Food Memories

Food memories are more powerful than we give them credit.  I recently saw a bag of circus peanuts in a grocery store and was instantly transported back in time to my childhood.  Eating a bag of oddly colored orange and banana flavored  peanut shaped and vaguely marshmallowy candies. The memory made me happy.

In sharing my guilty pleasure food, I started to think about other peculiar foods and memories that I have; eating a McDonald's hamburger and drinking an orangeade at my Catholic School's monthly "Hamburger Day" school luncheon.  The time after I had my tonsils out when I was 30 years old, and I couldn't eat for over a week. My first sold food was a hamburger from Nifty Fifty's. It was a simple, thin patty hamburger. I had it with a vanilla milkshake.  Bliss! 

 I remember dipping my French fries into a McDonald's chocolate shake.  My favorite meal when I was really young was my Bobci's (Polish for  grandmother) Sunday supper of roast beef, creamed corn, smooth buttery mashed potatoes; cucumbers and sour cream.  In high school, I spent a lot of time at my friend Marie's house.  Her mom, Jean used to make wonderful chocolate chip cookies - basically Toll House cookies but she made very thin and crisp.  After school at my Nana Rhoad's house I ate Lender's Bagels, toasted and topped with cream cheese and grape jelly.  Safe, comforting food and memories.

The life I had growing up was chaotic and violent.  The happy memories that I retain are what got me through my childhood and adolescence.  I think it's also what has propelled me into an adult life filled with cooking and food writing.  Food is memories, food is comfort, food is sustenance, and food can be a love substitute, for good and for bad.  I often think that when I throw a party or attend a party, the mark of how well the event went is by how good the food was. 

There is a Chinese practice to feed one's guests until they are full.  Many Asian cultures do this, preparing elaborate feasts that are over the top, with way more food than one should/could consume.  I attended one such banquet many years ago.  Towards the end of a multi-course meal, bowls of rice were given to the diners.  Many of us were so stuffed we couldn't even stand to look at the fortune cookies on the tables, let alone think about eating a chopstick's worth of rice.  We didn't know the protocol, so we ate the rice.  I think it was in bad form.  The rice was to signify that we were all full. By eating the rice it signaled to our hosts that we hadn't had enough to eat! 

Within the meals we've had, the ones we attended, cooked, shared, we cull through our life's history.   To be able to share in that with others is, for me, one of the most rewarding endeavors I can accomplish.  Food is more than nourishment. Food is memories.  What food memories do you have that make you smile?


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