Columns

2011.04.06 Throw me some hot rolls

on . Posted in By The Way

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.

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