09 February 2014

The bisque is recommended

Fenner also spent a few years in Washington, working for the Justice Department, and he shared quite a few meals there with John E. Smith, a lawyer from Atchison, Kansas, not far down the Missouri River from St. Jo, who was then working for Senator Dole and later became the house attorney of an Omaha trucking company.  Fenner still likes to talk to Smith about eating in Washington - the Cuban food at the Omega and the Middle Eastern food at the Calvert Cafe and the chili at Hazel's Texas Chili Parlor.  Fenner believes that Hazels' recipe was so secret that she carried it with her to the grave, although some other Washington eaters believe that it was handed down intact to a man with a tattoo, and still others believe that it was not the sort of recipe anyone would have to guard very closely.*  Fenner's favorite restaurant in the Washington area was the renowned Silver Spring fish house called Crisfield Seafood Restaurant.  He misses practically everything about Crisfield's. 
"They know how to treat children," I heard him say once. 
"They know how to treat oysters," said Morisseau, who did some eating in Washington himself.**

My Dad used to have lunch at Crisfield's pretty often because it was just a few blocks up Georgia Avenue from Hopkins APL where he worked, but I have an even better connection to Trillin's paragraph:  Two of the people who "knew how to treat children" at Crisfield's were Ned and Nancy, my friend Mollie's parents.  Ned ran the raw bar and Nancy ran the cash register and you'll never meet two nicer people.

I got to know them during the years that Mollie and I were housemates and during part of that time Mollie was the day care provider / favorite aunt / playmate for then babies and later toddlers, Charles and Samantha. Mollie's folks are the kids adopted grandparents and even though Ned and Nancy have retired to North Carolina, the families are still close with lots of visiting.  They do know how to treat children.

*Crisfield's is still open in the same location.  Omega closed after a fire.  The Calvert Cafe was renamed Mama Ayesha's in 1994 after its founder Mama Ayesha Abraham, who died in 1993.  It's still be run by her family.  And Hazel's Texas Chili Parlor is also closed but is the gastronomic mother, if not legal entity parent, of chili parlor chain Hard Times.  This article from DC's City Paper tells the fascinating story.

**Alice, Let's Eat by Calvin Trillin.  Page 122 in the 1978 copy of the Vintage Books paperbook I have.

1 comment:

Maureen said...

Crisfield's still does great, unpretentious seafood. Haven't been to Mama Ayesha's in MUCH too long; I gotta drag Ray there. Wonder if Scheherazade is still dancing there...?