Sometimes while traveling on a long road trip, finally seeing a sign of a restaurant is like seeing an oasis in the dessert. I haven’t actually eaten at this particular place, but I love this sign from a diner in Minneapolis, mostly because of its complete lack of humbleness. Also, as if the boastful name weren’t enough to entice you, the words “EAT” appear in neon with a flashy arrow leaving little doubt as to what one is expected to do next. And were I to spot it on one of those long road trips, it would definitely be my first choice. What I love about these roadside diners is that they managed to survive all of these years. They’re like little time capsules from the 50’s that managed to outlive all the change in the world and stuck around to delight us nearly 70 years later. So many things seem to disappear as time goes by, so it’s wonderful to see places that defiantly stay with us into the future, reminding us of our not so distant past. While there’s much to be said for the new and improved, the time-tested things in the world will always hold my heart.
It’s been many years since I was on a long road trip. I had a bit more time when I was younger, though, so I could experience this slower way to travel much more. Though the scenery was lovely and new, what I remember most were the odd and wonderful places we would find to eat along the way. Though the food was not always particularly nutritious, it was perfectly American and always felt like home. Those wonderfully reddish, golden brown and yellowish plates of food where the only green came in the form of a sprig of lettuce on the edge or specs of green onions in a potato salad. Philippe, coming from Paris, is still both fascinated and appalled by the lack of greenery in so many of these dishes of Americana. But to me, it just transports me back to a childhood with amazing Kansas City barbecue and thick-cut french fries. And though I’ve developed a more sophisticated menu as an adult, I’m not a food snob in the least. There’s still no denying that frying something within an inch of its life makes it taste pretty incredible!
And what I loved most about those diners along the road were the people in them. Locals who eat there regularly, showing up with that day’s newspaper in hand, and the owner, busy and slightly disheveled who took great pride in the food they just created. As they should. It was created in that perfectly old-fashioned way that wasn’t that dissimilar to what a mom or dad might prepare for their own children. When food is made with pride and love, it always tastes so much better. It’s this invisible ingredient that makes all of the difference in the world. It’s the same ingredient, that I hope we all apply to our daily sketches or whatever we create each day. It’s a wonderfully intangible addition that transcends technique or color choice and adds a touch of emotion to what we create. No matter what we make, the approach should always be the same. My hope is that we all make things without any sense of humbleness, thinking instead, that what we create is indeed ideal. At least, to someone out there experiencing it with a smile. There will always be someone who likes it. That’s what I learned on those long road trips, enjoying those wonderful and unique little treats that can always be found in roadside dining.
About the Doodlewash
M. Graham Watercolors: Indian Yellow, Pyrrol Red, Permanent Green Light, Cobalt Teal, and Turquoise. Photo Reference: Jerry Huddleston. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!