Mythology (pre-history)



Okay, so you don't believe the story about Hupfer owning the diner and starting it via feline mind control? Or you want the lowdown on why the traditions are what they are? Or you wondered where the cool graphics (far beyond the capabilities of Our Artistically-Challenged Heroine) came from? Read on!

(but Hupfer really does own the Diner. -- Mgt.)

Getting Started

In March of 1997, Our Overage Juvenile Heroine suffered a Traumatic Experience [tm], generally known by the shorthand "Walk in Hell." This included poisoning, heavy drinking, and an enormous amount of gastric distress leading to (among other things) weight loss, reduction of the menu to bread and cheese (in many variants), psychological growth, and (perhaps most surprising) a physical reaction to eating meat. The physical reaction is too disgusting to describe in a family publication (since this isn't one, we could describe it here, but why? Imagine something nasty, and you'll be close). Our Neurotic Heroine promptly became an obligate vegetarian, and metamorphosed into Our Kitchen Heroine, Head Chef, and High Priestess of Soiled Flatware.

Deb Robertson promptly provided Our Kitchen Heroine with the first (and still one of the best) of the cookbooks that she tends to ignore at random, Quick Vegetarian Pleasures (highly recommended: here it is at amazon), as a birthday present (the Head Chef was just turning three). She then challenged Our Overconfident Heroine to produce dinner based on a recipe from the book (Deb had been vegetarian, even vegan, for quite a long time).

That first meal, 22 April 1997, was on a Tuesday, and more or less accidentally produced the Diner. On the day of this first dinner, not yet a Diner, Deb was working out with Steven. After the workout, Steven suggested going out to eat; Deb responded that Our Anxious Heroine was feeding her, because of a challenge issued, and Stephen asked to be invited. So Deb called, and Our Bemused Heroine invited.

Fortunately for all concerned, Our Less-Neurotic-But-Still-Not-Normal Heroine had internalized her mother's style of cooking, which involved producing enough to feed a family of seven, with leftovers. This is a quantity otherwise well-suited to feeding a regiment ... or perhaps, if that is exaggerated, at least a company of active infantrymen. In other words, portion sizes at the Diner tend toward the generous, and have since its founding. Adding a place to the table may, but is not guaranteed, to reduce the amount of leftovers. This first and founding experience also established the first Diner tradition: regulars may invite anyone they feel will fit in.

The workouts moved to Mondays by the end of May, and the Diner followed. In early June, Stephanie (of Stephanie & Charlie) joined the feasting, and it began to take on a great many of its most notable features. In particular, because doing otherwise would have created a tension between expense and attendance, the Diner officially adopted a policy of "no contributions permitted" (and the corollary, "eat what's set before you"). Our Industrious Heroine was (and is) responsible for deciding on the menu, making it, and getting it onto the table. And washing the dishes after, though that sometimes get delayed long enough to qualify as washing the dishes before. Diners are expected to bring an appetite (for both food and conversation) and to exercise it. If this is obscure: several of the early diners were students, for whom contributing to a shared meal once a week would have been a burden; free food, though, enticed them into the clutches of Our Otherwise-Too-Solitary Heroine.


At a distance of five years, it is difficult to remember everyone who has attended the Diner. The first were friends of Deb's or of Our Kitchen Heroine, who (once the Diner was established firmly) developed a tendency to invite anyone that she met and liked as a guest (and then to offer the standing invitation to anyone who fit in well the first time). The tradition of the standing invitation was also established very early, and had largely to do with the psychology of Our Insecure Heroine, who couldn't bear to repeatedly issue an invitation with no result. Stephanie was one of the earliest; Charlie joined us when he returned from a research jaunt to Germany. Those four were the first regulars.

Deb disappeared into the wilds of Australia at Thanksgiving, 1997, and for a few months, interaction via internet chat was one of the Diner's desserts (Our Geeky Heroine had already gotten to the point of having three or four working computers networked together). Steven largely disappeared by the end of the school year (May '98), by which time Kristin and Mary had joined the Diner (they are now its longest-lasting regulars). Charlie and Stephanie left that fall or winter to live in the land of the viking settlers of America (Michigan, at the University). Christia and Leandra showed up in summer or fall. In its first two years, while the venue was still Chapel Hill Self-Storage, the largest crowd at a diner was probably six people.

Our Not-Very-Peripatetic Heroine moved in mid-August 1999, and at nearly the same time was partitioned by treaty among three owners, rather than being sole property of Hupfer Orlando. The Diner, perforce, followed: the new venue was a small, brick-sided frame house, perhaps twice as large as the CHSS apartment (and much more pleasantly situated, albeit with less parking). Largest known attendance at a Barbee Chapel Diner was eleven people (for an outdoor holiday one fourth of July).

In June 2006, the Red Terry location was purchased, with a singlewide and a collection of outbuildings. Once again, the Diner followed, though Our "Everything-is-in-boxes!" Chef found difficulty in restarting the regular events, in part because it took ten months to settle in, and then because all the regulars now lived thirty or more miles away. Attendance fell off, though some new recruits were identified.

Diner went on hiatus again in early 2011, as we began to ramp up for the effort to build our current and permanent location. The house was completed in April 2012, and Diners resumed shortly thereafter. However, because Our Hermetic Heroine is sadly unsuited to the role or recruiter, and because available regulars have largely grown irregular, and because of a variety of illnesses and injuries, attendance has dropped to the point that we describe ourselves as on "semi-hiatus" (as of early 2016). We're hoping for recovery; time will tell.


Great thanks and kudos to Leandra Vicci (former regular), for the lovely transformation of the Diner US Postage, which (much reduced, alas for the loss in information) now graces each page as our logo.