Did that get your attention? And it’s not about me, my father. And it’s purely innocent (I swear).
Before your imagination goes wild, let me explain.
This was back in the early 1970′s. Before the concept of nose to tail was popular. My dad worked at a bank as senior cashier. One of the branches he worked at was in an industrial neighborhood, lots of blue-collar workers (car repair, warehouses, construction yards, meat processing warehouses etc.) … and hostess bars.
The hostess bars in that area were not high-class nor high-priced. Just neighborhood bars ruled by mama-sans and “the girls”. By proximity, many of the customers in that branch were the working men and nearby bars.
Here’s where it gets funny. The mama-sans would often come into the bank with their bank statements and question why certain deposits or checks were not on the statement. Needless to say, they would be confused. Because of my father’s mild demeanor, the manager would have him sit down with the mama-sans to help reconcile their accounts (pretty substantial I might add).
To back up a little. Many of these bars would have a cook that made simple but filling food. Many of the customers were young and single. Free food (or very little cost), relatively affordable drinks (mostly beer), and the attentions of female hostesses, a very successful business model.
Typically, the food would be beef stew, or oxtail soup, or pig feet soup, or hamburger curry. Something that was cheap (at that time) or maybe even free (from the meat processors), sturdy enough to stay warm all night, and could be made in big batches.
Anyway, after my dad explained to them their bank statements and helped them reconcile their accounts, the mama-sans would tell him to come over for a drink after work, on the house. Since my dad was a teetotaler, he always respectfully declined. So after a few days the mama-san would either send one of her “girls” over to the bank with a bowl of oxtail soup or pig feet soup for my dad’s lunch (with rice and macaroni salad), sometimes they would drag him over to the bar for lunch. Sometimes, still small-kid time, when I was waiting for him to finish work, he would send me to the one of the bar’s back door to get some take out. He always gave me tip money for them but rarely paid (if at all) for the food. I didn’t understand until later.
Funny thing was the mama-sans or the “girls” never treated him in a flirty kind of way, always like an old respected uncle. I guess it was because he never judged them either. Partly because they were customers of the bank and partly because he saw them no differently than everybody else.
Oxtail and pig feet soup were his favorite, seasoned with star anise, ginger, peanuts, and carrots. Mustard greens thrown in just before serving.
One of the mama-sans even offered to my dad to “initiate” me when I became of drinking age, of course he politely declined. He told me about the offer swearing me to secrecy (mother is not so open-minded).
Which brings me to today. Another free lunch. This time at Pho One (1617 Kapiolani Boulevard, Honolulu, Hawaii). Tried the oxtail pho.
Much simpler than the hostess bar versions. No star anise, a few peanuts, no carrots. Flavor not as complex. Not good or bad, just different. The oxtail was simmered to almost fall off the bone. The viscosity much thinner but tasty.
I have mixed feeling about the nose to tail movement. I like that people are recognizing the value of the whole animal, not just the desired cuts, but in recognizing the other parts, prices have gone up on things like oxtail. Sigh.
Enjoy. Eat well.
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