Finding good home-cooked meals outside the home may seem like an exercise in futility. The fabled down-home joints of yore may be as hard to find as a waitress really named Mabel, but the fun lies in the quest. In fact, one of the great adventures of the road is the search for the modest diner or café that still serves up a great blue plate special-big, friendly helpings of casseroles, corn bread, coleslaw, steamed vegetables, meat loaf, onion rings, pork chops and applesauce, brisket, chicken―the kinds of simple, healthy foods that are also the staples of home cooking.
But perhaps it's our homes themselves that will be the guarantors of the blue plate's future. Diners don't specialize in home cooking by accident: We like what we find there because that's also what we cook up in our own kitchens. Even as our preferences evolve and we learn to make Beer-Battered Onion Rings and Barbecued Pork Chops that won't create instant love handles, we'll still want those tastes and flavors. Indeed, as we make dishes like these better and better, keeping their inherent soundness while pepping them up with exciting new flavors, it's likely that we might even spur new interest in diner cuisine (yes, the words can be used together), kick-starting the tradition up yet another notch.