2011.04.06 Throw me some hot rolls

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

A pair of 13-hour drives over one long weekend? That’s for college students who don’t need sleep. Or maybe for retired people who can take it easy and break up the trip into a couple of days.

My wife and I belong to neither of these groups, but we made the trip anyway. The things you do for a new grandchild. We drove to Little Rock on Thursday. We admired our granddaughter Friday and Saturday, we drove home Sunday.

Actually I’m still in the car as I write this, wondering how I can possibly create a newspaper by 3 p.m. Tuesday. About the only thing I’ve done for the next issue is...three paragraphs of this column.

Little Rock: It has two great pedestrian bridges across the wide Arkansas River, and there’s a third one on the way as an old railroad bridge gets converted to walking. There’s really no reason to have three pedestrian bridges, but that’s just something to like about the city.

Otherwise, you start to wonder why they ran so many freeways through neighborhoods, why city parks are dedicated to golf courses, why the football field scoreboard at the Arkansas School for the Deaf says something about the Deaf Leopards.

To reach Arkansas from the north, it’s likely you’ll pass through Missouri and if you do, it’s likely you’ll see the billboard for Lambert’s Cafe, “the only home of throwed rolls.”

We saw the sign on the way down and Colleen quickly called Rosanna. She and Taylor had mentioned the place before and Colleen wanted details. One big detail was Taylor’s hunch that I wouldn’t like the place. That, along with more than four hours yet to drive, kept us on the road.

But on the way home, the billboards began appearing at lunch time and I was reluctantly feeling charitable. We went for some throwed rolls.

The line was long but moving reasonably well. We were led around the corner and into the dining room to face what must have been hundreds of diners going at it.

The menu included items such as “good, gooey chicken gizzards” and a plate of chicken livers with mushroom gravy. There was hog jowl, there were beans with bologna (served with a King Edward cigar).

The lunches started arriving at the table across the aisle and several of them were served not on plates but in good-sized frying pans. I couldn’t even identify the large, brown object in one pan, so big that it hung over the edge.

I quickly got the idea that serving portions were large—I think Taylor’s warning included the word “gluttony”—but that was just the start.

If you ordered the beef liver and onions, for example, it also came with two items from the vegetable section, such as mashed potatoes or candied yams or baked beans.

Now hold on. We still have a long way to go. I haven’t yet mentioned the pass-arounds. Staff members wandered through the dining room carrying large aluminum bowls.

“Deep-fried okra?”

“Fried potatoes and onions!”

I had to ask our waitress what one of the guys was carrying because he was using a Missouri falsetto and it just wasn’t coming through. Macaroni and tomatoes.

Colleen accepted the offer of black-eyed peas, but half of her serving was a pork product of some sort. Maybe a pig lip, I don’t know.

Our water was served in enormous insulated mugs about the size of a water pitcher in any other restaurant.

About the throwed rolls. Lambert’s appears to be staffed by students from Sikeston High School and I think it’s the football team quarterback who is in charge of the rolls. Every so often he’ll emerge from the kitchen and yell out, “Hot rolls!”

Hands raise here and there from anywhere in the huge dining room. No problem. He’ll toss one clear across the room. Either you catch it or it bounces off onto someone else’s table. Or head. Colleen had one ricochet off someone’s hand and plunge into her seat. Several just ended up on the floor.

It was an amusing place to eat, but we still had nine hours to drive and the whole experience made me forget the smell of a baby’s head. I’m closing my eyes now and remembering what it feels like to put your cheek up against a fresh young scalp and take a deep breath.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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