Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Food memories

Through out our lives, we eat food that loved ones cook for us, and they serve not only to nourish our bodies, but also our memories. It is hard to eat berries and cream in the morning without thinking of my wonderful aunt Alexandria, and they way she would go out in the morning while I was still asleep, to pick fresh berries for my breakfast. Fat red strawberries, blackberries and my favorites, raspberries. When I finally made my way to the kitchen, a big bowl sat in front of my chair. They always looked like jewels to me, still shining from a wash in the sink, cool and perfect, sweet and firm on my tongue.

I remember the simple meal that my friend Harvard made when I visited his tiny house in Tucson. Steamed corn and squash, sweet butter thick on homemade bread, all washed down with tea. It was all he could afford, but it tasted so good that night, that for years afterward, I cooked that same meal for myself on the same October evening, just to remember that happy time.

When my friend Kim’s grandmother died, the family asked everyone to bring a dish to the get together after the funeral. Everybody brought something that they remembered from Nana, her roast chicken with peas, baked fish, ham with pineapple rings, everyone brought something different, until it came to the side dishes. The side dish table had ten offerings, all identical. Everyone cooked Nana’s green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup and crisp fried onions on top. No matter when you came to eat, you knew that Nana would serve that casserole. It became her signature dish, it didn’t matter that she got the recipe from the back of a can decades before, it was what she served if she loved you.

When I no longer lived at home, I enjoyed returning to my parent’s home for holidays and special occasions. Even if I could no longer see, I would know why and when I was there. The smell of the barbeque grill and the sweetness of watermelon told me it was the Fourth of July, Turkey roasting away in the kitchen signaled Thanksgiving, a leg of lamb let me know that Easter had arrived, it’s aroma was better than any perfume.

Now at my own house I have formed my own traditions and my own favorite meals to mark the holidays, but I cannot sit down and eat a meal, any meal, with family and friends, without remembering the food that was prepared for me so often, and with so much love all these years of my life. These memories live on.

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