How any two people stay married is a mystery to me. My parents ditched the whole thing after just a few years, and I’ve got to say that I know more people who took that route than who kept at it. Because I am an optimist, and because it was Joey, I disregarded logic and experience, and I proposed to him myself. We were both 23, and it all seemed like an excellent idea at the time.
It hasn’t all been easy- anyone in a partnership knows that, but really the last almost eight years have been pretty great. I’m not always so sure that I’m such good wife material, but as long as he’s the other one wearing the ring, I’m keeping at it.
When I think of the ways that we’ve made it through these past years- little kids, career crises, and all of the other good stuff that comes into our days, really it all comes down to our shared ability to just drop it all and hang out. We rarely have real dates–babysitters are pricey and we’re always behind on the planning, but I find that when I’m willing to blow off whatever I’m supposed to be doing, poof! there we are, on a date.
We have had a few more opportunities for these impromptu dates lately. There have been whole weeks when the girls have both been in camp, and Joey and I are working at home. It’s a new world, and a short-lived one, so we make the most of it.
So when I sat down the other morning and gave a bit of a sigh as I realized how much writing I was expecting from myself that day, and when Joey peeked his head in the door and said, “All right then, I’m taking you to Clamp’s,” I just had to be game. After all, the summer is almost over, and I hear that Clamp’s might just have one of the best burgers in the whole country.
If you know Joey, or if you’ve been following him around here, you know that he is very passionate about road food. He searches out the best, and he will drive all day to get there. And although people laugh about his road food obsession and its coexistence with my love of home cooked food, I sometimes let them in on a little secret.
You see, I love road food too.
I love secret places off the side of the road that feed and amaze me. I love places owned by one family for generations, places that unexpectedly put so much care and attention into the quality of their ingredients. I love the perfect hamburger. It turns out, I really love Clamp’s.
Clamp’s is a tiny place off the side of the road on route 202 going through New Milford, CT. It has a tiny sign which you can not see from the road. It has no listed hours. It has no phone. You just have to drive until you find it and hope that they’re open.
What is does have is a perfect hamburger. The place has been open every summer since 1939, and every morning they have their meat freshly ground and delivered by the butcher. Order it with onions, and they caramelize them until the sugars sing. The onion rings are thickly cut from actual onions, and the fries might be even better. The road food bible claims that this is a worth it drive from any distance, and I’m going to agree. Wisconsin? Get in the car. California? Get in the car. Trust me on this–you won’t be sorry.
Tables are outside, in a perennial garden planted by the Sylvia Clamp,who ran the place after her husband died and before she passed it onto her nephew who mans the grill to this day. The garden is luscious and overgrown, and as my stomach growled and we waited for our names to be called, I overheard a grandmother pointing out all of the different kinds of flowers to her granddaughter.
“Those are black eyed susans, and look! three different kinds of lillies, and that? that purple in the back? Honey, I don’t know what that is, but I am in love with it.”
The day was cloudy, and the color of the flowers popped, and I just thought that might have been the best thing I’d heard in a very long time.
But then I heard that our food was ready.
And I don’t know anything really about Sylvia Clamp, but I imagined her planting that purple flower, and I could see her cleaning up the grill for the day so she could spend an hour or two working on the garden. I thought about she and her husband making this perfect little place, this unexpected garden for the ideal date. And as I took the first bite of that burger that we drove so far to find, I laughed- it was so good. Joey had found himself at Clamp’s a year ago, and he had been wanting to take me every since. “What can I say?” he told me as we ate shared our onion rings. “Every time I find a really good burger, I think of you.”
I know, I know. Pure romance.