The Cactus Patch

Old Man Exploring

Saturday 4 June 2016

The Cactus Patch

We’re in Moorpark, Southern California for a funeral. The morning after an emotional day, a group of us decide to go for breakfast. There’s only one place for this: the Cactus Patch.

It’s on Moorpark High Street, opposite the original Rail Depot.

Catus Patch Sign

The Depot was the first thing built when the railway came through an agricultural area, and was certainly there in 1900 when an application was made for a Post Office. A small town grew up very slowly, until Moorpark expanded rapidly in the 1980s as people moved out of Los Angeles. Today the Cactus Patch and the High Street are part of the historical area of Moorpark: major activity has moved elsewhere and there is still the classic sense of small town America, with Californian sunshine and aridity. The place looks like something out of the 1930s, though it was only established in 1970.

This is my first experience of a genuine, old-time American diner. I order a relatively modest breakfast, which includes biscuits and gravy and by British standards is huge. It’s good. The gravy is white and spicy, while the biscuits are light and slightly fluffy, close to what I would call a “flat dumpling” and nothing like what I would call a biscuit. There’s crispy bacon and plenty of good coffee.

While we chat, in very good company, I watch through the store window. Old “pepper trees” line the street and I hear train whistles from time to time. A humming bird keeps flying a circuit in the gap between some big branches. I am entranced. I can see the wooden Depot through the trees and where there are no modern cars, it could almost be a scene from the old West.