the passing of my older brother, Terry ("Somebody owes me a White Castle", Dec. 11, 2008). It was Terry who so firmly established "Sliders" as a favorable childhood experience. In response to some inquiries at the time White Castle Restaurants sent me two 3-for-Free coupons for their world famous hamburgers.
Then last July, after finally getting around to using one of my coupons in the new Castle restaurant, wrote Blog entitled "White Castle vs. Eddie's." This generated more response than any of 100-plus nonsensical pieces submitted to date. Opinions expressed were about 50-50, with one neutral. My favorite was the one against both: "I would not walk across the street for either one if they were free. Stinking heart attack burgers! Try a salad or fruit bar, yum yum."
This past week finally got a chance to talk to Kelly McGinty, owner of Eddie's, about accepting my remaining 3-for-Free coupon. He most graciously agreed to honor it, so I made a "food critic on deck" visit to Eddie's.
Deliberately ordered same things purchased at White Castle: 3 burgers, fries, and coffee. So here's my review:
First, Eddie's actually tasted like hamburgers. Lately my memory driven cravings had been for a genuine fried-on-a-grill burger like you'd get at the Woolworth's soda fountain and grill. The Eddie's were all of that. Don't quite recall exactly what it is White Castles tastes like, but it's something else.
Second, not only were they bigger, there were no neatly placed holes in them! Maybe that's the difference in taste -- or value for money spent?
Third, to be fair had to put on my own onions and pickles. Still tasted like hamburgers.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, I had trouble eating it all. There was just more of it to consume -- burgers, fries, coffee, et el. It hasn't been that long for memory to fade and I do distinctly recall leaving my White Castle luncheon wishing I'd brought more money.
Finally, Eddie's menu includes things like chili and soup, tenderloins, chicken, sausage, and pie (my favorite thing anywhere). Found myself wishing I'd hadn't already had too much to eat, and regretting didn't have any more money.
In the end it really is not about the food served or recipes behind it. It really is about memories. I grew up in the 1950's, maybe the best time to be a child in America. My relationships with my family were solid and worth remembering. Born and bred in Brazil Eddie's would be in my memories. However, I will to my dying day have cravings for White Castles. If I'm hungry, though, may just stop by Eddie's.
According to the poster on their wall, the record for most Eddie's hamburgers eaten at one setting is 31, set in July 2008. Memory tells me my big brother could have beaten that.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.