Monday, April 11, 2011

TATOR TOTS ON FRIDAY NIGHTS

When I was around the age of ten or eleven one of my favorite television shows would be shown late at night on weeknights.  It was called "The Untouchables" and followed the adventures of the number one FBI agent Elliot Ness chasing the outlaw Frank Nitty day after day after day.  I am not sure if Ness ever caught Nitty in the television series but it was fun to watch.  It was filmed in black and white but that was okay with me.  A lot of shows were still being broadcast in black and white in those days.

The television station would broadcast back to back episodes of the unending chase starting at eleven o'clock at night with the second one starting at midnight.  I was not allowed to stay up and watch the episodes Monday through Thursday because it made me stay up to late.  During the school year the Monday through Thursday ban made sense to me but I always thought that Friday nights during the school year should have been fair game to watch Ness chase Nitty all over the Chicago area.

One of the most popular burger joints in South Kansas City was Paul's Pizza and Hamburgers.  Their pizzas were not so great but their burgers and tenderloins were to die for.  They were tasty and greasy and all that taste of the grease made them a fine meal.  The side orders were even better.  They had onion rings that still have a reputation to this day as being some of the best in Kansas City.  Every now and then I will still stop at Paul's on my way home from work and pick up a couple of tenderloins and two large orders of onion rings for Barb and I to have for dinner.  Whenever I can think of it I call my sister Elaine just to let her know I am having Paul's food for dinner that night.  I can imagine her starting to drool over the phone and onto her spotless kitchen floor as I describe how great these onion rings are.

Elaine use to work at Paul's when she was in high school.  A lot of her friends worked there as well.  It was kind of a hot spot for job getting for both my sisters and their friends.  My older sister Carol worked there during my Elliot Ness days.  She and her best friend Karen, who I consider just as much a sister as Elaine or Carol worked with Carol during those years.

Friday nights would usually find Carol and Karen working until closing which was at midnight.  Even though mom would insist on waiting up for Carol on those Friday nights she had might as well been in bed.  Every Friday night was the same story.  Mom would lay on the couch or sit in a chair while I sprawled out on the floor of the living room watching Elliot Ness solve a puzzle every week.  Mom would usually be soundly asleep by eleven fifteen and so I had the house more or less to myself while I was watching the show.

While I was watching the first episode of the Untouchables, Carol and Karen would be in the process of getting Paul's ready to shut down for the night.  This involved not only taking last minute orders made by late night teenagers on their way home from dates, but also involved cleaning up the whole place and getting rid of extra food that would not be consumed that night.

There never were any burgers left over at closing time and the onion rings would be eaten by the guys working the late shift with Carol.  But then there were the tator tots and the french fries.  Although they were not as good as the onion rings, they were cooked in the same grease as the rings so they came out with a little hint of that onion ring taste to them.  They were just as greasy as everything else cooked in the place so it was almost certain that it would be some good eating.

On Friday nights Carol knew I would be laying down on the living room floor watching my favorite show just as much as I knew when to expect her to walk through the front door.  Sometimes Karen would come home with her but most of the time Carol came home by herself after a long evening of working.

Every Friday night began to become very special to me and allowed Carol and myself to have a special bond between us.  Carol would come in at about twelve thirty and I would be laying on the floor with my chin in my hands watching that great show.  She would walk in and say "hi" to me and then drop a white sack on the floor next to me.  The bottom third of the sack was soaked in grease every time. I would immediately give her an enthusiastic "THANKS" as the sack plopped onto the floor.  She would then go over to wherever mom was sleeping and shake her lightly and let her know that she was home from work.  Carol would then go upstairs and on her way up the stairs tell me good night.  Then mom would stir a little and clumsily make her way up stairs to go to bed now that all of her children were home safe.  That left me and the white paper bag alone in the living room to watch the end of the show for the next thirty minutes or so.

I would open the bag and peak inside.  There were always french fries.  There were enough french fries to make up two large order of fries ordinarily.  Usually under the french fries were the tator tots.  If I was extremely lucky there might be two or three onion rings in the bag, but that did not happen very often.

I would get up and go get a small glass of coke or water and sit down to my night ending banquet while the show came to a close.  The food was always ice cold.  The grease would be layered on it in a very thin film so you couldn't actually see the grease but you sure could taste it and it was good.  I would work my way through the food in order of importance.  If there were any onion rings, they would go first.  The tator tots were next in line and finally the french fries would be eaten until the show was over or I was full, whichever came first.  The cold french fries were not that good and so I remember throwing away quite a few of them over the course of Carol's employment at Paul's but the tator tots and rings were always completely taken care of alone at night.

Carol hardly ever forgot her little brother on Friday nights.  It was something that I could count on.  She didn't make a big deal out of it, she would just walk past and drop the sack on the floor next to me.  I am not sure my mom ever knew I was eating all that greasy food right before I went to bed.

Carol and I developed a bond that I never had with my other sister or my brother because of those tator tots and Elliot Ness.  We didn't talk about them much, it was just a little something she did for me.  It was something she did for me that was appreciated greatly and showed me that she thought about me at least some of the time and made me think of her.  I especially thought of her on Friday nights more than the other nights of the week.

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