Saturday, April 14, 2007

Remembrance of Foods Past

Being at home with my kids, much of my days revolves around food. Shopping, preparing, cooking and cleaning up meals are primary tasks each day. Lately the Huntlings have been going through ups and downs of eating: some days just nibbling, other days seemingly eating more than their body weight!

I was thinking about the food of my childhood. Growing up in Southern California, I had year-round access to fresh fruits and vegetables. My dad still has large lemon trees in his yard, and not too far from there are avocado orchards and lettuce fields. But that's not what has stuck in my memories.

Sometimes I think about festive foods: my mom often made wonderful roasts with Yorkshire pudding for holiday meals. I always turned up my nose at yams at Thanksgiving dinner.

Other memories are the stuff of funny family stories: my dad once tried to make a cinnamon roll. It tasted quite good while hot, but by the next day it had formed what we from then on called the "cinnamon doorstop." My dad was also famous for his "anything goes" omelettes, frugally using up leftovers in sometimes dubious combinations.

For many years we had dinner every Friday with my German grandma. She made wonderful, simple foods like chicken soup with cauliflower, celery and carrots, and stuffed cabbage rolls (no tomato sauce, thank you.) She was also a fan of the after-dinner "little bit schnapps," which she often shared with my dad.

Then in my teenage years, when I could fend for myself in the kitchen, came a precipitous drop in nutritional value. I was a regular consumer of Hot Pockets and lunchmeat sandwiches. I fondly remember orange Creamsicles and Otter Pops in summer. As an evening snack I would share a pot of Earl Grey tea and some buttered toast with my mom as we watched TV.

In college, on a limited budget, I for a short time survived on 5 for a dollar instant ramen noodle packets, and toast with butter, supplemented with $1 bean burritos (no red sauce!) from Taco Bell.

What are your childhood food memories?

7 comments:

Charlotte said...

I could have written that first paragraph! Sometimes food preparation feels like my whole life.

Growing up in sunny South Africa, I remember barbeques ("braais") and tons of lovely fruit. I can get quite tearful over a lychee.

Kerryn said...

Let's see...

Eating fish and chips from the paper they were wrapped in on the way home from Sunday Mass.

Or lemonade flavoured icy-poles at the local pool on a hot summer afternoon.

Existing on a diet of dim-sims and instant noodles during swot-vac when I was an impoverished student.

Mum's savoury mince that I can never replicate, no matter how I try. Or her roast pork with perfect crackling. And her light as air sponge cakes, filled with cream and topped with strawberries.

I've just eaten and I'm hungry again, yearning for a little of my mother's home cooking.

(un)relaxeddad said...

When I think of home cooking, I think of pressure cookers, vegetables cooked to the point of dissolving at a touch and mushrooms that always had to be cooked in milk (WHY?!?). They had no interest in food as a pleasure.

On the other hand, I've retained a weakness for tinned tomato soup.

Dandelion and burdock. That was another thing. And generic cola sold off the back of a lorry that came round weekly. Tripe, the world's most vile food (which I always refused to eat.

The fish and chips were good, though.

kjg said...

A hearty whole-wheat toast, with peanut butter, placed in a large flat bowl, covered in homemade applesauce, then drenched in milk. YUMMMM.

Lentil soup, thick with potatos, carrots, celery, and tomatoes, served over a thick piece of homemade cornbread in the bowl.

An apple wiht the core removed and stuffed with peanut butter for dessert in our school lunches.

Grandma's German/Russian "kartoffeln (potato) strudel" which we would always eat until they were all gone, often resulting in post meal stupor from having eaten way to much! (Grandma: "Have some more - I don't want any leftovers!")

What a trip down memory lane!

Papa Bradstein said...

Too many to name, but Mom's macaroni and cheese, frozen chicken pies and rice, Cheerios for breakfast, PB&J for lunch, artichokes in season, homemade berry fruit leather from berries we picked (aka fruit rollups, or whatever the mass-produced brand name is), bbq burgers and dogs in the backyard with fat watermelon slices, eating cherries off the tree along the back fence . . . for a start.

Susiej said...

My mom used to bake pies. She covered the left-over dough in butter and cinnamon, and roll them up and slice them into little pinwheels, and bake them. Best smell, best taste I've ever known.

Henitsirk said...

Interesting that with the exception of (un)relaxeddad, we have no memories of vegetables. (And his, to be honest, don't sound that great. Is this an attempt to perpetuate stereotypes of English food?) Lots of baked goods and fruit.

Charlotte: Funny how I always think of barbecue as American. Silly me -- it's kind of like how every culture has some form of dumpling (pierogi, calzone, siu mai) -- like the US would be the only place people cook meat over a grill. Though thanks to Wikipedia, I now know about braais and chakalaka!

Kerryn: Do they do vinegar on the fish and chips in Australia? And again thanks to Wikipedia, I now know about dim-sims. What is it about our mothers' recipes? I can never make my mom's sour cream chocolate chip cake like she does.

URD: Dandelion would hit the spot right now, this has been a rich food winter. We had a huge burdock plant by our last house, but I never had the guts to try to dig it up. Probably would have been wooden anyway.

KJG: That first thing with the toast, PB, applesauce, and milk? Sounds like kid heaven. Honestly, it sounds like perfect adult comfort food too!

Papa B: You got me with the Cheerios. I used to go through many bowls in one sitting, trying to achieve the last bite with no leftover cereal or milk. It was a tough game to beat. I've tried the "healthy" O's, and, well, they're just not it.

SusieJ: Aren't the smells a huge part of those memories and of the enjoyment? I think onion frying in butter is a gift from God. Ditto the cinnamon/butter/dough combination.