There was some nostalgia involved in my early-morning trip to St. Cloud this week. I worked at the St. Cloud Times from May 1966 to September 1968. The sports crowd in that town was made up of fantastic and colorful people, most of whom did their drinking at the Legion club that sat on a bluff above the Mississippi River.
They directed the bridge to East St. Cloud through the Legion club many years ago, eliminating a treasure of a bar.
The membership requirement was waved for most of us at the old Legion. You went to a game, you covered a game, you stopped at the Legion to see who was around, and then you headed for home.
If the Legion crowd was lively and you were required to stick around to closing time, there was often an urge to make a stop for a tasty morsel on the trip home. I was living in Waite Park and there happened to be a Maid-Rite hamburger joint there that stayed open late, at least on weekends.
Do you know anything about a Maid-Rite? Apparently, it comes from Iowa, where it is called a loose meat sandwich. The loose meat is ground beef ... crumbled, steamed, served on a steamed bun, with the meat falling all over the place as you attempt to consume it.
Here's a recipe that I found at ask.com:
Mix sugar, pepper and juice in a small bowl. Steam hamburger in water alone for 1/2 hour. Then drain good and add sugar, pepper and pickle juice. Steam buns, put hamburger on buns. Then add salt, mustard, diced onions and pickles.
The Iowejians who grew up on the stuff tell me that the secret of the unique taste is the pickle juice.
What I recall is having a couple of beers _ I'm sticking to that story _ and then stopping for Maid-Rites. And then tryiing to eat them on the remainder of the drive, as the crumbled meat flew around the front seat of whatever lousy car I was driving at the time.
I'm fortunate there wasn't a Doberman roaming free in the neighborhood at 2 a.m. when I got out of said car, or the remnants of the crumbled beef would have caused it to go for my throat. And the odor of loose meat, pickle juice, onions, et al, when the car door was opened as I headed for the early-morning shift at the Times ... now that was a treat.
Actually, it was a treat last week when I was heading back to the Twin Cities before 11 a.m., to find out there still was a Maid Rite to be found in St. Cloud. The one in Waite Park has closed, but this was a little store front on the main highway heading toward the campus.
You can have a Maid Rite for breakfast _ it opens at 9 a.m. _ but the man behind the counter had a lonely look when I walked in. I ordered six, three with cheese and three without.
I got one out of the deal, as co-workers at the AM radio station took care of the rest. New Maid-Rite fans were made among my colleagues. And, my level of appreciation was raised by the act of placing the loose meat sandwich on a paper plate and eating it in a civilizd manner.
It was a vast improvement on trying to corral a Maid-Rite while driving home after closing time.