When we were living in Berkeley, one of our favorite places to go for a meal was a hauf brau house called Brennan's. It was at the end of University Avenue, across from San Francisco Bay, under the freeway overpass. They made great French dip sandwiches.
You waited in line in front of the carvers, they stood at huge slabs of meat, heated by overhead lamps, and standing in the juice that formed in the pan as they were baking. The carvers took big sourdough rolls,cut in half, dipped them in the juice at the bottom of the pan, topped the rolls with lots of thin slices of rare roast beef, and passed the plate along to the cashier, who gave horseradish and the beer you'd ordered, and you took your sandwich to one of the wooden tables to enjoy your lunch. We had many happy meals there.
It bothers me what has happened to that classic French Dip sandwich.
I went to my mother's today to have lunch. I've decided to see her more often so I can hopefully assess how she is really doing, memory wise. Today was a fairly good day, except she had forgotten the inauguration was today. I had watched the ceremonies at home before I left for San Rafael, and I turned it on when I got to her house. It was just after the lunch, when the Obamas (et al.) were getting ready to review the troops and then get in the cars to parade down Pennsylvania Ave.
As we sat there watching, the clock ticked on and on. It was 12:30 and there still was no sign or mention of lunch. Usually she has the table set when I get there and usually once noon comes around, she's ready to eat. But she has also said that she sometimes forgets to eat, so I decided I'd give it until 1 and then ask her about food.
But as the First Couple got out of their limousine and were walking down the street, my mother finally said "I wish they'd hurry up, so we can go to lunch." Ahh. It was to be a "lunch out" day. When they got back into the cars, we set the DVR to record and we got in my car and drove to the restaurant at the nearby golf course, where we eat occasionally. They have a nice, smallish menu and it's almost within walking distance, but we always drive, especially today, when her legs were giving her problems.
As we left her house she started down the steps, holding onto the railing and carefully going one step at a time, leading with the same foot each time. "This is how I have to go down stairs now," she said to me, sighing because she felt it showed that she was getting old. I told her I'd been going downstairs like that for years.
Anyway, we got to the restaurant and I opened my menu and saw the thing that has driven me nuts for years.
Arrrgggghhhh! Nail on a chalk board! FIRST of all, au jus is two words. It is French. It means "to juice," which essentially translates into "with juice" in English. For decades now when you go to a restaurant that offers a French Dip sandwich they more often than not say that it is "with au jus." Which literally means it is "with with juice." This is the first time I've seen au jus written as one word.
Despite the offending description, my mother and I both ordered it, and when it came, it reminded me of the second thing about a French Dip sandwich that bother me these days.
Au jus is no longer the drippings from the pan in which the roast beef was cooked. Now it seems to be a bowl of beef consomme. Anemic beef taste, compared to the rich taste of the jus from the pain. It was so bad that I hardly had any of the jus, just ate the sandwich itself, which was tasty. I certainly couldn't complain about the amount of meat piled on it (in fact, I brought half of it home to Walt).
I'm going to have to see if we can find a good hauf brau again some day and have a real French dip sandwich.
We returned home and watched some of the innaugural parade and I fell asleep for about half an hour, waking at about the time I usually leave to drive home. It was essentially "rush hour," though I don't know how many people in the cars were actually enjoying the day off. But a long part of the backup came on this bridge.
I thought it would go on forever, but it turned out there had been an accident at the very top of the bridge and once we passed that it was clear sailing all the way home.
Felt worn out when I got home. It was not a strenuous day at all, but just felt all drug out...and not at all hungry, so just fed Walt and came in here to my office to write. My plan was to go to see her weekly, but I know she would rather eat out than fix a meal these days and she won't let me pay. I tried to tell her that next time I'd bring lunch with me, but she was adamant that I not and that she would pay. Our lunch cost about $30 and I know she can't afford that every week, so I may do it every other week. Unless I can figure out some sneaky way to bring lunch with me instead!