I admit it. I am totally stealing this from an old CH thread, but face it. We all love food and there have to be some memories that got us here. Mine mostly involve my grandma. Walking into her apartment building and smelling the onions for the brisket in the lobby. The rainbow cookies with the marzipan she always bought me and always wrapped them like a present. The kids eating rainbow cookies while the adults feasted on something called compartment cake. Grandma cooking every potted dish in her arsenal for Rosh Hashanah and the stuffed cabbage and chopped liver. A cousin who made the most beautiful Christmas parties - the food was inventive and always served beautifully. So, what are some of yours?
Memories - but none good, with one exception. I think my love of food is a rebellion against the earlier years.
I was born in 1950 and, for the first few years of my life, the UK still had food rationing from the wartime period. It was 1954 before the last item - sugar - went on unrestricted sale. My mother was not a good cook but was a product of her times. Those times meant that vegetables had to be boiled for ages, mashed with loads of butter - basically turning it into slop. There was nothing “foreign” about the food - my mother only had a foreign holiday twice and my father once - although he did serve in India for most of the war and, as a teenager, had spent a little time in Germany to learn the language (unsuccesfully, I think). And, in those times, immigration had been fairly minimal and had had almost zero impact on our national cuisine.
In later life, I endured my mother in law’s cooking. She is, almost without question, the worst cook I have ever encountered. She can and does overcook everything and will refuse to eat any meat unless it’s been cooked to the shoe leather stage.
My one exception is my grandfather, Tom. In later life, grandma developed arthritis very badly in her fingers. It restricted her ability to cook. Grandad developed a skill for baking. And, whenever we would visit, there would be fairy cakes - as light as a feather and absolutely delicious. As a special treat, it wouldnt be just fairy cakes - but angel cakes, the top sliced off and cut in two, icing then topping the cake and the two halves stuck back in, sort of like angel’s wings.
Ah, so many. The snap of natural casing franks as you take that first bite, the smell of the butter-basted rotisserie chicken (and illicit finger-licked tastings) from the patio, crabapple jelly made from my Aunt’s crabapple tree and eaten with Grandma’s twaybuck and home churned butter, making fondant mints at Christmas, Mom’s german pancakes or waffles with vanilla cream sauce for dinner on Dad’s bowling nights, a sack of McDonald’s hamburgers as a special Saturday night treat, having sui mai as an ignorant teenager resulting in a multi-year quest to find out what it was as a young adult and rediscovering it at my first Dim Sum, catching, cooking and eating my first walleye, traipsing through October cornfields hunting for pheasant and enjoying the fruits of our labor as the traditional pre-trick-or-treat Halloween dinner, picking and eating raspberries in the woods while watching out for bears, the smell of ripe apples in the air in late summer, I could go on and on. I can smell those apples now in my memory as I write this; thanks for posting and eliciting those memories.
The pot luck at a cat club meeting at my house. We were busy cutting and pasting together the show catalog (this was 35 yrs ago), so the kitchen was not occupied (by humans, anyway) for a couple of hours. When it came time to eat, one member, a physician who’d baked a cheese-filled, yeasted bundt cake, shrieked from the kitchen. She raised Burmese, so innocently placed the cake on the table, uncovered. As an owner of Siamese and Cornish Rex, I would have put it into a cat carrier until mealtime. Two of my grand champions were licking the apricot glaze off. Another member, taking in the situation, remarked: “What’s the problem? They just started - another hour and the plate would be empty!” Other than its baker, everyone else shrugged, and enjoyed what was a truly excellent cake, even without the glaze. And no, nobody got sick.
I still miss our Cornish Rex. Coolest cat we ever had.
It’s risky for me to leave the table mid-breakfast. Sometimes this happens.
A cooking memory;
Waking up Sunday mornings and going to my grandmothers kitchen (whom lived with us) to help make the Sunday gravy as well as homemade pasta, I remember tying string around her kitchen to hand the strands of pasta on, stuffing the raviolis and always stirring the bottom of the pot. If I had a dollar for every meatball I’ve rolled in life I could give the Oracle of Omaha a challenge to his balance sheet. For someone who intentionally shies away from speaking about spirituality topics I can honestly say that to this day when I make a pot of Sunday gravy I can feel my grandmother presence with me. The smell of garlic and onion permeating the air is one that immediately brings me back “home”.
A dining out memory;
I was an only child and I think my parents viewed taking me out to dinner as cheaper than getting a baby sitter so they routinely threw me in a jacket/tie and off to dinner / date night I would go. One particular night I was upset with my mother, didn’t want to be out to eat and was just pissed at the world as children can be. When I was served my salad I hatched my plan for revenge, I carefully picked up the cherry tomato from my salad and very precisely bore a hole in the end where the stem use to be with my fork. I then popped the tomato in my mouth, using my tongue to feel and align the stem side facing out I carefully placed the tomato between my front top and bottom teeth. Sitting across from my mother at the table I precisely lined my mouth with her…….and I began my internal countdown till launch……10-9-8-7- (systems clear) 6-5-4-3 (preparing for final launch) 2-1….(LAUNCH!!!) I opened my mouth and bit down as forcefully as I could thrusting out the “guts” of the tomato………
”NASA We have a problem”
Apparently I overestimated my ability to engineer tomato rocketry, as the structural integrity of the hole vs. the amount of pressure produced by the bite, was too much for an accurate launch. Resulting in my payload of tomato guts instead of hitting its intended target across the table from me, (my mom) it skewed off track and actually hit a woman’s leg sitting at the table next to us. The woman feeling the wet substance “splat” against her ankle shrieked; “Something just LICKED ME” and after wiping her leg she jumped up from her seat proclaiming there was a cat in the restaurant. Her husband jumped from his seat, their guests jumped from their seats……picking up the table cloth to the table trying to find the feline the table next to them jumped up from their seats, someone across the dining probably seeing the arm of a fur coat yelled; “There it is”….pointing in some vague direction causing all the people in that vague direction to jump from their seats. Within about 30 seconds the entire restaurant was standing, pointing yelling and some people just flat out leaving. I immediately swallowed the evidence and silently prayed to God that nobody had witnessed my preparations. Ironically it seems God chose that to be the one prayer of my life to answer because to this day nobody knew it was me.
As an adult I have always cut my children’s cherry tomatoes, I would say it was because of the fear of choking, but it was honestly because I was unsure if my demon seed was carried down to my kids.
I think if you spill your tomato seed, all sorts of issues can come to mind.
My most fond food memory was when I was around ten years old . I practicality lived at my best friends house . They were Italian . Grandma Nonna would come by occasionally to cook the Sunday meal for the family . One Sunday she told us to grab our BB guns and go out and hunt sparrows . We brought them back to the house and she proceeded to clean them . She ended up stuffing them . I am guessing it was with rosemary , garlic , and some bread crumb . Cooked them in the oven and served them over polenta . 50 years later I still remember the smell and taste of this one of a kind meal .
Thanks for sharing that. It’s probably exactly why you love good food now.
Oh, how could I have forgotten Aunt Betty. She loved to cook, but cooked all,the standards the wise was she kept kosher. Soher antipasto had kosher salami, no,cheese. She loved to make “crab” oreganato stuffed mushrooms but used finely chopped tuna. It was actually very good. Of course, there was the one tome she had been doing some painting and acccidentally used the turpentine instead of oil. Fortunately, my mom liked to kid around and stick her fingers in things to taste and she discovered it before we ate. She was always so excited,about what,she made. We’d walk in for Thanksgiving and she’d announce this year she’d used oranges in the turkey! Makes me smile to this day.
I love that entire post !!!
Love this. My husband was laughing too.
So, so funny!
~ Pie Memories ~
My first apple pie at Thanksgiving with a homemade crust. I think I was 14yo. My father looked at me and said “Best apple pie I’ve ever had.” (Compliments from him were very few and far between, so this was truly high praise) Mom decided I would forever be the pie baker in the family. And I am.
A couple years later, making a prize winning key lime pie baked for a contest in junior year in high school. I won - a $25.00 gift certificate to Sam Goody’s (former record store in NY/NJ tri-state area with a gawdawful commercial spokesperson, Crazy Eddie). I was able to buy the Blue AND most of the Red compilation Beatles albums.
Visiting my brother in Chicago at Thanksgiving in my early 20s, and him expecting me to make an apple pie as soon as we walked in the door to his apartment. Realizing I had given him all of the ingredients to get, but neglected to ask if he had a rolling pin (hell, no - why would he?). Finding a cold bottle of red wine (don’t ask!) in the fridge and using that as my rolling pin. The two of us drinking the wine with our steak and baked potato dinner as the pie cooked for the next day.
~ Dining Out Memories ~
The first time that Mom and Dad asked if I wanted to join them at dinner by myself (meaning my younger sister didn’t come along). A favorite nice seafood restaurant of theirs, and having the waiter ask me if I would like something from the bar (I had just turned 17; drinking age at the time was 18). I started to say I wasn’t allowed to drink, when Mom said “What would you like, Linda?” with a slight nod. I forget what I ordered but thought I was the coolest teenager.
Having escargots for the first time while dining with my aunt in California, and really liking them. Learning to like wine at the same time.
~ Grandparent Memories ~
Picking tomatoes and cucumbers off the vine in my Grandmother’s garden (father’s mother) for our salad (and eating sweet tomatoes warm from the sun).
The surprise of cracking open a double yolk egg while at Grandma’s house (Mom’s mother) for Thanksgiving.
Going up to visit Grandma in her nursing home when I was 17 and could drive to visit her, and taking her back to her house to cook dinner for her. It was a couple of crappy steaks, Minute Rice (don’t ask again!), and I think green beans. The steaks were slightly overcooked, the rice was Minute Rice ('nuf said) but Grandma said it was a wonderful meal. I also made her a “perfect” Manhattan, according to Grandma (with 3 cherries, as she always did that for us three kids. We got the cherries after she was done with her drink.) It’s been 37 years since she’s been gone, but I still miss my Grandma.
Crazy Eddie was a chain of electronics stores owned by Eddie Antar, whose daughter I babysat for a few times. (They had a really nice house.) The Crazy Eddie spokesperson was Jerry Carroll. I can’t remember any Sam Goody’s ads, but I bought a lot records there.
OMG, you’re right, small_h. Shows how much those Crazy Eddie commercials stuck in my brain - I apply them to a perfectly innocent record store. LOL
Well, you remember the important stuff. Food.
My Dad was the kitchen magician in our house. But he only worked his magic six or seven times a year. Full on turkey dinners, pasta with homemade red gravies, and breaded veal cutlets, flash fried stovetop in a huge cast iron fry pan.
When he was inspired to make veal cutlets, he’d bring four bone-in cutlets home. He’d separate the meat from the bone and then carve the steaks into smaller pieces based on how the connective tissue ruled it be done. He then used a Laugh In sized wooden mallet (kidding a bit here) to thin the steaks to half–or less, thickness. Now here’s where the magic started…he would always make sure that there were six half dollar sized pieces that would go into the pan first. Two each, for me and my sisters to flitch while the rest of the cutlets were getting done. If any were left over from dinner, we would have cold Veal Cutlet sandwiches for our school lunches. Bliss.
When I became a dad, I tried to replicate his formula. And failed! But I did become a slappy for a good Cutlet dinner anytime we’re dining out.