Birthday Lunch

Seventy-six years ago yesterday, my Dad was born. As luck would have it, I was able to finagle a day out of the office and ride to Pennsylvania for a lunch-time celebration.

Dad and Me

I was tickled to be able to spend the day with him. For months, I’ve been wanting to go up for a visit. Timing just hadn’t worked out. What with all the stuff I’ve had going on lately — nothing bad, just busy — and his part-time work schedule.

It’s so nice visiting in his “new” home. He’s been there a little over a year now. He’d moved from Pennsylvania, his boyhood home, to Baltimore in 1969. After Mom’s passing in 2012, it seemed like getting him back to the country was the right thing to do. It took until June of 2013 to make that happen, but it was worth the wait.

His new home is in the perfect location, a mobile home park surrounded by farmland, minutes away from the area where he grew up.

Morning View from Dad’s Porch

Now, he can sit on his large front porch, enjoying the breeze, watching Amish buggies ride by. Pure bliss.

Dad’s Yard Art

The frogs belonged to his home’s former occupants, but I think he keeps them around for me.

Two of his sisters, Pearl and Bertha, live in the same mobile home community. They joined us for a celebratory birthday lunch yesterday at Dad’s favorite restaurant, Gus’s Keystone Diner in Mount Joy.

L-R, Aunt Bertha, Aunt Pearl, Dad and Me

Gus’s doesn’t look like your typical diner, but, like most diners, it has an extensive menu and good, home-cooking-type food.

Gus and Me


Daily Specials

Pennsylvania Dutch-style home cooking that is. Note the “pig’s stomach” special. Ugh.

And that Chicken Pot Pie isn’t the stuff baked in crust that most of the world eats, it is boiled chicken pot pie. Essentially it’s very thick hand-cut noodles cooked in chicken broth with chunks of chicken and potatoes. Aunt Bertha asked Dad before he ordered whether he knew if Gus puts “carrots, peas, and that other crap” in his pot pie. She says they don’t belong in pot pie.

As much as I love peas and carrots, I have to agree. But Dad said it was good.

Boiled Chicken Pot Pie


Ham Steak with Pineapple Sauce

The aunts both got a ham steak.

Grilled Ham & Provolone on a Pretzel Roll

I had to chuckle when my sandwich arrived. It was heart-shaped. Can you see it?

Delicious Beet Salad

I absolutely LOVE this red beet salad Gus’s serves. It is simply red beets, onion, and parsley in a sweetish red beet juice. YUM.

Lunch was delicious. The company was pretty good, too. Those three together are a hoot.

Dad took me on a little detour after lunch. The last couple times I went there, shortly after my arrival, he asked, “Did you see the tobacco?” Both times, my reply was, “I don’t know. I don’t know what tobacco looks like.”

Nearby Tobacco Field

Now I can say I know what tobacco looks like. I know where the field is, too, so I can be on the lookout on future trips. According to Dad and Aunt Bertha, those plants are ready to be harvested. Their parents farmed tobacco when Dad and Bertha were young.

Very Tall Corn

I asked Aunt Bertha to take a picture of me near the cornfield so y’all could see how tall it is. The picture doesn’t do it justice, though. The scale is wrong. I bet that stuff is 12 feet tall!

Shortly after we got back to the house, I set off for home. On the way up, I took the fastest route. On the way home, since the weather was perfect, I took the scenic route.

On several occasions, I felt like I was riding through a corn tunnel.

My first stop was in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, the home of the Pickle Man Statue. He’s carved out of an old tree stump.

Pickle Man Statue


Pickle Man and Me

I sent Hubby a text while I was stopped. With the above selfie attached.

His reply cracked me up.

Text Exchange
Text Exchange

After that, I made my way home, meandering south and west along two-lane roads down through Pennsylvania, through Maryland, and finally into Virginia and then home.

I hope Dad enjoyed his birthday as much as I did. 🙂

8 Replies to “Birthday Lunch”

  1. “Makes sense.” Hee hee!

    I hope your dad had a nice birthday and a nice visit.

    I miss corn. And Pennsylvania Dutch style beets and chow chow. And tomatoes. And steamed crabs and Berger cookies. Food basically. 😉 Even though I can have all the tortillas and avocados and Mexican food that I can stand here, there’s still some things that just don’t measure up. Oh! That reminds me! A real, true, honest to god, Baltimore sno-ball stand opened up here! Woot!

    [You’d think I was starving or something with that whole big, long commentary on food, but I swear I just ate lunch ha ha.]

    1. Shan, it was a really nice visit. I guess you don’t think about regional stuff like chow-chow and PA-style beets until you can’t get them anymore. Funny, I stopped at a Safeway for a potty break on the way home and passed a Berger cookie display. I’ll bet the snowballs hit the spot! As for corn… I could eat corn on the cob every day. That’s one of the best things about summer. That and real, from the garden vine-ripened tomatoes. Store-bought tomatoes have come a long way, but fresh tomatoes from Farmer’s Markets, roadside stands, or your own garden cannot be beat.

  2. Kathy:

    I’ve never had a pretzel roll. We only have normal type buns up here. So much to think about. Small stomach big eyes. How can I even begin to try them all ? I like what you had, of course I also want to try the Chicken pot pie

    believe it or not, I was in many corn tunnels in Indiana

    happy birthday to your Dad. I’m sure he appreciated your visit

    bob: riding the wet coast

    1. Bob, the pretzel roll wasn’t great. A better delicacy for you to look for would be a pretzel dog (pretzel dough wrapped around a hot dog). Not made with those dark-brown soft pretzels, but Auntie Anne’s/PA Dutch-style, buttery pretzels. YUM. Chicken pot pie is one of my favorite dishes, but it has to be home-made. Aunt Bertha taught me that one.

      I did think of you as I was riding home, passing Harrisburg. If I can get up that way when you are in town, I will. It’s a three-hour drive, but if work volume permits, I may be able to swing it. Especially if you are still in the Harrisburg area on the 20th.

      Let me know if you need route/destination tips. A visit to the Roots market (open on Tuesday only) would get you up close to Amish merchants and would take you through Amish country, too.

  3. All that sounds familiar. I’ve had that version of chicken pot pie much more often than the pie crust version. And beet salad is also a favorite. Thank you for bringing a little bit of PA into the summer and thank you for leaving the heat and humidity there!

  4. Richard, we’ve had a very mild summer. I’ve been loving it. I was actually cold by the time I got to my Dad’s on Tuesday night! Boiled chicken pot pie is delicious. I make it often during the winter. Some people call it chicken and dumplings, too. I need to find a beet salad recipe. The stuff served at Gus’s is fabulous.

  5. Ok, I’m gonna stop reading your blog and comments for the rest of the day. I’m officially hungry and wanting boiled chicken pot pie. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted that before, lol!

    (P.S. I haven’t actually tried one of the sno-balls yet. Since it’s a 60 mile round trip, I’m saving it for when Amy visits later this month.)

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