Food memories are triggered by all sorts of things

Food memories are triggered by all sorts of things

By Gail Thomas Strong, Director of Outreach and Learning Services, WFYI

Food memories are triggered by all sorts of things – a smell, a glimpse of a vegetable, a holiday, an illness, or a relative’s photo among them.  Food For Thought has had me pondering and recalling isolated moments connected to food and drink in my life. Each little memory is precious in its own way. I wonder if my list will result in any random memories for others.

  • “Pink candies:” wintergreen candies, the only kind my grandmother kept in a candy dish, and she insisted on one after dinner every evening. I’m not a fan, but the aroma makes me see my grandmother’s face each time it comes my way.
  • Welsh cookies:  a dry, pancake-like cookie laden with currants and nutmeg that is baked on a griddle. I grew up making these with my grandmother, and I still make these and send them to my dad for a treat.
  • Pasties:  miner’s pies, a collection of potatoes, onions, carrots and beef, all folded into a pie crust and baked, equally tasty served cold or piping hot. The purists make the crust from scratch with lard, and I don’t think they include carrots. My pie crusts come from a box – fair warning.
  • Huckleberries: tiny, small blueberries picked while wandering mountain paths as a child in Pennsylvania, and their cousins, big juicy Michigan blueberries. The U-Pick patches were great fun with our kids. Our personal record was 20 lbs. in a day, not counting all they ate. It might have been 20 lbs. more.
  • Apples: fresh from a U-Pick orchard in Michigan that had a working cider mill powered by a stream, too.  We could climb the trees and big ladders when we were younger because the best apples were always at the top! It’s still fun to pick apples, but the trees seem shorter now, and the climbing isn’t allowed.
  • Gin and tonic with lime: the first adult beverage I had. My aunt had one after work each day, and she decided that since I was going to work with her, 15 was old enough to indulge.
  • Raspberries: large patches in grandma’s yard meant an endless supply of these delicious berries for breakfast, lunch, dinner, jams, jelly, and snacks.
  • Plum pudding, and yes, fruitcake:  we have wonderful family recipes for these.  Every now and then I make these holiday desserts and give them to my sibs and parents – people I know will eat them.
  • Chateaubriand: the young man who took me to my first prom ordered this for us when we went out to dinner.  First and last time I ate it, and I felt soooo elegant!
  • Taffy and rock candy: our kids and I had great fun watching the candy thermometer creep up and then breaking, pulling, cutting, and nibbling!
  • Pepparkakor: a holiday staple in our house, rich with spices and cut into interesting shapes, occasionally frosted. Excellent with tea!
  • Hot cereal: when I was growing up, it was my job to cook hot cereal for my family each Sunday morning. It’s the real stick-to-your-ribs food, whether oatmeal, Ralston, Cream of Wheat or any other variety.
  • Tomato soup cake: yep, a spice cake that was my great aunt’s favorite, enriched by a can of Campbell’s. It’s best served with thick sour cream frosting and even better with nuts and raisins in the cake or on the frosting.
  • Honey and lemon juice, with the occasional nip of whiskey: the cough medicine of choice when staying with grandma. Mary Poppins had nothing on her!
  • Beef stew, Crock Pot variety: I met the guy who’d become my husband over this easy-to-make dish many years ago.  Every time I toss meat, vegetables, and seasonings in the Pot, I’m glad he and his roommate came to dinner.
  • Cobblers: apple, cherry, strawberry-rhubarb, blueberry, mixed berry cobblers were standard desserts when I was growing up.  When I moved to Texas, I added peach to the list. It’s always special with vanilla ice cream, too!

As I review my list, I wonder if I knew the small things would mean so much? It wasn’t the Christmas ham or Thanksgiving turkey, but the small desserts, treats, side dishes or experiences that created the moments of most delight. There’s really nothing so exceptional on the list, but many tastes and nibbles over time that shaped who I became and how I nurture my own family.

For discussion: What foods make it to your special list of memories?

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