Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Gastronomic Concepts #3 - Dinerese and America's Lost Counter Culture

when i was a kid, i used to watch this show called Reading Rainbow with the host Levar Burton (of Roots and Star Trek: Next Gen fame).  there was an episode where he was in a diner, and the waitress was calling orders to the cook in this weird code.  she explained that it was Dinerese (DYEner-EZE), a kind of shorthand for food orders that came about in the U.S., mostly in diners, lunch counters, and casual eateries.  Levar wanted to learn dinerese, so tried his hand at interpreting what the waitress called back.  his interpretations however were literal, and many of the customers sent their food back.  after some explaining, he got the hang of it and the customers were happily fed.

i never forgot that episode, and in doing my research, i found this fantastic list on wikipedia under "Diner Lingo".  i find it fascinating how some of the entries make absolutely so sense, yet still managed to spread as common culinary knowledge among short order cooks and waitresses.  in the modern kitchen, some terms like "on the rail", "marry", "86", "pittsburgh" are still in use.  

so, if you're like me and love reference lists, dive in and enjoy!  i especially love the definition for "Eighty-Six" and "Zeppelins in a fog."  my dinerese order would sound something like this: "Burn one, take it through the garden with Jack Benny and pin a rose on it. Frog sticks and hemorrhage in the alley.  One on the city. Dusty miller, and put a hat on it!"


A blonde with sand: coffee with cream and sugar
A Murphy: a potato, so called because of their association with the Irish diet of potatoes, Murphy being a common Irish name
A spot with a twist: a cup of tea with lemon
A stack of Vermont: pancakes with maple syrup
An M.D.: a Dr Pepper
Adam & Eve on a raft: two poached eggs on toast
Adam's Ale: water
All hot: baked potato
Angel: sandwich man
Angels on horseback: oysters rolled in bacon on toast

B & B: bread and butter
B.L.T.: bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich
Baled hay: shredded wheat
Balloon juice/Belch water/Alka Seltzer: seltzer, soda water
Beef Stick: bone
Billiard: buttermilk
Birdseed: breakfast
Black and white: chocolate soda with vanilla ice cream
Bloodhounds in the Hay: hot dogs and sauerkraut
Bloody: very rare
Blowout patches: pancakes
Blue-plate special: a dish of meat, potato, and vegetable served on a plate (usually blue) sectioned in three parts. This can also refer to the daily special.
Boiled leaves: Tea
Bow-wow/Bun pup/Tube steak/Groundhog: a hot dog
Bowl of red: a bowl of chili con carne, so called for its deep red color.
Break it and shake it: add egg to a drink
Breath: onion
Bridge/Bridge party: four of anything (from bridge the card game)
Bronx vanilla/Halitosis/Italian Garlic: garlic
Bubble Dancer: dishwasher
Bucket of cold mud: a bowl of chocolate ice cream
Bullets/Whistleberries/Saturday night: Baked beans, so called because of the supposed flatulence they cause.
Burn one: put a hamburger on the grill
Burn one, take it through the garden and pin a rose on it: hamburger with lettuce, tomato and onion
Burn the British: toasted English muffin

C.J. Boston: cream cheese and jelly
Cackle fruit/Cackleberries: eggs
Canned cow: evaporated milk
Check the ice: look at the pretty girl who just came in
Checkerboard: Waffle
Chewed with Fine Breath: hamburger with onions
China: rice pudding
Chopper: a table knife
Clean up the kitchen: hash
Coney Island chicken/Coney Island bloodhound/Coney Island: a hot dog, so called because hot dogs were popularly associated with the stands on Coney Island.
Cow feed: a salad
Cow paste/Skid Grease/Axle grease: butter
Cowboy Western: a western omelette or sandwich
Creep: Draft beer
Crowd: three of anything (possibly from the saying "Two's company, three's a crowd")
Customer will take a chance: hash

Deadeye: poached egg
Dough well done with cow to cover: bread and butter
Drag one through Georgia: cola with chocolate syrup, probably a reference to the fact that the headquarters of Coca-Cola is in Atlanta, Georgia, and dragging anything is likely to get it muddy, i.e., darker, which would be the same result as adding chocolate syrup. Carbonated drinks such as Coca-Cola were originally served by pouring concentrated syrup into a glass and adding soda water, so they could be made to whatever strength the customer preferred.
Draw one/A cup of mud: a cup of coffee
Draw one in the Dark/Flowing Mississippi: a black coffee
Dog and maggot: cracker and cheese
Dog biscuit: a cracker
Dough well done with cow to cover: buttered toast
Dusty Miller: chocolate pudding, sprinkled with powdered malt

Eighty-six: "Do not sell to that customer" or "The kitchen is out of the item ordered". "To remove an item from an order or from the menu". Article 86 of the New York State Liquor Code defines the circumstances in which a bar patron should be refused alcohol or '86ed'. The Soup Kitchen Theory: during the depression of the 1930s, soup kitchens would often make just enough soup for 85 people. If you were next in line after number 85, you were '86ed'. The Eight Feet By Six Feet Theory: A coffin is usually eight feet long and is buried six feet under. Once in your coffin you've been 'eight by sixed', which shortens to '86ed'. Chumley's Theory: Many years ago, Chumley's Restaurant, at 86 Bedford Street in Greenwich Village, New York City, had a custom of throwing rowdy customers out the back door. During Prohibition, Chumley's was a speakeasy owned by Leland Stanford Chumley. When the cops were on the way, someone would shout "86," and they would all exit through the back door.
Eve with a lid on: apple pie, referring to the biblical Eve's tempting of Adam with an apple. The "lid" is the pie crust
Eve with a moldy lid: apple pie with a slice of cheese

Fifty-five: a glass of root beer
First lady: spareribs, a pun on Eve's being made from Adam's spare rib.
Fish eyes or Cat's eyes: tapioca pudding
Flop two: two fried eggs, over easy
Flop two, over easy: fried egg flipped over (carefully!) and the yolk is still very runny. That means the other side is cooked for a few seconds
Flop two, over medium: turning over a fried egg and the yolk begins to solidify
Flop two, over hard: fried egg, flipped and cooked until the yolk is solid all the way through
Fly cake or Roach cake: raisin cake or huckleberry pie
Foreign Entanglements: plate of spaghetti
Frenchman's delight: pea soup
Frog sticks: french fries
Fry two/Let the sun shine: 2 fried eggs with unbroken yolks

GAC: Grilled American cheese sandwich. This was also called "jack" (from the pronunciation of "GAC")
Gallery: booth
Gravel train: sugar bowl
Graveyard stew: milk toast; buttered toast, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, and dropped into a bowl of warm milk

Hail: ice
Heart Attack on Rack: biscuits and gravy
Hemorrhage: tomato ketchup
Hen Fruit: Eggs, typically boiled
High and dry: a plain sandwich without butter, mayonnaise, or lettuce
Hockey puck: a hamburger, well done
Hold the hail: no ice
Honeymoon salad: lettuce alone
Hot top: hot chocolate
Hounds on an Island: franks and beans
Houseboat/Dagwood Special: a banana split made with ice cream and sliced bananas
Hug one/Squeeze one: a glass of orange juice

Ice the rice: rice pudding with ice cream
In the alley: served as a side dish
In the weeds: a waitress/cook that can't keep up with the tables. Refers back to chefs' military roots, where being in the weeds would cause your army to be slaughtered.
Irish turkey: corned beef and cabbage

Jack Benny: cheese with bacon (named after the famed comedian)
Java/Joe: coffee

Keep off the grass: no lettuce

Ladybug: fountain man
Let it walk/Go for a walk/On wheels/Give it shoes: an order to go, a takeaway order
Life preservers/Sinkers: doughnuts
Lighthouse: bottle of ketchup
Looseners: prunes, so called because of their supposed laxative effect.
Love Apples: tomatoes
Lumber: A toothpick

Machine Oil: syrup
Magoo: custard pie
Maiden's delight: cherries, so called because "cherry" is a slang term for the maidenhead, hymen
Marry: bring items together for cleaning up, i.e. marry the salt and pepper.
Mayo: mayonnaise
Mike and Ike/The twins: salt and pepper shakers
Million on a platter: a plate of baked beans
Mississippi Mud/Yellow paint: mustard
Moo juice/Cow juice/Baby juice/Sweet Alice: milk
Mully/Bossy in a bowl: beef stew, so called because "Bossy" was a common name for a cow.
Mystery in the alley: a side order of hash

Nervous pudding: gelatin
No cow: without milk
Noah's boy: a slice of ham (Ham was Noah's second son)
Noah's boy on bread: a ham sandwich
Noah's boy with Murphy carrying a wreath: ham and potatoes with cabbage

On a Rail fast, as in "Fries, on a rail!"
On the hoof: any kind of meat, cooked rare
One from the Alps: a Swiss cheese sandwich
One on the City: a glass of water

Paint a bow-wow red: a hot dog with ketchup
Paint it red: put ketchup on an item
Pair of drawers: two cups of coffee
Pigs in a blanket: a ham (sometimes a sausage) sandwich
Pin a rose on it: add onion to an order
Pittsburgh: something burning, toasted or charred, so called because of the smokestacks once evident in Pittsburgh, a coal-producing and steel-mill city. In meat cookery, this refers to a piece of meat charred on the outside while still red within.
Pope Benedict: an eggs benedict, but fit for a pope
Put a hat on it: add ice cream
Put out the lights and cry: an order of liver and onions, "Lights" is a term sometimes used for the edible, mainly internal organs of an animal

Quail: Hungarian goulash

Rabbit food: lettuce
Radar Range: microwave oven, from the Amana Radarange, whose parent company, Raytheon, was the first to manufacture and market the microwave oven.
Radio: tuna salad sandwich on toast (a pun on "tuna down," which sounds like "turn it down," as one would the radio knob)
Radio Sandwich: tuna fish sandwich
Raft: toast
Run it through the Garden: any sandwich, usually a hamburger, with Lettuce, Tomato and Onion added

Sea dust: Salt
Shake one in the hay: strawberry milkshake
Shingle with a shimmy and a shake: buttered toast with jam or jelly, hence the reference to 'shake'.
Shit on a shingle/S.O.S.: minced dried beef with gravy on toast, mostly because it was a reviled standard fare in army messes
Shivering Hay: strawberry gelatin
Shoot from the south/Atlanta special: Coca-Cola, probably a reference to the fact that the headquarters of Coca-Cola is in Atlanta, Georgia.
Shot out of the blue bottle: Bromo-Seltzer
Slab of moo--let him chew it: rare rump steak
Sleigh Ride Special: vanilla pudding
Smear: margarine
Soup jockey: waitress
Splash of red noise: a bowl of tomato soup
Stack/Short stack: order of pancakes
Sun kiss/Oh jay (O.J.): orange juice
Sunny-side up: the eggs are fried without flipping them, so the yolk looks just like a sun on white background
Sweep the kitchen/Sweepings/Clean up the kitchen: a plate of hash

Throw it in the mud: add chocolate syrup
Twelve alive in a shell: a dozen raw oysters
Two cows, make them cry: Two hamburgers with onions
Vermont: maple syrup, because maple syrup comes primarily from the state of Vermont in the U.S.

Walk a cow through the garden: Hamburger with lettuce, tomato and onion
Warts: Olives
Wax: American cheese
Well-dressed diner: codfish
Whiskey: rye bread, as in rye whiskey
Whiskey down: rye toast, the 'down' part probably comes from the action of pushing down the handle on the toaster
White Cow: vanilla milkshake
Windmill Cocktail/City juice/Dog soup: glass of water
Wreath: cabbage
Wreck ‘em: scrambled eggs

Yesterday, today, and forever: hash
Yum Yum/Sand: sugar

Zeppelin: sausage
Zeppelins in a fog: sausages and mashed potatoes

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