Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ole, why are you naked?!

Stick with me here... it's coming! 

Imagine my disappointment when I realized half way through the day that today is not, in fact, Thursday. No everyone, today is actually Wednesday all day long. Since we are now officially over the hump and sliding into that wonderful abyss that is the weekend, I beg of you, "Please keep your hands inside the ride at all times. This will be a bumpy ride filled with Thursday and at least half of Friday to fill your waking hours with annoyance before you slip peacefully over the edge of quitting time."

As I sat in my chair at the end of the day looking over pictures of a condo in Florida and checking the map for local amenities. BOJANGLES! There is a Bojangles there! "Yeehaw!" I thought to myself and quickly emailed the property owner in my excitement in order to give props for such a choice location. I mean hell, excellent fried chicken and biscuits PLUS it's located on a lake? Doesn't get a lot better than that does it? The response was somewhat less than anticipated. "A what?" (huge sigh)

This of course served as a perfect reason to make my way around the office asking various co-workers if they had ever eaten at a Bojangles, if they were aware of the menu, did they like biscuits, etc. The conversation turned to the many restaurants we no longer seem to have in our area. Sizzler, Bonanza, Sambo's, and the like made the list. Ah the good old days. 

Before I go any further, I want to share a little piece of local information many of you may not know. Do you know what buffet stands for? Email me if you know the answer to that and I'll share with you the glory of my knowledge. 

Many of you probably remember Sizzler. Steak, Seafood, Salad... Sizzler. It started in 1958 as a family steak house and grew to the belly busting buffet of artery clogging goodness that it is today. There are still some out there. I happened upon a Sizzler in Sacramento, CA last year and had to stop in. You know the feeling of stepping into a place you only remember from childhood and how incredibly small and unimpressive it seems? That. The buffet had less selection and 10x the calories. The steak? Well let's just say that as an Iowa girl... that steak left a lot to be desired.

Of course, if your "city" didn't have a Sizzler it probably had a Da da da da da da da da daa BONANZA! For those of you who remember the TV show, whether in original airing or syndication, you will remember Dan Blocker, or "Hoss". Dan opened the first Bonanza restaurant in 1963. As tends to happen, through the course of growth and change the restaurant chain was bought, sold, franchised, and often split. Many of you may know them as Ponderosa Steak House... but they are all part of the Bonanza family at heart. You have the same fare as many restaurants of it's kind... steak, chicken, poorly prepared shrimp, and that ever popular buffet. 

Which brings me to Sambo's. The connection? Pffft... good luck finding one near you. Okay, me. So Sambo's. Of all of the restaurants I loved as a child, this one was king. My grandma used to take me to Sambo's in Fort Dodge, IA whenever we went to visit my aunt. If it weren't for the restaurant's public mass closings, I never would have known that there was anything racist in play. Oh the evil demon that is racism, right? The offensive restaurant's menu consisted of such racially controversial things as scrambled eggs and chorizo, bagels, cobb salad, nachos, turkey burgers... obviously targeted at um... organic living hispanic white people? SERIOUSLY?? Yet, in the late 70's at the restaurant's peak, they were faced with accusations of racism because the companies owners (Sam Battistone Sr and Newell Bohnett) had used the story of Little Black Sambo, an old children's story, as the theme for their chain. Although the name changed over the years, the theme restaurant fell prey to the times. 

Being mocked for my pasty, white, often freckled skin with hair that turns a funky shade of orange with too much sun has obviously taught me a bit more about acceptance than many others. I moved these memories around in my brain and I came up with an idea. I'm not a cowboy. I'm neither a southerner or an Indian. I've never successfully fried chicken, butchered a steer, made shitty popcorn shrimp, or chased a tiger around a tree until it turned to butter (which we all know is a poorly formed racial slur), but.... I'm part Norwegian. HEY... I could make a controversial restaurant out of this. 

The last time I was home, my dad was kind enough to pass along this little bit of humor. I will share it with you, if only to give premise to the rest of this post. 

Late one Saturday night Ole was stopped by the cops walking into town completely naked. The officer said, "Ole, what are you doing? You've got no clothes on and here you are wandering into town!" Ole replied, "Well, Sven invited Lena and I to an orgy. He got all of us in a room and told us to take our clothes off, so we did. Then he closed the door and said, 'Go to town', so I guess I am the first one here!"

A groaner for sure, but what if.... 

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I proposed it at work, so let me know what you think... What if I opened a restaurant called Ole's and Lena's. They are popular enough in the joke world that it should get a fair amount of recognition to get it off the ground. We could serve traditional Norwegian (or in the US, American Norwegian/Lutheran cook book food), and go nationwide! Eventually it would make big money, I could pocket the profits, and then... when my franchisees were knee deep in the hoopla, someone could shut us down for being insensitive! It would be epic! 

It was quickly pointed out to me that if people wanted bland Norwegian/American food they would make their jello salad at home, and besides... the Norwegians wouldn't be smart enough to complain. Apparently we're just not intelligent enough to be offended, or we just don't feel it's worth the ruckus. I mean there is fish to be dried and pickled and lefsa to be made, doncha know? 

I guess it's all in how you look at it right? 

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