I did not realise it was such a historical thing until I read a paperback version of the famous book on gastronomy written by Brillat-Savarin. In it he mentions with pity the hordes of sensation-seekers who flocked to Paris in the 19th century and paid enormous prices for dinners at famous restaurants. He says they were sadly disappointed – they expected unknown sensations…and merely got good food.
Thus it was with us when my Father, Mother, and I succumbed to the praises that other people had heaped upon two fabulous treats – the Sandpoint Hamburger and the Spokane Smorgasbord. Heaven in Idaho and Washington if only you could get there. Fools that we were, we went in search of the treasure…
We might as well have been Ponce de Leon or Lassiter, for all the success we had. I will say that the Sandpoint hamburger was at least a real thing. A small, greasy thing, admittedly, and with the sort of taste that makes you want to rinse your mouth with baking soda. But it could be bought and eaten in Sandpoint, and if you were lucky you could drive away.
The Spokane Smorgasbord hovered on the edge of existence somewhere out in the industrial suburbs east of town. It could be reached by driving up and down paved streets and gravel lanes, preferably in the dusk as the light was falling. I say reached, but really that should be reached for, because it was never there. Or was it? We made several trips to find this mirage and ended up in most cases finding an A&W on Sprague on the way home or a loaf of bread and the cheese in the icebox. I think it was possibly a practical joke on the part of the guys in my Dad’s office…or on the part of the Swedes. Whatever – we failed to either eat or laugh.
Here in Australia there have been several episodes of someone touting “the greatest fish and chips in the world” but we are older now and are harder to take in. Plus greasy food is not as appealing as in former times. Any establishment that advertises Chicko rolls in a paper wrapper is at least flying their culinary skull and crossbones openly and you can take your chances.