I left my cell phone in the car. And it was a good thing, because I was able to spend time observing my surroundings inside Mother’s Cupboard, a small restaurant in East Syracuse, New York. The last 24 hours had been full of artistic awe for me, and what I was now observing just added to it.
My friend Susan and I were visiting my daughter and her artist/poet husband, Michael. That Thursday evening was special because Michael was performing with a friend. Seth Marcel, an influential hip hop lyricist who often speaks on hard truths, was doing a special performance – “Master Peace” – at Club 11 in East Syracuse. Michael was going to freestyle paint alongside Seth during one track of his set.
I have never seen anything like it in all of my artistic adventures. As Seth rapped beautiful emotional lyrics, the lines and colors poured from Michael’s brush. His hand moved faster than I had ever seen anyone paint on a canvass.
“It’s as if the spirit within Michael translated Seth’s raps into a painting of another world,” said Susan. “The world that Seth knows as he masters the peace.”
As all eyes were focused on Michael’s painting, I glanced at the tears falling from Seth’s eyes, and realized my own eyes were becoming very watery. Susan’s too. And my daughter was glowing with pride. Art had always been a part of her life growing up in Bradford County. Now here we were sharing a very special artistic performance together so far from home, but also so connected to home.
Looking for a place to have brunch the next day, Susan and I decided to try the recommendation from Michael – Mother’s Cupboard – not far from their home. It was the place he and my daughter had gone on their first date. He gave us directions and warned us to look carefully and not to blink or we might miss it!
When we arrived at Mother’s Cupboard, we read the sign on the building that said, “We’re so good! We’re worth the wait!” Walking into Mother’s Cupboard I felt as if I had walked into the East Troy Diner. It was very small. And even though the clientele filled most of the seats, two places at the counter opened up and we sat down.
What I observed before I even started to scan the menu was art. Not artwork on the walls, but the art of culinary skills that totally amazed me. The background din of people’s voices and silverware against plates enhanced the colors, the aromas and the flashes of metal spatulas as hands skillfully maneuvered over the griddle. The ingredients they sautéed produced some of the most incredibly delicious looking meals. Huge portions! No, these were not chefs, or cooks; they were artists. And they were working together to create just as Seth and Michael had done the night before.
The food preparation areas were narrow, but these culinary artists moved around each other and worked so smoothly. I almost forgot that I was there to eat and had to order something.
“They are like a well-oiled machine,” said Susan, as one of the wait staff moved past the artists at the griddle as if she were a dancer performing with a number of partners.
Mother’s Cupboard has been a diner since the 1950’s, originally known by its current name. Prior to that, it was an old caretaker’s house for the cemetery next door. Today Pete Greene and Amy Easton own it. They have worked there for 21 years and owned it for 16 of those years. Amy’s daughter Samantha Fitzgerald works there.
Mother’s Cupboard is known for its six pound “Frittata Challenge” – lots of eggs, sausage, pepperoni, onions, peppers, potatoes and broccoli. In 2010 Adam Richman, from the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food” visited to take the challenge.
That challenge wasn’t for me, though. I ordered the Oreo French toast. It was what my daughter had ordered on her first date with Michael. Samantha dipped the three slices of thick Italian bread in the egg batter just the way I do it at home. It was delicious! And I ate the whole plateful, including the crumbled Oreo cookies!
Mother’s Cupboard appears to be a little hole in the wall, but it offers quite a unique experience and the hometown, down to earth goodness of real people. Just like home.
For me it was a connection to home.