A grizzled old reporter colleague named Ed Watson once told me, "If you live long enough, Barbara, you'll write every story at least twice."
Well, I must have made it.
Here I am, writing the same story I wrote on Dec. 1, 2001. And I'm writing it with the same mixed feelings of sadness and delight.
It's about a Pasco County institution, the 50-seat luncheon place named Whole Note Acres. The restaurant is one of eight round structures on the south side of Massachusetts Avenue in New Port Richey arranged like whole notes on a music staff. The other seven buildings are home to Whole Note owner Gabriella Banks and homeplace to her eight children, who grew up there.
Almost every weekday since April 5, 1978, (Christmas and late summer excepted) Ms. Banks has risen before the sun to make fresh, healthy soups, breads, quiches, salads — most of the greens are from her own garden — and at least four desserts, all from scratch, including the crispy pie crusts and mouth-watering breads. At 11:30 a.m., she has opened the doors for the line of eager people waiting to decide which of the incredibly delicious items they'll choose that day. They keep coming until 1:30 p.m. or whenever the food runs out, whichever comes first.
Except, that is, for that little interlude from January through April 2002, when Ms. Banks decided she'd had enough of the 17-hour days, stopped serving lunch, and started doing breakfast only. Only to return to doing lunch when she got lonesome for the big crowds and bustle of her kitchen.
Now, she's doing it again.
Come 1:30 p.m. Dec. 21, Ms. Banks will serve her last wedge of quiche, chopped salad and bowl of soup. Then, come 7:30 a.m. Jan. 7, she'll go back to serving breakfast only — only this time it's going to be quite a bit more lavish than last time.
Her only helper is moving to Pinellas County and going back to college, Ms. Banks said. The owner, cook, baker, cashier, server, cleaning lady says she doesn't feel like going through the hassle of interviewing and hiring anyone and is ready to go it alone, as she has done before. Never mind that she's 81 years of age. She does a mean Jazzercise four days a week, so breakfast for 25 or so people five days a week should be a breeze.
On the downside, Ms. Banks' new venture means that Whole Note devotees have only 15 days, including today, to grab one of the tables in the 30-foot-diameter inside dining room or 9-foot circular screened-in porch and chow down on French onion soup and broccoli quiche on Tuesday; vegetable soup and vegetable herb quiche on Wednesday; potato cheese soup and spinach quiche on Thursday; or minestrone soup and quiche Lorraine on Friday. (Closed Saturday through Monday.)
It means no more caramel pecan cheese pie, lemon meringue pie, Japanese fruit pie, chocolate chunky peanut butter pie, except by special take-out order.
No more fresh greens, red bell pepper and carrot salad topped by sunflower seeds, white grated cheese and a homemade yogurt dressing, all of it so good it can bring tears to your eyes.
With your first item, you get drink, bread, homemade apple butter for $6. Add an item, it's another dollar. Add two more, and it's $8, up to all four for $9 — or $10 if you want a double of something (I've only witnessed one "five" since my first visit in 1989 when I moved to Hudson — a young man who couldn't resist two pieces of pie).
Ms. Banks has served as many as 300 people in one day, but most days about 50 or 60 people show up — and that's just as many as she wants, thank you.
The new breakfast will be served Mondays through Fridays from 7:30 to 10 a.m., with a similar price schedule. For $6, you'll get fruit juice, cinnamon roll and coffee or hot tea and your choice of oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar, quiche, cheese grits, plain grits, waffles with syrup, yogurt parfait (granola and fruit) or fresh fruit. Or, similar to the lunch plan, you can start with the basic and add an item for $1 each.
Those aching for the familiar lunch items can call a day ahead, leave a phone number, and order a quiche or a pie for eight for $12; cinnamon rolls for $4 a dozen; or a loaf of brown bread for $5 or white bread for $4.