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Modern Memories (Part 1)


A READER RECENTLY CALLED my at- tention to an open forum that had asked participants to recount their memories of dining cars. Not atypically, a majority of the numerous citations posted by a dozen indi- viduals referred to trains of an earlier era. I’m too young to recall dining cars from the “Golden Age,” but reading through the posts got me to thinking about what I might add to the literature. Admittedly, my work enables and re-


DVD


quires me to ride trains more frequently than most people. These journeys, all of them on Amtrak, have produced a number of fond dining car memories, all etched well past the “Golden Age.” Once I began writing this column, I had to add dinner trains, pri- vate luxury trains and private rail cars, even the occasional freight hauler’s business cars, to the itinerary. I’ll recount some of those experiences later. Most Memorable Meal On Amtrak:


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Cass WV, the CALS way or “Railroad weekend in the Alleghenies”. Double headed shays, shay race. Join us this May 4th, 5th and 6th 2012 for our 34 Year of a full weekend of Steam Logging railroading. We use all available authentic logging cars for best photo opportu- nities. Lots of run-bys. We ensure clean photo lines with limited rid- ership (so register early). We run a relaxed railfan weekend like no other on the Cass line. A whole weekend of “Shay” railroading for one low price. See our web site for information (www.cals-at- cass.blogspot.com) or send a note to Poul Pedersen, 6552 Orland St., Falls Church, VA 22043. Email: calsatcass@yahoo.com A fundraiser for Chesapeake and Allegheny Live Steamers (CALS).


www.cals-at-cass.blogspot.com


This occurred the first evening out of Oak- land on a Chicago-bound California Zephyr. I’d already interviewed the chef, who was working off the extra board. During the in- terview he peeled chunks of butter off sever- al quarter-pound sticks, dropping them into the sauces heating on the steam table, not- ing, perhaps unnecessarily, that his back- ground was country club cooking and that he liked his sauces smooth and flavorful. Then he revealed another secret, one of the type that drives all restaurant managers nuts: In a plastic bag in his pocket, he was carrying his own blend of seasonings to add to the evening’s beef entrée. When dinner was announced over the PA system, it was called Blackened Prime Rib. I’m always up for what is a chef’s special treat, so that’s what I had for dinner. It was delicious. I rev- eled in the fact that I would have it again the next night. Alas, word got around the train


about how good the beef entrée was. By the end of dinner the first night, all the portions had been served (thus illustrating one chal- lenge faced by dining car operations throughout history). And of course the chef suffered a memory lapse when asked what he used to create his rub. As I type this, years later, my mouth again waters at the memory of Chef Ron and the Blackened Prime Rib. Most Memorable Dining Experience


On Amtrak: On another first night out, this time departing Los Angeles for Chicago on the Southwest Chief, in my conversation with the chef I learned he had an aversion to curry (which explained why the bottle of cur- ry powder in his “market basket” was full when the other seasonings were partially depleted). I reminded him that a railroad, the Southern Pacific, is credited with intro- ducing curry to Americans. When dinner that evening was announced, the Chef’s Special was “Chicken a la Jimmy.” Embar- rassingly, that later was a reference to yours truly. It was, of course, curried chicken, spiced with diced serrano peppers the chef had pilfered from the Coast Starlight’s pantry. Served with seasoned rice and a veg- etable, it too was delicious. I took pride in the fact that, as I strolled the length of the dining room after the first seating, the 21 plates of diners who’d ordered “Chicken a la Jimmy” were pretty much picked clean, a fact that jumps out at food service profes- sionals and that I called to the chef’s atten- tion. Hopefully it cured him of the phobia — his word for it — that he had regarding cur- ry. Meanwhile, it’s not every day that one gets to watch people dining on a meal that is a salute to ones self. Most Memorable Dinner Compan-


ions On Amtrak: This one is a tie. One morning, riding the Empire Builder west


www.railfan.com/onthemenu


10 APRIL 2012 • RAILFAN.COM


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