9.22.2009

Waxing Nostalgic in the Kitchen {but not waxing the kitchen floor}

Thanks to a slight obsessive period of reading over the last day or so, I finished reading Julie & Julia. The book was enjoyable, but harsher than the movie. The author, Julie, came across as angry and foul-mouthed. Plus she took potshots at Republicans every chance she got. That grew old. Quickly. I forgave her just a little since she was a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (What? Did I forget to reveal that about myself? I hope we're still friends.) The character in the movie, played by Amy Adams, came across as much more sensitive and pleasant. If you remember my recent post, I expressed my adoration of the movie and my instant infatuation with Julia Child. I remember her show on PBS years ago, but I never really knew much about her life. The fact that she didn't find her passion, her calling, if you will, until later in life and then jumped in feet first is quite inspiring. It reminds me not to give up, my thing, my calling might just be around the corner. Now I want to read Julia's memoir, My Life in France and the biography Appetite for Life.

I still don't think I want to learn French cooking, although several of Julia's recipes sound tempting. We'll see. Reading about Julia's recipes along with Julie's experiences cooking them, made me think about the connection between food and memories, my childhood memories to be precise. My thoughts went instantly to my grandmother, Sue.

Sitting by my grandmother one holiday meal, circa late 70s. Believe it or not, she was a happy person, but she rarely ever smiled in pictures. Apparently looking away from the lens or looking solemn was a popular in the 20s and 30s and she never forgot.

My grandmother was the cook in our family, whether for holidays or weekly family dinners. She loved to cook and bake, and did so selflessly. My memories of her involve flour, whether it was for frying a chicken for dinner or for pie crust for dessert. She seemed to be in the kitchen most of the day, taking a break to watch her shows in the afternoon (As The World Turns and Guiding Light). She made most things from scratch, and I wish I had paid more attention. When I think of her I see lemon meringue pies, cherry pies and lemon cake. My sweet tooth may have been formed at her feet. Or her mixing bowl.

My mom was a decent cook, but I don't think she found joy in cooking. Our meals were usually basic dishes, nourishing, but nothing extravagant. Spaghetti on Tuesday, pork chops on Wednesday, that kind of thing. There was also the regular rotation of Spam Hash. Yes. What can I say, it was the 70s. I remember loving my mom's roast because she'd hide garlic inside and I'd enjoy the tasty challenge of discovering it. One of my absolute favorite meals she made was something we called Dorito Casserole (I know, haute cuisine) with ground beef, green chiles, cheese and don't forget the Doritos. I loved it madly. She quit making it, despite my desperate pleas, because my dad found out it had sour cream in it and he refused to eat sour cream. To my detriment and severe disappointment, the Dorito Casserole was retired sometime in the late 70s. Can you tell I'm still bitter?

My mom and I, sometime in the mid 70s. Notice my attempt to smile without showing my front teeth, which were unfortunately named Buck. Braces were just around the corner.

One thing my mom loved to make was gumbo. That was her comfort food, I guess. She usually made shrimp or crawfish gumbo, which seemed to take hours. Sometimes she made etouffee, which I preferred because it didn't have slimy okra.

My mom wasn't much of a baker, she left that to my grandmother and everyone seemed pleased with that arrangement. The only sweet things I can remember my mom baking were pinwheel cookies. The kind with pecans and cinnamon (I think) that you kept in the fridge and baked on demand. They were simple, but quite dee-lish.

I remember one afternoon, probably not too long before she passed away, my mom got a craving for cucumber tea sandwiches. She couldn't really explain why, I remember being somewhat curious, but she explained she simply had to make them. I remember standing in the kitchen watching her peel and chop cucumbers into minuscule pieces, mix them into cream cheese, throw in some spices and then start spreading this mixture on white bread. She then proceeded to cut the crusts off and arrange them on a platter, although she and I were the only ones at home. We feasted until we were almost sick on cucumber sandwiches and Tea Tang (her concoction of instant tea, Tang, sugar, and spices). My dad wouldn't eat any leftover sandwiches as he is not only offended by sour cream, but also cream cheese. He misses out on so many delights because of this. Pity.

That was my first time to eat a cucumber tea sandwich. I must have been 12 or 13. Now, whenever given the opportunity to eat them, I always remember that afternoon with my mom.

I'm sure I have tons of other memories related to food, but I'll share just one more for now. I remember a few days after my mom had died, my great aunt Margaret stopped by to visit one morning. I told her I was going to make scrambled eggs and I prepared to break the egg over the skillet. I can still see the sweet, yet shocked expression on her face as she stilled my hand.

It was clear, at age 14, I had no idea how to scramble an egg. Thanks to Auntie Margaret, now I do.

What are some of your favorite food memories? I'd love to hear...

4 comments:

  1. My sisters read Julie & Julia for their book club and were really put off by the bad language in it.

    I don't think I have a lot of memories connected to relationships and food because our family never lived close to extended family and my mom mostly made the same meals on a rotation (kind of like I do now). I would really like to love cooking more and provide that comfort and happiness for my family, but man it's a lot of work and I don't have a natural love for it. I suppose this is something I'll have to choose to love.

    ReplyDelete
  2. nice post. I do have to say that sometimes my son will make scrambled eggs that way, break them on the skillet and scramble them w/ the spatula. It really does work out all right, especially when he's doing the cooking!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Just got home from my trip to Savannah. Thought about you while I was there. It was great. Loved all these latest posts, especially the fab one about your hair. You are/were SO beautiful. Totally fun post.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I must talk about the hair...that post ROCKS! I remember you in 1986 and I thought your hair was the prettiet hair in the youth group! I'm not kidding!!! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE all the old pics! THanks for sharing.

    I think our grandmas and mommas were cut from the same mold! Granny was in the kitchen ALL day and was a fabulous cook. Mom was (and still is) chicken on MOnday, chicken on Tuesday, etc. I hope to find myslef ssomwehere in between.

    One of my favorite memories with Granny are the many times she taught me to make pie crust. Now I just need to do it...

    Can't wait to see you tomorrow!

    ReplyDelete

I'd love to hear what you have to say. I try to reply to comments and answer questions within each post so be sure to check back from time to time. Thanks for visiting!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...