St. Louis centenarian Lydia Motchan loves White Castle. Like, really loves it.
"The memory of White Castle is part of my heritage," Motchan told TODAY Food. "We grew up around the Great Depression time and so it was hard for my daddy to get a job. White Castle was a treat because we could afford them."
"A hamburger only cost a quarter and if you were lucky enough to cut a coupon out of the newspaper, you could buy six for 25 cents," Motchan, who has lived in the St. Louis area her entire life, recalled. "They were brought home in a brown paper bag and those are the things that I always think about in my memory."
Motchan, who was born in July 1921, turned 100 this year. Since her family knew of her deep love for White Castle and that the burger chain was also turning 100 in 2021, they reached out to see if they'd help her celebrate hitting triple digits.
"We thought, ‘What the heck, let’s ask White Castle if they’re interested in participating in her birthday party this year,' Bill Motchan, her only son, told TODAY. "Turns out they were."
In addition to donating 100 White Castle Original Sliders to the festivities, White Castle presented Motchan with a plaque engraved with the message, "In recognition of this momentous milestone, we wish you a very happy 100th birthday! Thank you for being a loyal craver!"
And loyal she is: Motchan said White Castle burgers have one of her favorite fragrances in the world.
"The wonderful aroma of White Castle in an automobile is something quite delightful," she said. "There’s nothing quite like it. I’d like to bottle it as a perfume and keep it, put it behind my ears. Well, maybe not."
Bill said his mom makes friends wherever she goes by chatting with them about her favorite fast-food chain. In fact, when she heart valve replacement surgery earlier this year, a nurse brought her a dozen sliders from White Castle during her recovery.
"If I don’t know people wherever I am — everybody knows about White Castle and many people have had the chance of enjoying White Castle — so I talk about White Castle with great enthusiasm," said Motchan. "Whenever we talk about it, it always makes a wonderful reminiscence. When you have a few minutes to talk about fun things and delicious things, you do."
Motchan's standard White Castle order is two Original Sliders with lots of pepper and double onions, ordered with a secret menu twist: She likes her sliders "bottom bun only" — a way of ordering them so they have two thin bottom buns rather than a thicker top bun. And she's a plain fries person — no ketchup.
"I wish I could get triple onions," Motchan admitted. "But I don’t know if that’s going to happen because I don’t think they would want to spend all of their profits on my onions."
When asked if, as someone who has lived for an entire century, she'd tell people to worry less about healthy eating and just go for the cheeseburger, she responded, "Definitely! What are you, crazy? How could you question such a thing? Yes and yes."
"We used to call them belly bombers," she added. "I guess they bomb some people’s bellies, but they never bombed mine. They always hit my stomach in a welcome way. There's just nothing like it."