This Side Up

Sit with the kids for the real fun


I got to sit at the kids’ table.

Now that may not sound like the desired location when you're eating out for breakfast. There wasn’t all that much of a choice. There were four seats at the adult table, just enough for my daughter, Diana, son Ted, my niece Christa and her husband, Thor.

Having breakfast at the Coyote Café in Cherry Valley, N.Y. at least once a summer has become a family tradition. It’s as much about the food as the ambiance of the place. The food is homemade and fresh, nothing fancy, but large portions prepared from an open kitchen where you catch snippets of conversation between the chef and those waiting tables, not that there’s a large staff – just three. They know most of their customers, greeting them by name and exchanging news about what’s happening in town.

Someone with an eye for photography snapped candid portraits and had them hung on the walls. At first I thought the restaurant was promoting the talents of a local photographer, but nothing advertised the services.

Ted picked up on it immediately, pointing out that not only was the man wearing a plaid shirt sitting by the window reading the paper and drinking coffee one of the people featured in the gallery, but that he was in the same seat.

When our tribe of five adults and five kids entered through the screen door, banging to trumpet our arrival, I looked for the pictures although they hadn’t been there last year. Other than that, the place hadn’t changed. The table by the window was open and the kids quickly slid into chairs under Christa’s command. The woman who greeted us, apron tied around her waist, had an armful of menus that the kids eagerly took.

Natalie, who just celebrated her 13th birthday, knew what she wanted although she didn’t want a side order of blueberry pancakes with her eggs. Would I be ordering the “Hungry Man’s Breakfast” in which case, could I share my pancakes? We had a deal.

Christa placed orders for Freya, 6, and Wynn, 3, the youngest of the group, while my twin granddaughters, Alex and Sydney went for pancakes.

I got the end seat with Wynn at one side and Alex at the other.

With orders placed, I wondered how long the kids could endure the wait. Maybe that was on the mind of our hostess, too. She was back in an instant with glasses of orange juice and chocolate milk – with straws – that the kids wasted no time spilling. Well, to be fair, Wynn spilled his, which I sopped up with my napkin. The show was just beginning.

On arrival Wynn promptly snatched up a plastic container of grape jelly, deftly peeling off the cover and holding it up for the girls to see. Where would this would end up? Was he going to slip it into his mouth? Would he spread the jelly across the table with a finger? Might he even forget about it for Christa to discover in his pocket when his shorts went into the laundry?

The girls were watching, too. It wasn’t long before Alex and Sydney decided to concoct their own recipe, starting with the round tub of butter intended for their pancakes. In went some jelly followed by a squirt of ketchup and drizzled with syrup. Natalie and Freya weren’t to be left out. They tore open sugar packets, stirring in the contents with their straws.

Being the adult, I guess it was my responsibility to bring order, but after the sugar and some salt they appeared to be out of ingredients. Then my coffee arrived with a couple of creamers. I hastily returned them to the waitress.

“Okay,” I declared with authority, “it looks like it’s ready to be eaten.” Alex looked at me in disbelief and handed the slimy mess to her sister who quickly passed it off to Natalie. I wondered what would happen by the time it reached Wynn. Well, actually I didn’t want to know. He was already coming up with new ways to play with food.

His chocolate milk was nearly gone. He looked desperate. Were we going to get a tantrum? Freya sized up the situation and generously poured half of what remained in her glass into his. It wasn’t what I’d expected, nor was what followed.

Rather than drinking from the straw, Wynn started blowing bubbles. They filled the glass and spilled on the table. The show had the desired effect. The girls watched in wonderment. Christa left the adult table to admonish Wynn. Others in the café turned to see what was happening.

Thankfully, before their inventive minds came up another game, breakfast was served. Now there was purpose to syrup, butter, salt and jelly. But just to be sure, I kept a watchful eye. Wynn poked at his half-eaten pancake with a straw. Might this become the tool to launch it at the girls sitting across from him?

Before he could do it – maybe even before the thought crossed him mind – I stabbed it with my fork and popped it in my mouth. He was horrified.

Next time I don’t think they’ll let me sit at the kids’ table.


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