Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Menus as Memories

I will admit to you, my friends, that I occasionally purchase O, The Oprah Magazine. Especially when she has summer reading lists, as she did this month. I am also a huge fan of her columnist Lisa Kogan. I think she and I are living parallel lives, she living in the more successful universe, apparently. This months, Kogan's column was all about her life through memories of food. It got me thinking that a lot of my memories are tied to food as well, and that I might like to share them.

My Grandma Fleming will always be peach Hi-C (out of a circular aluminum can) and Archway oatmeal cookies. She made a phenomenal apple pie, that certain women in my family can replicate, but for me, this juice and cookies snack will always be my memory of my maternal grandmother. We'd have a cookie or two and a glass of Hi-C and then she would play a game of checkers with me. Or let me trace pictures through onion paper. Or let me sort through the extremely cool glass squares she had collected. Good times.

From first through fourth grade, I attended Catholic school in an Italian parish. This meant that several times a year there would be spaghetti dinners. REAL spaghetti dinners. Not this crap the Irish parishes are trying to pull off over at St. Bridget of Kildaire. The pasta sauce and meatballs from St. Anthony's spaghetti dinners will remind me of my youth both at school and at my paternal grandparents' house. My dad's parents were heavily involved with the church and, thus, the dinners. Both grandparents had a heavy hand in the making of both the sauce and meatballs for the dinners - both at the parish dinners at at their home every Sunday - where we were expected to be at noon every Sunday. In Columbus, Carfanga's sauce comes about the closest (but you have to add red wine when you cook it).

When I converted in May, I gave up pork. To be honest, I am weaning myself from it. We don't have it in the house at all, but I cannot resist now - nor have I ever been able to resist - a good BLT sandwich. When I was pregnant, Osi and I went to Rooster's restaurant before almost every doctor's appt. and there I ordered what I believed to be the perfect BLT. Lots of crispy (but not burnt) bacon that is not the fancy stuff, either; two thick slices of tomato and a couple of leaves of iceberg lettuce topped with a healthy (ahem) slathering of mayo. On a toasted white bun. It is so simple and so yummy. Too many places try too hard and end up screwing this up. So, thank you, Rooster's, for providing me my pregnancy food memory - your perfect BLT.

And what is food without drink? Thanks to the Wandering Jews, and the friendships I have developed with them over dinners, drinks, wings and beer over the last year or so, Corona Light will always taste like friendship to me. It's my drink of choice during the summer, and we have had so many laughs over cookouts, fire pits, fireworks and hot wings, all accompanies with a Corona Light with a lime. It would be nice if this were the last thing I taste before I die.


Tammy Howard said...

Oatmeal cookies are my grandma. She had a recipe none of us have been able to duplicate. Her advice when I told her my attempts weren't going well? "You gotta really beat the hell out of it."

Mom is egg salad sandwiches on thick white bread. Like your BLT's there is nothing fancy about them and they are perfect.

Aunt Jennie is Easter Pie. As a recovering Italian Catholic, I assume you're familiar. I make it sometimes, but no-one seems to like it as much as I do, so I rarely bother.

Gobs and haluski are home.

I must have a cheesesteak, a hoagie, and a slice of pizza every time I go east. Heaven help me if I'm there less than 3 days (I still do it...)

Those are the easy peasy top of my head ones. Thank you, though - 'cause I'll be thinking of more all night. And that's not such a bad way to pass an evening...

Shannon Baskind said...

Ah, food is love, after all!

My Mammaw B, mom's mom, was peas & butterbeans (cooked together), cornbread, fried okra, and fresh veggies from the garden, still warm from the sun.

My dad's mom was a little more adventurous. She made great beef stroganoff, wonderful greens, and the second best matzoh ball soup I've ever had. She would also give us a shot of whiskey of we were sick of couldn't sleep, and I still think of her every time I smell Bourbon.

Thanks for this, Chris - what a nice stroll down memory lane.

Jenny Penny said...

I like this. I have such great memories of snapping green beans from my maternal grandma's garden with her in her kitchen. We'd eat every third one or so and then promise it would be the last. She also made popcorn balls with Karo syrup in her big kitchen sink. And the sight of big, thick noodles drying for her homemade chicken noodle soup -- that made my mouth water.

From my paternal grandma? I hate to say it, but the only thing I remember eating at her house was a fresh-from-the-garden tossed salad that was fraught with bugs, including a green inchworm that made its way out of my bowl and across the table. Yum.

I think my best menus as memories will ultimately come from Blaine, who is a fine cook and has taught me to appreciate food in a way I never really did before I met him.

By the way, I hear ya on the BLTs. I lovvvvves me some classic BLTs!