Zubie’s, or a trip to Grandma’s

Had dinner at Zubie’s Chicken Coop last night in celebration of berg74‘s birthday. Happy birthday, Dan! It was great to see him and other friends I’ve missed, including a rare appearance from Jeremy & Vicka.

When I was a kid we used to drive all the way out to Lancaster on some holidays to visit my Aunt Midge (Mildred) and Uncle Lee. They were actually great-aunt and uncle, and were old my whole life. We would sit in their drawing room and munch on Jordan almonds and talk, and then sit down to a classic Midwestern/Southern holiday meal of some kind of Large Meat, potatoes, overcooked vegetables, two kinds of bread, a ceremonial salad, and great big glasses of iced tea. It was a trip back down the family tree, and they’d tell us stories of the family going back to the turn of the century and before. That side of the family had come to California on covered wagons, so the family stories were and are fascinating.

Zubie’s is that place to me.

People who know old Orange County punk music may dimly recognize the name, because their original place is mentioned in the Vandals’ “Urban Struggle” as the cowboy bar. It was next door to the old Cuckoo’s Nest punk club, and the cowboys and punks used to get into it, which inspired that song.

That Zubie’s is long gone, but the family has the Chicken Coop restaurant, which took over a former French place in the 90s sometime. It’s eccentric. They serve pretty big portions of standard American home cookin’ cheaply, which is an attraction. A full chicken dinner is $8.95. Their specialty is fried chicken but they don’t call it that; it’s “broasted,” which is something old-fashioned restaurants advertised in my 1970s childhood. I think it must have been a fad around 1960. It’s a brand name process for pressure-cooking chicken as you fry it that supposedly results in less grease. No one under 40 even knows that broasted chicken is fried chicken.

The sides are mashed potatoes with gravy and green beans. By mashed potatoes I mean very, very smooth whipped potatoes and bland light-brown gravy. The beans are prepared the way my grandmother did, southern style: a bit overcooked but with enough salt and grease that you do not care about that.

There is a house salad that comes with your dinner. The salads got all confused but I think that’s what I got. For some reason it had shrimp in it. It was the iceberg lettuce salad of my childhood with a tremendous quantity of dressing. There were also rolls which were very soft and warm and required immediate buttering.

The chicken was pretty good if a bit dry, and there was a decent amount of it. The other diners got more food and many of them had to ask for to go boxes. Apparently overfeeding is one of the attractions of Zubie’s. I’m glad I got the right amount of food, myself.

The menu was full of weird quirks and errors. The “Oyster Bar” page was also labeled as the To Go menu, and had two entries for fish taco at the same price with different descriptions: one was the “Grande” and other was advertised as having two filets and being the house favorite. The pizzas were advertised as being sixteen feet in size due to an apostrophe/quote confusion; it was not stated whether that was diameter, radius, or thickness. When the check arrived it was totally incomprehensible so we just did our best and made sure enough money was there.

As you probably figured out most of the clientele was over 65, with a few families. In general it wasn’t a restaurant; it was a trip to someone else’s grandmother’s house. The food was home-style in both good and bad ways, there weren’t many options, and everything was up to the standard of a conservative farm-style dinner in 1960. I assume they remain in business because of old people and because of the bar.

It’s not the best restaurant in town but it’s a gem. Mostly because it’s a little piece of my great-aunt Mildred’s generation sitting smack in the middle of go-go millionaire decadent Newport Beach within sight of nightclubs where strippers and mortgage brokers are doing tequila body shots and stuffing coconut shrimp into their faces. I like the contrast.

Annals of Family History: Our First War Here

My greatsomething grandfather Jacob arrived in the American colonies from Darmstadt-Hesse, Germany in about 1750 as an indentured servant. His brother Sebastian apparently bugged out and headed home at the end of his service, but Jacob liked it enough to stay in “Pennsylvanian Dutch” country with the other Germans. My family has had a presence in Lancaster County since, and in Ohio.

Family legend was that Jacob served in the Revolutionary War. My brother confirmed this a few years ago doing genealogy. I decided to take it a step further and contacted the National Archives’ Military Records Department. If you’re the relative of a U.S. veteran you can get anything they have, as far back as they have it, at a reasonable price. So, for $17 I requested and got Jacob’s records: the index card in his file and two pay stubs indicating his service and what he got for it. It looks like the pay was a bit late, but he got interest on it. There may have been a land donation, too. And of course, citizenship, since that’s not an issue when you’re on the startup team. Scans are below the cut, or in this flickr set.

cut for size

The cars he used to drive

My father was a true Southern California, born in Pasadena in 1921. Like everyone else he was car-crazy. Later in life after living in Europe he became crazy for tiny little European sports cars.

He made this list for a piece he wrote in the Los Angeles Times late in life in which he talked about the cars he’d owned. He was astonished at how many there were, and especially at how many enjoyable sports cars he had as a graduate student. I personally got to drive the ’67 MG (he says it’s a ’68 which I think is a mistake), which was a delight; he didn’t get rid of it until the 1980s sometime. The 1990 Volvo my mother still has. I inherited both T-Birds in series.

The Fiat station wagon famously died by dumping its engine on Irvine Avenue with a uniquely Italian flair. I wish he’d kept any of the cars before that. Wow, what a list! The Renaults were, of course, purchased in France and all the Italian cars when he was living in Italy.

  1. ’30 Ford Model A phaeton
  2. ’30 Ford Model A 2-door touring car
  3. ’36 Ford V-8 coupé
  4. ’30 Olds coupé
  5. ’47 Crosley
  6. ’38 Lincoln touring convertible
  7. ’40 Chevrolet coupé
  8. ’47 MG-TC
  9. ’51 Sunbeam Talbot
  10. ’48 Morris Minor convertible
  11. ’51 Morris Minor sedan
  12. ’52 MG-TD
  13. ’55 Austin Healey
  14. ’56 MG Magnette
  15. ’60 Chevrolet Corvair
  16. ’58 Chevrolet station wagon
  17. ’59 Alfa Romeo Giuletta Sprint coupé
  18. ’62 Fiat 600
  19. ’60 Fiat 1800 station wagon
  20. ’70 Opel Kadett statio wagon
  21. ’73 Volvo 144
  22. ’67 MGB-GT
  23. ’77 Renault 6TL
  24. ’70 Jaguar XJ
  25. ’84 Ford Thunderbird
  26. ’87 Renault II
  27. ’90 Volvo 740 sedan
  28. ’91 Renault 19 Chamade
  29. ’93 Ford Thunderbird LX

If you’re interested in the document we found in the files, a scan is behind the cut like so

Der Panter

A poem by Rainer Maria Rilke. I think I posted this here before, but I cannot find it. In 1967, my father’s colleague Hazard Adams was working on an anthology of literature in translation. He was after a translation of this poem but couldn’t find a decent English version. My dad said “Let me take a look”, and took the poem home for the evening. The next day he produced this, which is the one Adams used. Edit: Two typos fixed courtesy ch and fimmtiu. Thanks guys. Those typos have been there for years, too. Wow.


Jardin des Plantes, Paris

The bars go by, and watching them his sight
grows tired and fails to grasp what eyes are for.
There are a thousand bars, it seems to him;
behind the thousand bars there’s nothing more.

The supple gait of swift and powerful steps
pacing out its circle on the ground
is like a dance of strength around a center
in which a great bewildered mind is bound.
Yet now and then the curtain of the pupil
silently parts: a picture goes inside,
slips through the tightened limbs, and in the heart
ceases to be, like something that has died.