White Mana’s appeal spans generations.

A couple days ago I received this letter from the father of the friend with whom I went on the Man(n)a excursion last Sunday.  It put a smile on my face, and the sentiments expressed herein are the kind that make me want to go on the road a la George Motz and chronicle every single independent food shack in America.  Places like the White Man(n)as are one of America’s proudest culinary legacies, and I’ll never hesitate to stop in a place like Al’s French Frys or B&D Burger – if you’re interested in some American food history along with your good eats, neither should you.

Mike,
 
Justin (my son) passed on a link to your erudite opinion on classic hamburger joints in $20 bucks a day (White Manna review).
 
It’s a heartwarming (or is that congesting) feeling that at least some great things don’t change much over the years.
 
I grew up in Roselle NJ, back in the old days before the food chains started taking over the world and forcing us to eat fried cryogenic things they said we wanted. And, the truth be known, we did want White Castle – and the small chains. But alas it was the American way to succumb to the big players, Mickey D’s, Burger King and all the rest. We sold our souls for the sub-prime meat and of course superior marketing. To hell with the taste and ambiance. I’m pretty sure we all regret that choice these days.
 
So, your White Manna file made me think of a local small chain in neighboring Linden called “White Diamond”. I’ve been to JC’s White Manna and you could easily be transported back 40 years putting one foot into that metallic chrome and tiled palace of hamburger heaven.
 
For me, White Diamond was the place to escape on an early Sunday afternoon after we told our parents that we were going to church for 12:00 mass. It was a place to recap the previous night’s wild happenings while we savored the aroma, sizzle, and finally taste that was to help us recover from our hangover, bad or good date, or other musings of being a teenager. The burger to order for those in the know was the “double-cheese.”
 
As you sat down on the round plastic covered stool that only God could move, I can still remember the cook (maybe truck driver too?), pick up the round meatballs of raw beef in his bare hands and emphatically throw them on the sizzling grill. Add onions to be fried, of course. All easily sliding on the grill due to an indeterminate yellow fatty lubricant substance. The high point in all this was of course was the “spatual slap” as he smooched the two patties together (thus the double-cheese). 
 
As the burger-to-be cooked, the precise amount of salt and pepper was applied to everything by a seeming random shake of big salt and pepper shakers, then the thick piece of yellow american cheese was applied. The end result was not a perfectly round burger, far from it. Its edges spread in all directions. And, for the final ingredient an old fashioned “hard roll” was placed on the burger while it was still in its final stages of transformation so that it could absorb some of the hot juices below.
 
Expertly placed on the diner’s porcelain plate, the only thing else needed was optional fries and a coke.
 
I’m guessing this all may still sound familiar and that you might be remembering the same thing years from now yourself. Keep up the good work. $20 a day is an admirable challenge that will bring you to the people and places that become the true memories in our lives.
 
Paul K.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “White Mana’s appeal spans generations.

  1. Anonymous

    Anyone heard from Mike?

    He is not in the habit of not updating his blog for such a long time….

  2. Anonymous

    He moved to Switzerland.

  3. Anonymous

    But surely one can obtain internet access in Switzerland, and thereby update one’s blog….even if that update is nothing more than “I’ve moved to Switzerland, and will find it, uh, difficult to continue eating my way through Sietsma’s list”

  4. Anonymous

    i don’t know if you will read this as your post is from last Summer but man I gotta say..your comments about bushwick/east willburg are out dated and silly. firstly, east willburg is not a fantasy..its a real stretch of area that typically encompasses the grand/montrose/morgan L stops….bushwick proper doesnt start until you cross Flushing ave….but more importantly both hoods have been improving slowly but surely over the past decade and its not just the finacially destitute who live there. Ride the L on any day between dekalb and bedford and you will see plenty of young professional types,artists,musicians,etc…you may not realize this other lifestyles do exist here in nyc aside from high end professional or careerists who are here to simply earn money or live in posh hoods. in fact until recently nyc was KNOWN worldwide for being a place that creative types could live and pursue there art…it used to be soho,east village,chelsea….now its bushwick,bed stuy,soutgh bronx,astoria,etc….these hoods may not be gastronomic or shopping playlands but they are home to real people pursuing what makes them happy..you should look around sometime in bushwick and you might understand what im talking about.

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