Tuesday, August 25, 2009

From wooden wheels to neon and steel

Nothing could be finer than to luncheon at an upstate diner; at least that's the opinion of Michael Engle, author of Diners of New York. Amid a small crowd of diner devotees and the merely curious at Doc's Little Gem Diner Monday evening, Mr. Engle hawked his books and spoke on the diversity of pre-fab and manufactured dining facilities in the state of New York.
Mr. Engle is still a youth, and it was heartening to the editors of the Monitor to see the younger generation taking an interest in one of dining's more charming historical eddies. When asked how long he had worked on this opus, Mr. Engle replied that it had taken eight years, but it becomes apparent when reading his little tome that his love of compact eateries probably has been going on much longer. In his book, he explains that contrary to popular opinion, the diners we have grown to love were not really converted railroad cars, but actually evolved from the lunch wagons of the 1800s. Enlivened with old photographs and personal stories, Mr. Engle brings the history of the original fast food purveyors to life.
Doc and Sherri Good, always eager to promote that Syracuse jewel, "The Little Gem" (mentioned prominently in Mr. Engle's book) had arranged for him to come and speak. The Monitor has been a avid fan of the diner for several years, as it is one of the Halls' favorite hangouts, and the Gentle Reader may remember it being written of here and here.
Mr. Engle may be enjoying some success with his book on New York, but he has set his sights to the west and his next project, he tells us, will be focused on diners around the Great Lakes. As he relates the story of following a diner from Decatur, IL to Michigan and then finally to Albany, NY, it's clear he relishes tracking these occasionally movable feasts. The Monitor wishes him well, and will no doubt be reporting on the Halls quest to eat in as many of them as possible, as they check them off Mr. Engle's very good and useful index! (Those wishing to follow Mr. Engle in his pursuit may visit his website here and are encouraged to write and tell him their favorites, too.)

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