Our Thanksgiving Day this year was quite different from any of our previous holiday celebrations. Yes, there was turkey and pumpkin pie – some things don’t (and shouldn’t) change! – but the gathering in which we took part was entirely unlike anything I’ve experienced before.
When we heard that one of our most beloved places in Windsor, Deb’s Diner, was hosting a “Peace Feast” on Thanksgiving Day, Peter and I immediately decided we wanted to be a part of it.
It ended up being a gathering of around 20 or 25 people, some who already knew each other, many who didn’t. Included as honoured guests were four First Nations grandmothers who shared with and led the group in prayers, stories, drumming, and song. It was a beautiful experience, and I felt blessed to be able to glean a few tidbits of understanding about First Nations tradition and celebrations. What stood out particularly to me in various ways was the love and respect for elders inherent in the culture.
The Deb’s Diner tagline is, “When you’re here you’re home!” At no time was it more evident than at that Thanksgiving Day Peace Feast. The tables were shuffled around and pushed together so that, even though our numbers were large, it felt as though we were dining together at one big family table. We went around the circle and each of us shared something for which we were thankful, and Deb and her helpers produced and served a marvelous dinner. Everyone ate until they were satisfied, and several went home with leftovers to enjoy on another day. There were moments of laughter, and a few tears, and at one point I heard someone down the table from us say, “I think this is the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had.”
In spite of being away from my family, I felt surrounded by love.
I wrote about Deb’s Diner awhile back in a blog post called Finding Community, which was picked up and featured on BlogHer. In later months, when a group of friends and I launched the Windsor Girls Growl™ blog chronicling our dining adventures, I rewrote and expanded my post as a review.
I’d like to share that review with you today, so you’ll have an idea as to just why Deb’s Diner means so much to us.
To set the scene…
Back in September of 2011, after selling our house in Victoria, BC, my husband and I flew to Windsor for a one-week whirlwind house-buying adventure in our soon-to-be new city.
During the days that followed the accepted offer on what was to become our next home, we were tasked with several responsibilities which included arranging for home insurance. After a couple of false starts I was able to find a local agent who was associated with our existing insurance provider, and we headed over to his office to make the necessary arrangements.
In the midst of the application process, the agent started having trouble with his computer program, and after a few minutes of irritation on his part, he suggested that since he had all the information he needed from us, rather than sit there and wait for him to sort it out we should go out for a coffee and return to his office in an hour or so.
Not yet knowing the city and its eating places, we assumed we’d end up at one of the ubiquitous Tim Hortons that dotted the landscape like the Starbucks that popped up on every corner back home in Victoria. Before we found a Tim’s, however, one of us spotted a diner not far from the insurance agent’s office and we decided to give it a try.
You know how sometimes the little decisions end up being the most significant?
Stumbling across Deb’s Diner was an act of serendipity.
We were both pretty hungry and somewhat frustrated – we hadn’t eaten much (if anything) that day, which, combined with feeling as though we’d been chasing our tails all over town for the past few days, was quickly bringing us to a point of snapping crankiness.
As soon as we walked into Deb’s, however, things headed in a different direction.
The owner, Deb Smith (Head Cook & Bottle Washer, as her card declares), brought coffee to our table, and almost immediately my husband and she seemed to recognize each other as kindred spirits and started up a joky banter as if they’d known each other all their lives. The hour passed quickly as we enjoyed her wonderful coffee, delicious food, and sass, all served up in a warm and relaxing atmosphere.
It felt as though, in the midst of a strange new city, we’d found a home.
After we moved to Windsor, it was a couple of months before we made it back to Deb’s, but as soon as we walked in that front door we remembered why we loved it so much. In the weeks that followed a new Sunday brunch tradition began to emerge, and my husband and I have cherished this small slice of togetherness, chatting leisurely over breakfast, and getting to know our new friend Deb.
The food at Deb’s isn’t fancy, but it’s no greasy spoon fare, either. Their menu offers tasty, fresh, home-cooked, affordable diner dishes and creative daily specials, all prepared with love and served in a fun and unpretentious setting. Deb’s makes a great cup of coffee, and I am always amazed at how consistently delicious my preferred eggs-over-hard turn out! One of my other favourites at Deb’s is their homemade potato chips, and I rarely leave the restaurant without purchasing a bag of the crispy treats for later.
The Deb’s Diner motto, posted in the restaurant and printed on their cards, is, “When You’re Here You’re Home!” – and that has certainly been true for the two of us.
One day, shortly before we left and as things were slowing down prior to closing, someone at the next table brought out a guitar and started quietly playing “Mr. Bojangles,” upon which an impromptu singalong broke out among the people at his table. How weird and wonderful is that?! I couldn’t stop smiling, and my husband joined in with the group as they finished that song, then sang another, then another. At some point someone added spoons, then a harmonica, to the makeshift orchestra, and though the singing was at times off-key, the spirit of community was in perfect harmony.
We’ve moved across the country, but we’re home.
1430 Ottawa Street, Windsor ON
Do you have a place in your town that feels like home?