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Strange Fruit: 'Louisville Diners' a Master Class in Greasy Spoons

Louisville Diners
Louisville Diners

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Food writer Ashlee Clark Thompson's new book is all about Louisville diners (the places, not the people). She joins us this week to dish about "Louisville Diners" and some of the city's most iconic eateries--trendy brunch places, soul food spots, and a certain streetcar-shaped establishment in Old Louisville whose quirkiness is part of its charm.

"It's almost like Halley's Comet to catch Ollie's Trolley open," she says (the walk-up-style lunch counter is open 11 a.m.-5 p.m., only operates on weekdays, and only accepts cash). "It started out as a chain, and Ollie's was supposed to be the next KFC."

Thompson says diners started out as, essentially, food trucks, where hungry third-shift workers could stop by and pick up a bite on the way home. They were seen as men's establishments, prone to trouble, either with no seating, or later, maybe a row of stools at a countertop.

Eventually, proprietors realized they were missing out on revenue by only catering to men. "They tried to attract women by adding flower boxes outside of windows, and adding tables and booths," Thompson said. "Because ladies did not like to sit on stools in the early 1900s."

It would take much longer for diners' race politics to catch up with their gender politics. "Diners in the 1900s weren't the most inclusive places," she says. "In fact, they were segregated."

In researching the book, she found resources that focused on the diners of post-World War II, which were white and suburban. "And so my question was, where did black people like me go to eat at this same time?" The answer, she found, was soul food. So the book includes the soul food restaurants that co-evolved with diners and catered to African Americans.

In our Juicy Fruit segment this week, Jaison joins us from the Big Apple, fresh from a taping of "The View." And the timing is appropriate, given our lead story.

After Univision host Rodner Figueroa was fired for saying Michelle Obama "looks like she's part of the cast of 'Planet of the Apes,'" Raven-Symoné was guest-hosting "The View" earlier this week and defended Figueroa, saying, "Some people just look like animals."

Doc wonders, "Are her and Don Lemon brother and sister maybe, and we didn't know it?"

We talk about black and queer celebrities whose work or aesthetic suggest an edginess that is not reflected in their politics, and whether it stings more when racism, sexism or homophobia come from someone inside the affected group.

Laura is LPM's Director of Podcasts & Special Projects. Email Laura at lellis@lpm.org.