I was in high school before I discovered that the name of the store was not actually The Highway Robber. It was in fact The Circle Delicatessen. They stayed open late at night, Sundays and holidays when everything else was closed. I thought of them this Christmas morning when I reached for the egg carton and found there were only two eggs left. I had decided to make some bread pudding rather than throw out the last few slices of the week-old bread.
If you were raised by parents who lived through the Great Depression as I was, you remember that NOTHING was wasted. Did your mother put a little water in the empty ketchup bottle and shake it to get the very last drops? Did your dad take a piece of bread and mop up the gravy on his plate at the end of dinner?
Leftover roast became hash or a concoction that my mother called “chop suey” with lots of vegetables and bits of meat. The stale, leftover bread became French toast or went into bread pudding. So yeah, on Christmas morning as I held the remains of last weeks’ bread over the trash can, I remembered bread pudding. And that’s when I thought of The Highway Robber.
This is the point at which mother would say, “Donald, we’re out of eggs.” Dad would say, “I’ll run up to The Highway Robber.” As a child, I assumed that was the name of the store and didn’t know that he had dubbed it that because their prices were exorbitant. They could do that, of course, being the only game in town.
If it were early evening or Saturday, dad would walk up to Bay’s Market a couple of blocks away. I would always beg to go with him, and sometimes he’d let me. It was fun walking to the store with my dad. But the Highway Robber was about a mile further on, too far to walk if mother needed something right away. I was a teenager — an older teenager — before I ever ventured into The Highway Robber and discovered it was (gasp!) a liquor store! At the very back they had a small cooler with milk, butter & eggs, and a small selection of soup, bread, cereal, coffee, dog food/cat food. Necessities.
This morning I thought of them. That was long before the days of the 7-11, of course. I toyed with the idea of walking down to the 7-11 just over a mile away and undoubtedly open. How much are eggs at the 7-11? And how fresh would they be? Hmmm… a better idea was to halve the recipe, which I did.
It came out of the oven a few minutes ago and it was good. Perhaps not as good as mother’s. Will anything ever taste the same as when she made it? But on this Christmas morning, it took me back many years and many miles with many lovely memories.
I hope your Christmas was lovely, too with warm memories of family and friends, and perhaps some special treat that your mother made for Christmas. I also wish you a happy new year full of health and happiness. See you next year.