Rewriting restaurant history

In this 1965 guide to places to eat in Colorado, the following notice appeared for the tiny town of Fairplay, north of Denver: “Fairplay Hotel Miner’s Grub Shack. Serve yourself at the Miner’s Grub Shack in the dining area of historic Fairplay Hotel. Fifteen feet of delicious food. Eat as much as you want. Fixin’s for young’uns.”

Well, sure, that’s where old-timey miners ate, right? In a grub shack. After all they were unsophisticated fellers who just wanted chow and lots of it. Actually that idea might better apply to 1965, when restaurants in outlying areas such as the Fairplay Hotel’s loaded up their all-you-can-eat buffets with warmed-up trays of frozen prepared foods which were good enough for vacationers mainly interested in getting the children fed without too much fuss.

The diners of 1965 were no doubt flattered to think they lived in the most progressive of times, at a much higher standard than in mining days. But could the Fairplay Hotel of 1965 have competed with the Christmas feast the same hotel presented to miners in 1888? Included in the array of dishes served that day were blue points, salmon with parsley sauce, curried duck, quail smothered in claret sauce, plum pudding, and imported sherry. I’d call that quite an upgrade from chicken legs and gelatin salad!

© Jan Whitaker, 2008

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