Saturday, May 07, 2005

Food Memories

Michele, found here
has a question which made me remember foods from my childhood. Some of my strongest memories are of the things my Dad used to cook. His french fries, as big and thick as fingers, were cooked in rendered suet. This made them taste like steak (I swear) and I could have eaten a hundred of them without stopping. That was before it was known how bad that stuff was for you! He was also great at making killer apple pies, with some brown sugar in them, as well as ginger and nutmeg. They were excellent, and guaranteed to cure all ills, whether mental or physical.

When I was sick, he catered to me by making my usual request, which was eggs. I preferred them soft-boiled back then, and he was happy to oblige. One time I requested the eggs and he made them for me; I promptly got very sick, worse than I had been. Turned out the eggs were contaminated with salmonella and so I got that infection on top of the original illness. I forgave him, though.

My Mom was a legendary cook and it is too bad that I never had much interest in it - at least before she died - because many of her best dishes died with her, since I had no idea how she made them. For instance, her chicken gravy was considered the best in the family. She tried many times to show me how to make it, but I consistently burned the roux and/or had lumps. I can still conjure up the taste of her gravy, and I would almost be willing to die for some of the real thing. Her turkey and dressing were luscious, especially her oyster dressing. My grandmother always turned her nose up at oysters, claiming not to like them. One year at Thanksgiving, when a large portion of my Mom's family was at our house, Mom put oysters in the dressing, but didn't tell anyone. My grandmom had eaten 2+ 1/2 helpings of the dressing when my uncle said: "M", this is the best dressing I've ever eaten; are there oysters in it?" Mom didn't want to answer - but also didn't want to lie about it - so she admitted it. My grandmother pushed her plate back from the table edge and declared she hated oysters, said "how dare you put oysters in anything I'm supposed to eat", and refused to eat another bite. She failed to see the irony in it, too.
My Mom's sister was married to an Italian (as I am) and she learned to cook his favorite foods; taught by his Mom and sisters.
Her spaghetti sauce (though Americanized) was to die for and it always had pork chops in it for flavor. She made pizza and another type of pie she called "greenza" way before pizza was popular in America (back in the 40's). She lived in Ohio and we went there to visit every summer. We wouldn't get there until late in the evening, and she would meet us at the door with fresh, hot slices of her homemade pizza, no matter what time of the night we arrived. She and her husband used to go to Canada every summer to fish, and they would bring back freezers full of the most wonderful fish I have ever had, most of it perch or sole. Some of them were so small as to be two-bite sized, and they were as tender as anything. She would bread them in cornmeal (a Southerner's way of cooking fish) and fry them fast in hot oil. Oh, Lord, were they ever good. Served with cole slaw and cornbread, it was a feast for kings and commoners both!
You might think, with this homage to the foods of my youth, that I had a large appetite back then, and maybe you've imagined I was chubby. You would be wrong! I was known as "slat-legs", bean-pole" and "slim" until I quit smoking at age 38. Back then, I could eat anything in any quantity and never gain an ounce. Got any idea how I could get back there?

23 comments:

Angie said...

Great food memories!

See, I came for a visit..and you thought I would just skip you and let it be. :) Here via Michele of course.

Last Girl On Earth said...

Damn, that post was TORTURE! I've been on the South Beach diet all week, and I would KILL for any of the foods you mentioned. Oh well, it's back to vegies for me!

Michele sent me, and now I have to go eat a piece of cheese! lol

Come by if you get a chance.

Silver Lining said...

Mmmm, that was a delicious post, Kenju! I just dropped by to say thanks for all your support this week - I really appreciate it!

Dieting never worked for me. The running has *really* made me change shape, though. I've dropped two dress sizes since January!

Paul said...

Sounds like my family, though different dishes but man, would love to try some of that stuff.. thank goodness its mornin' and my apetite is still under the covers or we'd have ourselves a firdge raiding moment. :) So what can you do be able to eat like a warrior and still remain trim?.. Run and work your buns of cause thats all you got, sucks I know. Here via Micheles..

cheers

P.

David Parsons WV said...

Eat and enjoy it. Yes, you were thin and looked like Audrey Hepburn back then. I am sure you still look great. There is NO way you could be fat. The foods back then were wonderful. No additives or preservatives, just natural goodness. Fats were considered an essential energy source. I am fortunate to cook just like Mom and Granny cooked. I do use less fat in my cooking, but it still has that west side Charleston taste.

Angie said...

I learned to cook at the hand of my grandmother. She passed away this past September and there are so many more things I did not get to learn from her. My oldest dau will be 18 this month and loves to cook. For Christmas I purchased a really beautiful family recipe book binder with beautiful pages and filled it with all the things my grandmother taught me, her secret recipes no one else in the family has and short stories of my childhood with my grandmother. My favorite is her dressing, loved it as a kid and still do - the whole family does! I only make it 3 times a year, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. My grandmother was queen of gravy! I cannot make gravy like she did, can't even get close. I would love some of her fried chicken smothered in gravy! OMG, my mouth is watering! Great post, Judy!

terrilynn said...

What an evocative post. I think food memories are probably among the most visceral ones. I grew up eating at the tables of two of the finest cooks in the South (my grannys) and it spoiled me rotten.

I'm here via Michele this morning.

Shannin said...

I'm here via Michele...

It's amazing how food evokes all these memories. I know some of my fondest are of spending time in the kitchen (or over the grill) with my parents and grandparents.

Lucy Jane said...

Hi Michele sent me!
Ya... this post was just yummy, now I'm hungry again!

Have a good day
Lucy Jane

Dawn said...

OMG! You are making me so hungry:)
I am going to be in a world of trouble if my boyfriend ever leaves me because he does all the cooking.

Michele sent me!

OldHorsetailSnake said...

So, you wanna die thin and miserable or fat and happy? I thought so. (My Mom also could whip up old-school gravy. She was weak on Greenza though.)

(P.S. You a linking fool! Way to go.)

brendalove@gmail.com said...

mmmmmmm.....I sure do miss those fish frys from back in the day!

Michele did NOT send me! LOL

Pearl said...

What a wonderful foodie column. You could do a weekly newpaper column of food memoirs.

Love the gradmother clams story.

Hi via Michele's weekend event.

vicki said...

When my mom went back to college my dad cooked on Tuesday and Thursday: one night was "open face sandwich night" and you had your choice of peanut butter on wonder bread or mayonnaise on wonder bread. The other night was tuna and egg cakes made with canned tuna, egg and Kellogg's cornflake crumbs mixed into a batter and fried. Emeril he was not. On the other hand, every Halloween he made 100 red cinnamon candy apples- he would go pick out the bushel of new MacIntosh himself- and 100 popcorn balls with white hulless popcorn and homemade carmel syrup. The lines started an hour before dark! :-)

Pearl said...

re: ”the child stepped forward into the gap left for him to grow”.

spread freely willy-nilly from here to Picadilly. ;-)

metten said...

I told you I was trying to lose a few pounds. I am sooooo pissed at you!! Who's Michele?

Elle said...

I'm sorry...what was that post about? I got sidetracked by the idea of finger-sized french fries that taste like steak :) mmmmMMMMMMMMMMMMmmmmmMMMMMmmmMm!

J&J'sMom said...

yummmy!!! Happy Mother's day ;0) I'm not sure how you can get back to string-beandom...eat my gravy..you wouldn't trust me! BUT, if you figure it out will you let me know??? Thanks you're a peach.

Thanks for the visit...have a great one!

Jennifer said...

Oh, wow. If I knew how to get back there it sure would save me a whole lotta trauma. When you figure it out, do share, ok??

Happy Mother's Day, sweetie. I hope it's been glorious.

mrsmogul said...

Hi! Thanks for visiting me. I like to make new blog friends. Your post made me hungry but it's now 2am here and I am tired!

Toni said...

Aw darn, see, now I'm hungry :)

I've found you on behalf of Michele's meet and greet. Salutations!

..::Meems::.. said...

Why am I so hungry now? =)

Michele sent me!

Lisa said...

I don't even know Michelle. I came here looking for a recipe that might die with my mom... I googled the words "Corn flakes" lookign for her stuffing recipe on the web.,.. and I found your post. LOVED reading it and it made me sad too... My mom is dying and I wanted to take her some stuffing in the hopsital. Can;t seem to find the recipe. Wanted to surprise her... Keep on keepin' on!