|Williams Tavern Restaurant at Historic|
Washington State Park. (Kat Robinson)
When did restaurants start popping up in Arkansas? For that matter, what qualifies as a restaurant?
The term “restaurant” wasn’t much u
sed in our country, let alone Arkansas, before the 20th century. The word was allegedly created by a soup vendor in France who sold “restoratives,” which taken to one extreme equates restaurant with soup, no? Hrm.
That man was known as Monsieur Boulanger, and in 1765 he had this sign outside his shop in Paris: “VENITE AD ME VOS QUI STOMACHO LABORATIS ET EGO RESTAURABO VOS” (Come to me, all who labour in the stomach, and I will restore you). He gets credit for the word… but the actual concept of a place where you exchange money for food is quite ancient… with both the Chinese and the Romans having some variation.
|Fresh, hot rolls and jalapeno cornbread are brought|
to every table. (Kat Robinson)
The state’s oldest restaurant in its original location could quite possibly be the Oark General Store, out way in the little Oark community near the Mulberry River and far away from just about everything else. It dates back to 1890.
|The tavern in summertime. (Kat Robinson)|
|A lunch of hand breaded chicken fried steak, fried|
zucchini and black-eyed pea salad. (Kat Robinson)
|Black-eyed pea salad has a pickle-like tartness and|
includes purple onion, pimento and green beans -- a
traditional South Arkansas side dish. (Kat Robinson)
|Chicken fried chicken with fried squash and black-eyed|
pea salad. (Kat Robinson)
|Ham steak with cherry sauce, corn nuggets and|
creamed potatoes. (Kat Robinson)
|Dusty Chambers. (Kat Robinson)|
But it is wonderful. The wait staff dress in country outfits -- white shirts, black skirts and aprons. A lot of those aprons are made by Dusty Chambers' mom. She says her mom can make any apron from scratch at the drop of a hat. After seeing so many different aprons attributed to her mom, I believe that statement.
Anyway, I mentioned Earthquake Cake. Here's a recipe.
|Earthquake Cake. (Kat Robinson)|
1 cup coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
1 package German Chocolate Cake Mix
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 stick oleo
1 pound confectioners' sugar
Grease and flour 13 X 9-inch pan. Spread coconut and pecans in bottom of pan.
Prepare cake mix according to package directions. Pour batter over coconut and pecans.
Mix cream cheese, oleo and confectioners sugar. Put mixture on top of batter. (Glob it on by the teaspoonful.)
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Cake will be shaky but will set up.
Rita Purkey, Covington. "Desserts," Daily-News-Record, Harrisonburg [VA], October 17, 1991 (p. 22)
|Strawberry cake. (Kat Robinson)|
While there, I had an ethereal experience. I tasted something that hadn't crossed my tongue since I was a kid -- a south Arkansas delicacy called Cushaw Pie. It's made from a goose-necked squash that's green with white or yellow stripes. What memories that evoked! So, for you pie lovers, here's a recipe.
|Cushaw Pie. (Kat Robinson)|
2 cups prepared cushaw squash puree
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
12 ounces evaporated milk
Single pie crust
Combine cushaw squash puree, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl. Add eggs and vanilla then beat lightly with a whisk. Stir in evaporated milk. Mix well. Pour into a pastry-lined pie plate. Bake on the lowest oven rack at 375-degrees for 50-60 minutes (until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean). Chill before serving.
|Bread pudding. (Kat Robinson)|
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