If you threw a dart at a map aiming for the heart of Minnesota, you’d hit Grey Eagle.
It’s surrounded by neatly cultivated farm fields which are lined with neatly stacked wood and field stones. The neat little silos are standing next to neatly wrapped round bails of hay. Main street in Grey Eagle is about a block long. At one end stands the church. At the other: Neat, nondescript buildings.
At high noon on Mother’s Day, one other car lined the street. The Village Cafe’s hand-lettered sign beckoned us, with empty bellies and no stomach for crowded brunch buffets: Open Sundays ’til 1.
We took two seats at the counter even though the rest of the place was empty. The daily special was potato pancakes, but I settled on the soup de jour, dourly noted on the chalkboard in English as “soup of the day”: Chicken dumpling soup, heavy on the dumplings, light on the chicken. My Beloved ordered a Midwestern favorite that is my own personal nightmare: Hot beef commercial. I’ve opined about my disgust for wet bread so I won’t do it again, but if you’re interested, read it here.
It was the pie chest that caught my eye. My mother makes a decadent, heavy sour cream raisin pie, the sort of baked good I would rarely attempt in my own kitchen. So I wanted to try the Village Cafe’s version. With a thick layer of meringue, the question of ice cream — hard or not — was not an issue.
The cold statement “We have hard ice cream” reminded me of a line in “Ladies in Retirement,” a play in which I acted in high school. My friend Jill had the line, “You’re hard,” which sent all the high schoolers into giggles whenever she recited it. Like the boy in the play, the ice cream at the Village Cafe was hard. And I wanted nothing to do with it. My Beloved side-stepped the issue, too, requesting a dollop of whipped cream for his pecan pie.
By now, two other couples had entered the cafe, probably as happy as we were to avoid a crowd. We left a tip and went on our way, back into the safe Central Minnesota uniformity.