Coffee cabinet

There’s something nostalgic about recalling regional names for things, remembering odd differences of culinary taste, state to state. When I lived in California as a third-grader in the ‘60s, we kids would order a chocolate milkshake, and my parents would order coffee (Dad would order his with sugar and cream, which once caused a hunt at an upscale restaurant for such a rare request). Mom would just say, “Coffee,” and it would arrive black, no fixings, no spoon, just the way she liked it. The following year, we moved to Rhode Island, where we kids soon learned the hard way that if you ordered a milkshake you’d get shaken-up milk. Seriously. To get ice cream in it, you’d need to order a chocolate cabinet. Our first waitress in Rhode Island offered us little kids a treat we’d never had; it hooked me early: a coffee cabinet. Our parents had to change their orders, too: Mom now had to order her coffee “black, no sugar” while Dad got his usual coffee with cream and sugar already added, just by ordering coffee. When we dipped down to visit friends in Connecticut, we kids had to switch our order once again to chocolate frappe (there was no such thing as coffee frappe, they told us). Mom had to switch her coffee order to “black, no sugar; that’s right, no sugar,” and Dad to “regular coffee, just one sugar” (not two, as usual).
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