Dern ye, ya shoulda taken d’pie!
When I was fifteen, I worked as a cook for The Viking Village Smorgasbord on Snelling Ave in St. Paul, MN. It’s not there anymore. In fact, someone long ago turned the building into a furniture store. A few decades have passed since I last clocked in but a handful of stories stick vividly in my brain as if they happened only yesterday.
On one particular weeknight, a farm couple wandered in for dinner. He was wearing his best overalls and she, her best go-to-church Sunday dress. Neither had very many teeth; their faces were ruddy with sun and wind; and their hands were gnarled from years of manual farm work. They held all the cash they were going to spend in “The Cities” in their hands. Whether it was all they had left, all they started out with or simply everything they had planned on spending, you could tell it wasn’t much.
Dinner was $4.95, all you could eat, not including pie. Pie was extra.
As they made their first trip through the steaming trays — filling their plates with fried chicken, steamed cod and mashed potatoes — she had a comment for everything, mostly saying how delicious everything looked. I think she was just happy she didn’t have to cook for one evening. In her mind, her husband was treating her like a queen for a night. When they got to the end of the food line, he confirmed it.
“Do ya’ want a piece of pie?” she asked. He shook his head and said, “No, you go ahead. It cost extra.”
As she responded, “We got enough,” he caught my eye. I quickly looked down, absorbing myself in wiping the line.
“No, no…der’s tax and ever-ting. You go ahead.”
He did, and as the cashier tallied their meal, I looked up to see her counting out the remaining money. I got a sense that it was close, but more than enough to cover the price of another piece of pie.
She looked up at him and said, “Dern ye, ya shoulda taken d’pie!”