Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Life in Food

Nathan, October 29, 2005
Contemplating this blog post, it struck me how much the rhythm of my life has been associated with food, and I'm not just talking about special occasions. Sure, there have been plenty of birthday parties, holiday dinners, summer barbecues, and romantic restaurant meals. Food and celebration go hand in hand, right? But there's more to it than that. Come along and share some food memories with me.

Growing up: A bowlful of nuts in the shell and hard candy shaped like ribbons and an endless array of cookies and candies during the entire month of December. A round cake frosted in two separate layers for my brother and me, whose birthdays were just two days apart. Chef Boy-Ar-Dee pizzas hot from the oven. Two McDonald's cheeseburgers, an order of fries, and strawberry shake for Friday night supper; pancakes on Sunday. Bridge mix hidden in my parents' bedroom.

At Grandmother Asberry's house: Eggs over easy, spicy country sausage and fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast. Ham with pineapple rings and a cake shaped like a lamb covered with fluffy white frosting and sparkling white coconut on Easter Sunday. Gooseberry pie with vanilla ice cream and preserves made with strawberries fresh from the garden. The best tuna salad on the planet and a moist lemon Bundt cake for my sixteenth birthday. 

At Grandma Kuntz's house: Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and red jello with fruit cocktail,  banana slices and black walnuts after church on Sunday. Apples fried in butter and brown sugar, caramelized to the point they tasted more like candy than fruit, served with steaming hot homemade biscuits . Pot roast and potatoes and carrots and onions cooked to tender perfection. Watermelon and "muskmelon" with salt on the side. 

In high school: Homestyle fries with gallons of ketchup and ice cold Coca-Cola after school at Hadley's Cafe in Mt. Carmel. A hamburger cooked in a microwave oven at Deb's; turnips that made my mouth water at Corrie's. Beef stew and homemade hot rolls, Stewart ham and cheese sandwiches, and sundae cones from the school cafeteria. 

In college: Breakfast at Mary Lou's, sub sandwiches from Booby's, deep dish pizza and a tossed salad with French dressing from Quatro's, chocolate dipped vanilla soft serve ice cream cones from Dairy Queen on Tuesday nights. Spaghetti-o's, Kraft dinner and ramen noodles cooked in an electric pot in the dorm. My first sip of beer, homemade kahlua, chocolate brownies. 

Adulthood: Teaching my baby brother how to make pizza and chocolate chip cookies. Hours spent studying Betty Crocker and Fannie Farmer and later Laurel Robertson and Frances Moore Lappe, as my recipe preference shifted from traditional to semi-vegetarian. Beginning a lifelong love affair with baking. Learning to use a food processor, grain mill and heavy-duty mixer. Grinding wheat and baking homemade bread from scratch. Decorating birthday cakes with sprinkles for my kids, making heart-shaped cookies for Valentine's Day, chocolate "dirt" pudding and scary spiders for Halloween, and snickerdoodles and peanut butter cookies for Christmas. Tupperware, Pampered Chef, and Food Network. Julia Child, Jeff Smith, Jamie Oliver, Rachael Ray. My first experience with lobster, escargot, and Baked Alaska on a cruise ship. Sushi at Fusion, tiramisu at Maggiano's, chocolate croissants from La Madeleine. My recent birthday celebration at Ippolitos.

What are your favorite memories? Cooking with your mom and grandmother as a child? A romantic meal with your significant other? A special holiday event? Tell us all about it!


MMRule said...

Great concept for a post! My life is completely defined by the traditional Italian recipes that my mom passed down to me. Certain foods are expected on the holidays, and we may only cook and eat them on those certain days. Even my hubby and I have a history with different baked goods and meals that we tried together and consider to be ours.

WritersLiPP said...

M.M., how wonderful to have such a strong food tradition in your family. My heritage is a smorgasbord, but I would like to compile a cookbook of family recipes to share with my kids. Food brings families together! Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

unstoppablestart said...

Pam, I love this post. One of my most treasured memories of my Granny Lou was walking into her house in Rentz, GA one Sunday morning as she was cooking lunch. The smell of salty fried goodness filled the air. She fixed me a small plate of fried chicken livers and rutabagas with butter. God love her, I have never tasted anything so gross in my life. She cackled at my puckered dismay and made me a peanut butter sandwich. I miss Granny. Thanks for sharing. - Lindy

Pam Asberry said...

Now, THAT is a funny story, Lindy! Liver and rutabagas - yuck! Thank YOU for sharing! :-)

Anonymous said...

Okay you know I just gained 10 lbs reading all that! lol

I think you're not alone in having memories closely associated with food. Perhaps its one of the reasons why many struggle with balancing a good diet because its associated with a more comforting emotional state.

For me, nothing tells me that Im going to be okay like a cup of hot cocoa with whip cream.

Thanks for sharing your treasured moment Pam!

Pam Asberry said...

My stomach was growling by the time I finished writing that post, Sophi - LOL! You make a good point; special occasions that include food can be challenging for people struggling with food issues. That might be a good topic to explore another time. Hot chocolate with whipped cream is one of my favorite cold-weather treats. I will think of you when I have my first cup of the season! Thank you for stopping by and commenting. :-)

Julee J. Adams said...

Love it! My mom learned how to cook from her mother-in-law, who thought recipies were just suggestions, but would whip up a fund-raising dinner for a couple hundred people at the church. I'll have to post some of the family specials from the cards that have the most stains on them.

Thanks, Pam for sharing memories!

Corrie said...

My mom was a great cook, but of all the things I loved TURNIPS were not the food of choice! No wonder she always liked you! LOL I loved my mom's pies. My favorite was apple pie with a scoop of ice cream and a slice of velveeta cheese!

Debra Becht said...

My great aunt's mom, who was 100% know...the kind actually off the boat from Italy!...anyway, she made homemade pasta and spaghetti "gravy" that to this day, can bring my entire family to their knees! Freshly risen bread dough panfried until golden brown, smothered in butter and topped with sugar and cinnamon. OH MY... must make some today! We couldn't understand a word she said but that lady could cook!

Pam Asberry said...

I will never understand the concept of "recipes as suggestions," Julee, nor how anyone could possibly whip up dinner for two hundred. Your grandmother must have been one special lady. I will look forward to seeing some of those family specials!

Pam Asberry said...

Your mom was indeed a great cook, Corrie; I had never had fresh cooked turnips before that night at your house, and I don't think I have had them since, but I will NEVER forget them! And if her turhips were that good, I can only imagine how fantastic her apple pie must have been. Thanks for sharing these memories with me!

Pam Asberry said...

Oh my goodness, Deb - I can only imagine! I tried Megan's pasta sauce recipe tonight and I may never buy another jar of Ragu! Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Miss you!

Sylvia said...

Funny - my dad was an awesome cook, but two recipes always make me remember him... Beef Stroganoff and buttermilk pancakes - both adapted from a well-loved and heavily-dripped on Betty Crocker cookbook. I think because it combines smell and taste, food can wrap up memories and bring you back to a place and time. I love cooking with my little boys!

BTW - on the struggling with food issues piece, I have a friend that is a psychologist (in part) specializing in eating disorders. Here is her post from Thanksgiving:

Loved the post!

KendallGrey said...

Those are awesome memories, Pam!

I've never been a good cook, but my mom was. Whenever she baked banana bread, she handed me the nut chopper - a little glass jar on bottom with a hand-crank thingie on top that chopped the nuts in an orange grinder cup. I'd put the nuts in the top, and go to town while Mom worked on mixing ingredients for the bread. I LOVED being her little helper and still remember those times so clearly.

When my mom died in 2001, we were going through all her stuff, and I saw that stupid, cheap little nut grinder. I burst into tears, snatched it up, and dared anyone to try and take it from me.

The *only* thing I can bake that's worth a flip is banana bread. I use Mom's recipe. I pull out the orange nut chopper, hand it to one of my kids and ask them to chop while I tell them about the grandmother they never got to meet. I hope when I'm gone, they'll do the same with their kids.

Pam Asberry said...

I think I have that same cookbook, Sylvia! And thank you for sharing your friend's blog post from Thanksgiving. I will definitely pass that one on. Hope you will come back and visit again soon!

Pam Asberry said...

Kendall, we had one of those nut choppers too. I wonder what happened to it? Thank you for sharing your memories with your mom; good for you for making new ones with your sons. Those are moments to treasure, for sure.

Tami Brothers said...

You are soooo making me hungry, Pam! This is great though. I never thought about some of these things. You took me back to high school and how my friends would go to McD's and eat fries and fry sauce. Every time I have McD's fries, I remember them. Great food memories. I'll have to think of a few others.



Pam Asberry said...

Thanks, Tami. I'm glad I was able to stir up some happy memories from you. Thank you for your comments!