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Monday, 23 July 2007

Food Memories

By kenju of Imagine What I'm Leaving Out

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 two-and-a-half 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?

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Thanks, Ronni! Even I enjoyed reading it again and conjuring up the tastes and smells!

lol Judy! We had the same nicknames! My dad called me ladder legs! You've made me hungry & it's too soon for lunch! Oh well, I'm old -- I can have a snack if I want, can't I?

Hi Judy,

I enjoyed your story,especially the part about your grandmother refusing to eat the dressing because there were oysters in it.
When my 4 kids were young I used to buy those cans of Gorten's Cod Fish Cakes. You know that little yellow can? You pushed the cod fish out after you opened up both sides of the can. Then I would slice the fish into four pieces, bread them and deep fry. The kids loved it because I told them it was chicken.
When they were all 15 or older I confessed that it was not chicken but Cod fish. They rolled around the floor clutching their throats and pretending to be sick. Never ate it again. I really regret telling them.

Lots of yummy memories. It's just not fair that all the tasty foods are not good for us!

That spaghetti sauce is making me hungry. My mom, who was also not Italian...but married one, learned to cook from my Italian grandmother. She sometimes put pork chops and sausage in the sauce...in fact, my sister still does that today. Spaghetti sauce with porkchops and sausage is one of my daughter's fondest memories of grandma's cooking...and I can smell it just by writing this.

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