This is another contribution to the wonderful Blog Hop, hosted by Emily and Kelly. Each week they post a prompt, for the ongoing theme of “Remember the time when we…”. This weeks prompt is food: a memory, a recipe, a story… It was bigger than I anticipated. Click on either of their names, then go to the link at the bottom, to read other entries.
Throughout my life, food has been intimately tied to almost every memory, relationship, or experience I can think of. Sure, we all have to eat, and when I saw this prompt, I figured it was an easy one… food = no brainer. I could think of dozens of things to tie food to. But then, that fact really hit me. I seriously can think of some kind of food memory for nearly all my emotional memories. When I talk about travel, places I love, they are inevitably tied to food. Different periods in my life, takes me back to food again. Remembering people I’ve loved, or still love, more food. This food thing may go deeper than I’ve really thought.
Each year over the holidays, the holidays, I think back to the foods that I made with my mother and grandmother. Both of them were incredibly good cooks. Neither of them took cooking classes, as I’ve done, or studied cooking; they were both naturally talented, and shared with me their passion for creating wonderful things to eat. I spend every
Pumkin chiffon, it’s not just pumkin pie…
Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter in the kitchen with my grandmother. I felt special and important, getting to stir the chocolate for her chocolate cream pies. We shared stories and secrets and I felt her approval and love as I learned to help make the foods that were integral to her concept of holiday. The endless stirring for her mind-blowing pumpkin chiffon just about did me in, each year, but now I make my own each Thanksgiving and Christmas and quietly commune with my grandmother’s memory. At the time, I took for granted all the steps and effort that went into that single pie; I simply hated the endless stirring: slow-rhythmic-critical to the outcome-stirring. I didn’t realize how infinitely more complex it was, from regular pumpkin pie, just as my grandmother was undeniably complex and special as well. Those who knew her loved her fiercely, or couldn’t stand her. I understand so much more about her and that pie, now that I am a mature mother, and cook. I’ve added fresh pumpkin and fresh nutmeg to the ritual, versus the canned/dried she used, but the love, the time and the complexities are the same.
For years, my mother made delicious stuffed cabbage leaves. As a kid I loved when Mom was busy mixing the filling and cooking them for hours. The whole house smelled rich and comforting. Years later, she would make them when I had my first baby, Principessa, and occasionally when she visited us. When Principessa was little, she got to help her Grammy do it, but I never learned. I was too busy then, and presumed there would be many years to learn. Later, I asked her many times, but as her Huntington’s progressed and her dementia worsened, she couldn’t remember the steps, no many how many hits and nudges I sent her way. Mom learned from my Great-Grandmother, Nini, many years ago, when she was a young mother. Nini made them with grape leaves, my mother told me, but cabbage was easier to find and work with she pointed out. The tomato sauce was rich and delicious; the filling a beef and rice mixture was perfected over years of adding this or taking out that. I’ve looked it up many times, but somehow, making it without my Mom, feels empty.
Christmas=potatoes au gratin
And spiral honey ham
Spot prawns scream summer!
But so does my favorite salad at the Farmer’s Market
Fall= Apple/blueberry crisp
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall… any day is better with a maple bacon donut
I love cooking, and like my Mom and Grandmother, and Mother in Law before me, I’m pretty good at it. I watched the women in my family, over the years and saw cooking as a way to infuse emotion, love, connectedness into the foods I serve my family and friends. I know exactly which meals will make each of my kids glow, and which foods will tell them I’m pissed off. I have altered countless recipes to meet the needs of my gluten-free daughter, or my vegetarian son. I leave out potatoes and tomatoes, to appease my youngest, or find ways to put a positive spin on their presence. I cook the garlic down, to make it easier on Smart Guy’s increasingly sensitive stomach, but draw the line at leaving garlic out. No amount of love can replace garlic in many recipes; there’s a limit to everything. I’ve talked to my kids while I cook and about cooking for years, so that as they’ve grown up they too find some thrill in creating food and memories. What a thrill to find my 20-year-old son in the kitchen with a good friend, figuring out how to make a shrimp dish, by playing with ingredients and recipes. Their enthusiasm made my heart sing.
Latkes: cooked in the same pan for 20 years. The secret ingredient isn’t justt love
Over time, there are foods that I have made my own. Some of them started with my grandmother or Mother, or born out of trying to be the Jewish mother I wasn’t born to be. Many of the things I make, regardless of their origins, have become mine in my children’s eyes… and in the minds of many others. “I make the best latkes in the world; it’s documented. It’s my secret ingredients…” I have made this broad statement to countless school children and senior citizens each Hanukkah, over the past twenty years. Given that most of them were not Jewish, and may not have ever tasted a latke, I was rarely challenged. I thought it was clearly a joke, until one day a young boy approached me, a few weeks before the elementary school’s annual auction. “Mrs. Talesfromthemotherland, you should auction off the secret ingredients to your latkes,” he told me, earnestly. “There are people all over the world that would pay a fortune for that!” Oh that sweet, little, lied to face. I told him that I just couldn’t do that, despite the need for new playground equipment. He looked truly sad, but also nodded like this was 007 worthy. Since then, I’ve shared the ingredients with one of my children. A little while back, it occurred to me that if something should happen to me, someone needed to know just how to make those latkes so damned good. The best in the world, I tell you.
Best sandwich EVER. And amazing time in Israel, with my girl
Food plays a part in some of my most intimate memories. It ties me to the people I love most and the places I treasure. I could no more go to Pike’s Place Market in Seattle and leave without mini-sugared donuts, than I could go to Cape Cod and miss out on fried clams, or lobstah rolls. Now, whenever I eat Middle Eastern food, I pause and think about my girl, living in Israel, and how much I loved exploring food with her there, last Janua— and how much I miss her. I rarely go up to Mt. Baker, whether to ski, or hike, or sled, or just stare at its stunning beauty, without stopping at Milanos for their to-die-for seafood linguine, salad and bread. I am so much less thankful on Thanksgiving, without Sweet Potato Supreme and Pumpkin Chiffon, and Christmas isn’t real without spiral honey ham and potatoes au gratin. I do not eat a Doritos without
Israel is all about the food, and this girl
flashing back to countless high school memories—some sparkling and bright, and other bitterly painful. It wouldn’t be the (Summer) Lynden Fair without funnel cakes, curly fries, elephant ears, turkey legs… hell, it’s all about food! (and farm animals…) I can barely watch a movie without popcorn; I’ve tried. I think I shook, and found it hard to focus on the film. I haven’t tried it since. Tuesdays aren’t Tuesdays without a Kool Koffee Kream, and Thursdays aren’t Thursday without sushi and a dear friend. If either of those things happen: one of those days without that food, my week runs amok. Amok! Every Memorial Day is a lobster weekend; doesn’t matter where I am when it comes, there’d better be red boys, and a group of friends. I can barely enjoy rugalach anymore, because only my mother in law made it that good; all the rest are a painful reminder that she is gone, and none of us make it like her.
You say travel, I say:
Hawaii= garlic shrimp
Tucson, with my BFF since 4th grade
Pike’s Place Marke
Fried clams or lobstah rolls, either way I’m home in Massachusetts
The Lynden Fair
Still at the Fair
Life! You’ve got to eat it up!
Food is more than sustenance; it’s part of the complex web of life, relationships, love and nurturing. It informs and colors almost every aspect of my life. I am just as likely to take a picture of a good meal, as the view or people I’m with! I’ve had a few friends who just didn’t care about food… “If I could just take a pill and not have to bother eating, I would,” one friend often said. It’s not a mystery that we didn’t stay friends; that concept is beyond me. (Oh please! There were other reasons, but really? Who prefers a pill to an actual slab of ribs?) I could no more write a post about a single food/single event, than I could eat a single food forever, or take a pill to replace any one food.
I know it’s not the healthiest attitude, tying food to so many more complicated things in life. Of course, food doesn’t really heal a broken heart, or make you feel good about yourself, or show that you care. You are not what you eat, but the food you eat is a reflection of your perspective on life. Food doesn’t make the holiday, it’s the people we dine with (um, well… mostly), and the world wouldn’t end if they stopped selling mini donuts at Pike’s Place Market… Oh Shudder. I get it. Food does not actually equal love… but if you love me, you will feed me.
You know a girl’s serious, when she posts a very unflattering picture of herself, licking strawberry shortcake! So spill it. What are your favorite foods, and are they tied to memories, people, places that are special in your life? Share your thoughts in the comment section.