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The Lesson Of The Big Bad Wolfies: Why You Should Not Romanize The Past

(© 1985 Universal. The image depicts Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future (1985))

In January, I drove a metamorphic DeLorean to the golden age of Miami cuisine. I traveled to a "simpler" time. An era where phones were in booths. It was an epoch when you knew how to pronounce the ingredients in your food. Under the wispy rain, my grandma, mom, sister, and I drove two hours to see if the past could return to the future. We wanted to see if memories impact our tastes.

(© 1985 Universal. The image depicts Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future (1985))

The Rascal House was the colossus of Jewish food in Miami. From 1954 to 2008, pilgrims flocked through the themed motels to the delicatessen on 172nd Street and Collins Avenue. The restaurant greeted patrons with unlimited bread, pickled vegetables, and cold sauerkraut. Beyond the food, The Rascal House allowed people to connect with an ever-fleeting old country while grasping their place worldwide.

(A neon sign for Wolfie Cohen’s Rascal House in Sunny Isles, Miami, Florida, 1996 (John Shephard/Flickr)

I have vague memories of the Rascal House. The restaurant serves as a comfort in the memories of my parents and grandma. I thought that would be my relationship with the Rascal House. It would remain an auxiliary link to my family's time in Florida. But, in 2023, The Rascal House did the impossible. The restaurant left the realm of memories and moved 2 hours northwest of Miami to Sarasota. The once ethereal sanctuary became corporeal. And, let me tell you, the food was subpar.

(Image courtesy of Nancy Liebman. The photograph depicts the Rascal House on 172nd St and Collins Avenue.)

The once revered hospitality was terse. The old epic cinematic atmosphere transformed into a made-to-video film dining area. The food did not belong in Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown but rather in Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmare.

(Gif courtesy of

We drove the vast escape of the Florida Everglades just to be served a meal that could solve the Everglades' problem of invasive species. You left stupefied by the exploitation of time-honored food in the name of profit. The silver lining was watching the Carolina Basketball team win as my mom and grandma's faces became more sorrowful with each passing minute.

(Image courtesy of USATSI.)

So what is the lesson of Wolfie's? What did I realize after trekking through the Floridian wilderness? I realized one should value the present with more admiration than the past or future. As we finished our frozen cheesecake, I smiled as three generations of women sat for a meal. I laughed as my grandma gave her critique. I eyed the majority of people not on their phones. The past will hold a benchmark for our expectations. The future is full of opportunities. But on a January day, I became fully present with great people and disgusting food.

(Gif courtesy of


Me on my first day of graduate school

Rachel Huss

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