Amazing how food defies the laws of physics. My taste buds recently traveled several decades of time and thousands of miles with just one bite.
Growing up in suburban Dallas in the 1960’s and 70’s, we ate at our neighborhood barbeque joint as often as Mom, who passed away several years ago, would let us. At lunch, Howard and Peggy’s, a tiny boxcar of a restaurant owned by a husband/wife team, had a rather country crowd of carpenters, plumbers and other workmen, in addition to all the SMU law professors and local families. We’d stand patiently in line, I, my brother with his crew cut and my mother with her bouffant, till we got to the counter and ordered chopped brisket sandwiches with extra sauce, fries and icy cold Cokes. Then Donald and I would run off to grab a booth or, even more fun, one of the individual wooden desks that lined the room while Mom paid.
They’d call our name, then Mom would carry the tray, piled high with food in plastic baskets lined with paper back to our places. The sandwich got eaten all too quickly. I’d finish off the smoky beef, sopping up the sauce that had dribbled onto the paper liner with the last bite of sandwich. Before we finished, we’d always run up to the counter for extra napkins because of the messy feast.
And afterwards, we’d ALWAYS order a fried pie. Apricot, hot out of the fryer and sprinkled with a heavy snowfall of powdered sugar. Strange the specialty was apricot fried pies, because I don’t know of any apricot trees in this part of North Texas, but that tart, sweet fruit was the perfect counterpart to its crunchy, flaky covering.
We’d usually have to wait a few minutes after delivery because the pie –and especially the sugary compote inside- would burn your tongue if you ate it immediately. And when we FINALLY did bite in, the apricot was pure heaven. A childhood comfort food.
We were in Paris this winter, visiting our daughter, Lizzy, who was working as a pre-school teacher. One day, waiting in line for pain tradition at Boulangerie Patisserie Beaumarchais, I saw rows of La Trinquelinette French preserves on the shelf and considered buying one. But when I saw they had abricots, the decision was made.
The next morning, I opened the jar, spread the preserves on a flaky, buttery croissant and took a bite. Bliss! How did they condense the intense apricot flavor into such a small spoonful? And why does that taste instantly transport me back to 1965, Howard and Peggy’s and their delicious fried pies?
Over the course of several weeks, we tried two other La Trinquelinette jams: Apricot/rhubarb and blood peach. They were wonderful- among the best I’ve ever had, but the fruity taste wasn’t as concentrated or perhaps my childhood memories transformed the apricot jam into something better than it really is.
No matter. Now in the morning when I put the jam on my whole wheat toast and take a bite, I’m in three places at once: right here, a middle-aged woman in my kitchen in Texas; at Peggy’s as a small child with my little brother and Mom who passed away several years ago; and -a pleasant surprise- in the 11th arrondissement on the Boulevard Beaumarchais with my lovely young daughter and a long day in Paris stretching ahead of me.
La Trinquelinette: You can buy La Trinquelinette (its slogan: plus de fruit- moins de sucre) online and in the U.S. at Fairway Market. Even though abricot isn’t offered online, I stocked up in person, buying several jars at the Upper East Side Fairway market, along with raspberry and blood peach.
Howard and Peggy’s: Scandalously in 1960’s Dallas, Howard ran off with another woman and, almost as shocking at a time when women I knew rarely worked outside the home, Peggy didn’t close up shop. Instead she ran the business herself as Peggy’s Beef Bar, serving up the same delicious beef and fried foods. You can visit the current incarnation of “the Beef Bar”, Peggy Sue’s BBQ, at its same location near the Southern Methodist University Campus. It retains its 1950’s ambiance, but has updated the menu with healthy (and delicious) vegetables, particularly the steamed fresh spinach and cheesy squash casserole. Oh, and they still serve apricot fried pie.
Peggy Sue BBQ
6600 Snider Plaza
Dallas, Tx 75205
Sunday – Thursday:
11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday – Saturday
11 a.m. to 10 p.m.