Tag Archives: Fries

Preserving My Past

This is kind of a #FlashbackFriday#FF, since I missed #ThrowbackThursday#TT, though it’s more of just an addition to my life story as made possible through the wonders of Facebook and, especially, the Timeline. Since its inception, I have seen my Timeline as a way to share contemporaneously, as well as retrospectively. I have used it as a way to share both my present and my past, the latter being primarily with the thought my two daughters will one day be able to see who I was, in some sense from the beginning. If others enjoy it, that’s a bonus. Hell – I enjoy it myself once in a while and it gives me a reason to slowly digitize some of my favorite actual, printed photos, which would not be shareable other than in person if I didn’t scan and post them. This seems like as good a place as any; better than most.

The picture I am here sharing was taken quite some time after I owned the business that resided in this small, unassuming space. Nevertheless, the size and location haven’t changed since January of 1967, when my father (fearing I was on the road to becoming a bum) purchased what was then DEB’s Snack Shop and I began managing it. We were partners. My job was to spend 14 hours a day there and his job was to show up once a day and get pissed at me for something I neglected to do or didn’t do properly, as he way it. He was very good at his job and so was I, though you wouldn’t have known it by how well he performed his special task.

This little place consisted of 14 stools and about a 10′ takeout counter. It sat in a parking lot across the street from the main entrance of the May Company store on Hill St., between 8th and 9th Streets, in downtown Los Angeles. It was small, but it was busy . . . and quite lucrative, especially for a nineteen-year-old who had recently just barely escaped High School.

It was here I learned some of the more valuable lessons I’ve been fortunate enough to benefit from. Perhaps the most important of them was given by my father when he admonished me to never ask anyone who worked for me to do something I wasn’t willing to do as well. I had five employees and every one of them was older than me, one by around thirty years. Earning their respect was of the utmost importance. Now that I think about it, I was fortunate to be raised with respect for most everyone. Another valuable lesson, which made this primary business one much easier to aspire to.

I also learned what I have always considered my first real marketing and sales lesson. This place was a snack shop. Hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos, burritos, ham sandwiches, fries, etc. We also opened up early enough for breakfast, so eggs, bacon, hash browns, etc. Of course, there were other items and most of the food was marked up 300%, that is the cost of the food item was generally 1/3 of the price we charged.

Then there were soft drinks, none of which were served in cans or bottles. We had a dispenser. The cost of a large soft drink was marginally more than a small one and the difference in cost of the cups was about a penny. The difference in profit, however, was spectacular, with the price of a large drink around two and a half times what the small one went for. I think it was $0.10 and $0.25. Let’s say I made $0.07 (in today’s money that would be $0.50) profit from the small drink. Since the cost of the large drink was marginally more than the small – let’s say $0.05 instead of $0.03 – I made a profit of $0.20 ($1.42 today) on the large drinks.

That’s the data behind it, but the real lesson was in behavior. Over a period of time, I did some experimenting. I didn’t keep a little notebook, nor did I design a devilishly clever test. People would place an order like “I’d like a cheeseburger, onion rings, and a Coke.” I merely responded in one of two ways and noted the difference in results. If I asked them “large or small” they would frequently opt for the small. However, if I merely said “large?”, they would seldom say “no”.

I don’t know how much more money I made by doing this, but I’m reasonably certain it was on the order of a few dollars a day. Extrapolated out over a year’s time, that would be around an extra couple of grand in today’s money. Not a bad result. Unfortunately, I didn’t last a year, but that’s another story. I have no regrets, btw.

PS – The name of the place in the pic is JEMP’s, which stood for Jerry, Eileen, Marshall, and Penny . . . the Silversteins. Jerry, who had worked at the Grand Central Market with my father for many years, bought the business at a discount when I kind of abruptly told the old man I was through with it. Shortly thereafter I found myself in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. This was the Summer of Love, 1967. The rest, as you no doubt know, is history.


Two Olives, Please. Medium Rare.

Smoky Martini

The Marvelously Complex and Delish Smoky Martini

Alchohol

One of my all-time favorite television series is M.A.S.H. I loved the movie as well and I think I read the book, but the TV series went on for 11 seasons (1972 – 1983) and continued in syndication . . . well, actually, I just checked my DirecTV listings and it’s still around. Now, while I think the show was incredibly important for the anti-war message it conveyed, I’m actually bringing this up because of something completely different.

I could not watch a M.A.S.H. episode, especially in the later years, without craving a Martini. Well, maybe not every time the show was on, but every time Hawkeye and Trapper (or Hunnicut) would repair to their tent for a libation. I was seldom able to actually pour myself one during the show, but the urge was always there. It was a kneejerk reaction I had little control over, especially after I discovered the Smoky Martini. I’ve been a Scotch drinker for decades, but there’s something about the immediacy of a Martini I really like. For a while (and it’s been quite a while since I’ve had one) I was prone to order one made with Absolut (I prefer Vodka) and a splash of The Glenlivet . . . with two olives. Three of those and I had dinner knocked!

Other Carbohydrates

Of course I’m much older now and have a rather young family to boot, so those kinds of shenanigans are no longer available to me. However, something similar (and entirely non-alcoholic) happened yesterday. Even better, I was able to scratch the itch fairly quickly. I don’t recall how I came about it, but I’m pretty sure it was from a link in Facebook. Probably from Mashable or Lifehacker. It was to a story listing 12 hamburgers you can enjoy in Los Angeles. Now, I don’t currently live in L.A., though I was born downtown and lived in its suburbs for most of my life. I do live nearby. Just not close enough to have a casual meal anywhere but the North San Fernando Valley, which is just over the hill from Simi Valley. However, this is the U.S. and burgers are ubiquitous, with many unheralded places that make a pretty mean burger, as well as some well-known ones that didn’t make it to the list. There’s a couple of both in town here, and I’ll get to that in a moment.

Interestingly, the story points out that National Geographic had just named the hamburger at The Apple Pan (in West L.A.) as the best burger in America. As a native, I have eaten at the Apple Pan . . . though I’ve had a Smoky Martini more recently than one of the Hickory Burgers they’re best known for. Meaning it’s been a long, long time. Of course, you can’t have a burger there without topping it off with a slice of Apple Pie. Still, it’s been a long time. Regardless, despite it being a very subjective thing, I’m inclined to think NG’s selection was a bit biased by history and nostalgia.

Bob's Big Boy Statue

Oh, Little Big Boy. How I Have Loved Thee!!

Final piece of this story. My wife has Shotokan Karate classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, leaving me and our daughters to our own devices for dinner. Normally, I’ll make something for the three of us, but last night it was In-N-Out Burger time. I just had to scratch that itch (Animal Style!). I shouldn’t even be eating the damn things because of type II Diabetes. Plus, I added fries and a chocolate shake. Horrors! The hamburger was excellent, but the fries were rather pedestrian. They did not taste fresh to me. Maybe I’m somewhat jaded, but we got a mandolin slicer recently and I made some french fries here and, even though I didn’t get it quite right, they were way tastier than what I had yesterday. Also, the shake wasn’t bad; nice and thick. Frankly, I prefer malteds.

I can’t end this without paying homage to the hamburger I would give my personal lifetime achievement award to . . . The Bob’s Big Boy. I’m pretty sure the Big Mac was designed to emulate it, which I don’t think it’s ever come close to doing. I recall getting a Big Boy burger, fries, and a Silver Goblet Chocolate Shake many times in my life. It’s one of those taste combinations I can still evoke in my mind and it’s heavenly! Sheesh. I’m getting hungry again. Time for a salad . . . or a Martini.


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