Those of us in the United States and parts of Canada are familiar with the term “Blue Plate Special”, especially if you frequent diners and roadside cafes. We understand the meaning, even if we don’t know the history.
Generally speaking, the Blue Plate Special is the low-priced meal of the day. Not just a single dish, but rather an entire meal, such as meat loaf, mashed potatoes and green beans all served on a single plate. Believe it or not, there were even plates designed specifically to serve the daily special. You guessed it, the plates were blue. And divided, keeping each dish separate.
Although the term Blue Plate Special became a part of common language in the 1930s, the first known use of the term dates all the way back to the fall of 1892. It was then that Harvey House Restaurants first began featuring their Blue Plate Specials as a regular feature. Some believe the reason for the lower priced meal that made up a Blue Plate Special was actually a way of serving yesterday’s foods. In other words, if a chef made more meat loaf and potatoes than what was sold in a day, the following day it became the Blue Plate Special. That would also explain why there are no substitutes on the special.
While today’s Blue Plate Special isn’t necessarily served on a divided plate, or even a blue plate, it’s still understood as the cheap meal of the day. Today’s Blue Plate Special isn’t necessarily a surplus of food but rather a way to entice the cash-strapped customer. Once in the door, they tempt you with appetizers and fresh cobblers and other higher ticket items. Before you know it, that special isn’t as cheap as you expected.
If you’d like, you might be able to find some of those old Blue Plates at Flea Markets or on-line collectible offerings. Although we’ve never actually used ours, the moment I saw them at a Flea Market on Alameda Island, I had to have them. I’ve since checked the price to see if I got a fair deal. On-line these plates can be had for as little as $10.00 a plate to as much as $25.00, depending upon condition. Mine were four plates for $20.00, so I’d say we did good. One of these days, I might even serve a diner-style special. But then again, maybe not.
Diner-Style Salisbury Steak
1/4 Yellow Onion, chopped
2 teaspoons Italian Parsley, chopped
1 lb Ground Sirloin, extra lean
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
Cooking Spray as needed
1 tablespoon Smart Balance Margarine
4 oz can sliced Button Mushrooms, drained
1/2 teaspoon dried Thyme
12 oz jar Beef Gravy
Peel and finely dice 1/4 of a medium size yellow onion. Set aside. Finely mince parsley, set aside.
In a large bowl, crumble the ground beef. Add onions, parsley, garlic powder, and black pepper; mix well. Shape into 4 equal oval patties.
Coat a large skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-heat. Add patties and cook 4 minutes per side, or until no longer pink inside. Remove from skillet to a plate.
In the same skillet, melt margarine and sauté mushrooms and thyme for 4 minutes. Add gravy and return patties to skillet. Cook for 5 minutes, or until heated through.
Inspired by Everyday Diabetic Recipes