Tag Archives: memories

Childhood and Food

I couldn’t sleep so saw a few moments of a show that was telling me chef’s favorite memories of childhood. I’ll do you one better, good and bad. As far as I’m concerned there are taste and sense memories like the smell of chocolate chip cookies in the oven. The smell of cookies and vanilla is a time-tested trick of the real estate agent.

Then there are family memories of dinners together, and then special events like birthdays. Mom’s gone nine years and no-one has her recipe for the birthday cake she made each of us, including herself, every year as we grew. It was a pecan layer cake with two types of chocolate frosting. I believe those were the best days we had with family. Birthday kid got to choose the meal as well. I only remember the cake, and I don’t do dessert because Mom and my sisters were so good at it I had to cook, not bake. My brother is a good cook, too, and he didn’t even go to school for it!

I hated bologna sandwiches. When Mom didn’t have time to make me lunch for school (a bologna sandwich) she would give me tokens, $.35 for a hot lunch at the cafeteria, $.02 for milk. I always had a penny so would pay a cent extra for chocolate milk. They usually had what they called Salisbury steak. Pity that town in England. It was awful.

In high school I ate my first “tater tot!”  Good. Later I got to choose and would have a slice of pizza (just dollars, no tokens any more) and packet of Twinkies. Great diet for an athlete! I’ll bet the Twinkies are still in me, with their incredible shelf life.

In college for breakfast in the caf I ate Cocoa Puffs with chocolate milk. Then I moved to an apartment, cooked real food for everyone and never touched a dish. My roommates were shocked that one could make brownies or a dish from dried pasta that didn’t come from a box. I said I’d cook if they set the table, did dishes before and after dinner, and shopped my grocery list.

Our list of hungry neighbors increased so I was cooking for at least 12 for dinner every evening. Shopping list said 50# bag of potatoes for the week. They brought back cans of potatoes because they were on sale. So much for that. From then on I had the list and the cart and pointed to what I needed.

I never liked rice pudding. Mom made it and I wouldn’t eat it. I think it was a textural thing, combined with rice going with dinner, not dessert. That was as a little kid. Yesterday I made Quiche Lorraine that my husband loved. Also a tart with cooked apples, cinnamon, peaches and blueberries.

I like most things, not octopus, texture. It is a blessing for me to be able to cook for family and friends. Cheers! Dee

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Landing

After 9/11 I was stuck overseas, seeing CNN all day and night and not being allowed to fly home. A week later after going to church and bell-ringing hand-holding ceremonies for the dead I finally got my way to Rome and home.

After I showed my passport all the Customs Agent could say, when he handed the passport back to me, was “Welcome home.” I burst into tears for the loss, the sadness and that I was alive and got to come home. My brother was outside the first tower ten minutes before it was hit.

A week later I met a man, he’s been with me since then, met, held hands, saw a movie and now we’re married 13 years and have a dog.

It will not come as a surprise to you that I now track my husband’s flights online. He landed 10 minutes ago so is probably in a car and may be home before midnight! He always sends a text with “I’m on the plane, airline and number. Love you!”

The Italians next door banged on our door yelling “CNN, CNN!” We had electricians, computer experts, random neighbors and workers watching with us for hours. Of course it was 4 p.m. in Italy and we watched both towers go down.

I used to work at WTC a lot, for the State of New York at their offices,  mostly to organize and conduct public hearings on issues of interest.

No-one is allowed, on a flight, to use a cell phone. I use my computer to tell if someone has blown up my husband’s plane. We love and need him at home. He loves his wife and older dog. We’re sorry his plane is three hours late because it’ll give us less time over the weekend. That’s all for now, I’ll forego the snarky stuff … Dee

“Lite”

I’ve always hated that word. When my English teacher aunts allowed me to use their powder room there was the OED atop the loo. I was expected to take out the dictionary, learn a word, spell it and use it in a sentence.

They would be horrified that the non-word “lite” has become common verbiage.

Years later my colleague and house-mate knew where to go for free food. Insurance industry Monday with Oysters Rockefeller. Tuesday was free tacos at the judge’s and lawyers’ pub, you get the picture.

She actually put a banana in her purse once. We were working crazy hours with no pay. For a week we decided to get frozen food that was low in calories.

It tasted OK but in the end she said “two of these might make a dinner.” We agreed and haven’t been in touch for a while but I love her and her family for making me a better person, and cook. Yes, her brother has stories about me making tapenade for a party and the assistant I sent to the store didn’t get pitted olives, get it? He was bringing up a keg and caught me. My food processor was not happy with olive pits.

If there was ever a family I wanted to know it was this one. And when we all, about 20, went camping I brought utensils. seasonings et al. The guys went out early morning and thankfully gutted the trout they had caught. I had my flour and seasonings and I cooked it up for everyone and it’s some of the best fish I’ve ever had.

Some are memories and camaraderie, some taste memories of the freshest fish I’ve ever cooked and eaten (with a hand pump and a loo across the way). It was a good weekend. I’m glad I brought ingredients. That’s me, Dee

 

Aroma Therapy

Sense memories. It’s not only taste memories that are my specialty from childhood. It is scent.

Remember the smell of cookies in the oven, or a roast? I do.

When I was little Dad would take me to the tobacco store. He smoked a pipe back then with a blend called Symphony (he is a violinist). I didn’t like the smell of smoking the tobacco but loved the aroma of the small shop in our little village. And no, I do not smoke… anything.

One day I got to go to the shop (he normally wouldn’t bring both kids to town) and I found a $10 bill on the floor. Dad asked what I should do. I gave it to the shop owner by the register. He gave it back and said he wasn’t missing any money and there was no-one else in the shop so it was mine. That was light years more than my fifty cent per week allowance! When we got home Dad made me split it with my sister. Ah, well. It probably went a ways to buying holiday gifts for the family.

Coffee. I love the scent of roasted beans. Even brewed coffee though I prefer herbal tea and never drink coffee. When I’m in an elevator with someone with coffee my taste buds awaken. I’d love to make a coffee and bittersweet chocolate rub for a roast one day. I’ll have to ask about the type of beans. I know chocolate. It would have to be nibs.

Think of a roasting chicken in the oven with thyme, rosemary and sage. My favorite beef stew braising with onions, bacon and amber ale. These are some of my favorite things. Hold out for prime rib studded with garlic with roasted potatoes and Yorkshire pudding! Cheers! Dee

Dear Mom

It’s been over six years since you passed. Your address and phone number are still on my address book and phone. I think of you and dream of you often.

We’re doing OK. A move is in the works but we will be married 12 years near the end of the month. Sorry to tell you this but our nearly 11 year-old dog was born at the end of January 2004 so I made it your birthday. Your real birthday and not the one the Feds made up for MediCare.

Yes, I remember going to the pharmacy for you, making you homemade chicken stock and freezing it for you, and taking out the overnight nutrition from your pic line every morning and cleaning it all out.

I hoped that my legacy as your eldest of four children would have ended with you liking me, for a change.

I fought my brother and sisters to get you permission to ask for a Priest for Last Rites. It took hours and finally I won. Since you never liked me and my younger siblings didn’t want religion involved I asked the hospice Chaplain to ask you if you wanted a Priest. You said yes, but he had gone for the day, and was from your Parish.

I asked to bring him back as your morphine intake was enough to take down a horse and you were only about 70 lbs. and fighting. The last night I made up a story about a Fr. McGuinness as Kevin was having a Guinness at the time. Next morning I was walking down the hall to the ladies’ room and a priest came up to me and said, “You must be Dee, I’m Fr. McGuinness,”

I kid you not, Mom. He did Last Rites and we all walked around your bed and said we love you. And my Jim said to you that he would take care of me. You said he was a sweetheart, Mom, at an earlier surgery, and he has been for many years.

Calling you is always on my mind, especially when I want recipe advice. Last year 12/25/14 I ordered a capon from South Dakota, that took four years to find and interview and blog for the ranch owners. This year, wherever we are living, I would like to re-create your prime rib, Yorkshire pudding dinner. I’m already making mincemeat tarts and berry trifle. It will be a challenge but Mom, I believe I’m up to it. With love from your eldest daughter, Dee

Sobbing

Yes, it happens once a year. Always in the car, usually driving from my husband’s folks home with hubby dear in the passenger seat, snoozing.

It’s the Thanksgiving trip which is exhausting at least for the women who do all the planning, shopping, prep, cooking, serving, and cleaning, twice. Of course the men are tired from eating and watching football.

The first one was about Maria who couldn’t afford the pretty bird so got the beat-up cage with a nightingale inside. We all know the end of that story. I was in tears. I do not like most Christmas music, especially things like a grandmother being trampled by reindeer.

This year I was alone on the road driving from St. Louis to Tulsa and there was this song about a poor kid who wanted shoes for his mother on Christmas Eve and a stranger gave him the extra money to buy them because the kid’s mother is going to see Jesus tonight.

Waterworks in the car. Truckers had to be laughing out loud. My husband, if he’s awake in the car when it happens on the radio between religious and country music, will affirm that it only happens once a year.

My favorite songs of the season include but are not limited to:  Silent Night; White Christmas; Burl Ives’ Rudolph; Greensleeves; The Little Drummer Boy; Gloria in Exelsius Deo; and O Tannenbaum.

So why don’t you make us some figgy pudding and bring some right here. Yes, I’m making “figgy pudding” as a tart with ricotta salata. We’ll see how it goes with our guests. As Bing Crosby (look him up) said in White Christmas the movie: If you’re worried and you can’t sleep, count your blessings instead of sheep, and you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings. I do every day. Dee

The Bird Arrived

Yes, a capon. I put it right in the freezer, in which I carved space today. I don’t know its weight but it should be between 7-9 lbs. I’ll take it to the frig on the 23rd to thaw.

I’m changing the menu. Too much bread. I remember holiday meals when everything had bread as a component and I don’t want my guests to fill up on carbs.

I’ll start with my marinated Kalamata olives and a Greek/Italian cheese plate with grapes and other fruit my heart goes pitter-pat for at the store.

It’ll be Mom’s basic stuffing, with the liver. No apple-sausage dressing. The gratin stays the same but I’ll add either a sauteed spinach or arugula.

I have to keep the cheddar-bacon biscuits in memory of Jane Grigson. Having never made them before I hope I can do them well and just place them on the table to nosh.

Mashed potatoes are still on the list but I may add additional root vegetables to the puree. Note: do not ever place rutabagas through a ricer. They will break your fingers, wrists and perhaps elbows.

I cannot find mincemeat to save my life, even Amazon can only have it to me by February at the earliest. Interesting I wrote here about it years ago and was contacted by someone who desperately needed mincemeat for tarts to bring to his father’s for Christmas.

Who was that person? My own brother. He’d never seen my blog and was taking mincemeat to Dad’s for Christmas. I ordered two large jars from Amazon as a gift and sent them directly to Dad’s. Oh, I also gave him Mom’s pie dough recipe which my mother-in-law also uses.

What are we doing for dessert this year? In the spirit of the great US of A and Europe I’m creating a fig and ricotta salata mini-turnover, plus a fruit dish, probably with lemon curd (I found some today) and whipped cream or Greek yogurt.

What can I say? This menu is a work in progress. Next year I may even try prime rib and Yorkshire pudding…. Permit me to tackle the capon first. Cheers! Dee

Do Dogs Dream?

Of course they do. Zoe’s a herder so is always at my feet. She’s sleeping in the sunlight as I write, by me, and running in her dream.

She runs, whines, yips and seldom growls in her dreams. I always wonder what she’s doing. Is she chasing a squirrel she’ll never, in her biggest dreams, obtain?

A dog specialist years ago said that dogs live in the present and never remember anything for longer that 45 minutes. That’s not true. Zoe tried to take me to another place yesterday that we lived in for three months, over two years ago. She remembers people and dogs and places for years.

At night when the phone rings she goes to the door because she knows Daddy is coming home. Not when his Mother or Nanny call at a similar hour. The other day, she knew the Chinese food delivery guy was coming and stood at the door for nearly an hour.

If you don’t think your dog dreams, bring it into your home. Dr. Dog once said “A dog in the back yard is a dog without a home.” My dear in-laws wanted Zoe in a pen out back until my husband told them she was a house dog (after I said I wouldn’t visit). His dad cleaned a crate and placed it in the back bedroom. She used it for ten minutes, jumped up on the bed and now his mom is upset when she doesn’t visit on Thanksgiving because she watches out for the grandkids and cleans up anything we spill in a three-day cooking spree.

Another specialist said we should take her back to the shelter as she had severe hip dysplasia and needed surgery. I did the research, got two second opinions and Val The Vet operated on her twice before she was nine months old. She’s over ten years now and grew her own hips and can give any dog a run for it’s money.

Do dogs dream? I’ve always wondered what all the Greyhounds off the track in Caliente and Colorado dream. I helped name some of them and volunteered to care for them for years. Do they dream of racing? Or sleeping on a sofa instead of in a crate. Who knows. Dogs dream. When they herd you all day long and are dying to go to bed at night, they dream and you can see it. I see it, I see the squirrel! Dee

 

Boxes

Going through boxes I haven’t seen in 15-20 years is both heartbreaking and illuminating. I found a box from Florence, Italy, in a traditional print. It’s a gorgeous construction and in the shape of a crescent moon.

I did slapdash packing in the old days, not like the regimented present. When I find a box like the Florentine paper moon, I think of my great-aunt Owee, who loved boxes.

But I don’t like moving boxes sitting in every room since our move six weeks ago, nor does my husband. I haven’t tackled the papers yet but every box is an emotional roller-coaster. My husband doesn’t understand that. He’s an engineer. Stuff is stuff.

While I have a grand plan to get what we want to keep/frame off the floor he just wants to get rid of my stuff. Problem is, I have to test document destruction destinations with less sensitive information than our taxes and private client files from even 15 years ago.

Years ago I asked my husband to never buy me anything little, even an engagement ring (we wear plain matching 18K wedding bands I ordered online from Blue Nile). But no collections of stuff that just needs to be dusted (figurines, etc.) and he has complied.

One good thing is that our storage unit is nearby and when we break down boxes, they recycle them to their other clients. I think that by the end of the month we’ll have finished the cycle of donate, shred, store and toss and will be able to live an almost normal life!

Oh, the winds picked up last night, nothing on news or weather locally, nationally, online or tv news and what I saw was amazing. There was a Coast Guard chopper hanging out in horrific winds herding all the boats in from Lake Michigan.

Trucks with boat trailers converged to pick up boats that were told to come in to the jetty. It was a massive operation, orchestrated at a moment’s notice. Still no rain but we’re supposed to have thunderstorms for a couple of days. Sun is shining at 6:45 a.m. but grey clouds are coming so I’d better get the dog out. Y’all have a great day! Dee

Can-can

Years ago I was working at 41st and 5th in Manhattan, opposite the infamous library lions. The building next door had a deli downstairs that made fantastic sandwiches and a couple of times per week I’d go there and pick up lunch and a soda to have at my desk.

One day, the proprietor had on the radio as usual, but the line was longer than usual. Someone said they recognized the music and I agreed but couldn’t put my finger on it. The owner said he’d buy lunch the next day for the patron with the correct name of the composer and song. People guessed, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere I blurted out “Orpheus in the Underworld, by Offenbach.” Whatever long-term memories are tucked into that brain of mine I do not know. They surprise me all the time.

A couple days later my turkey sandwich was on the house! It was the Can-can dance that everyone can sing but no-one knows the operetta or composer. Sheer dumb luck, perhaps, but it’s the only thing I’ve ever won in my life and five bucks when you’re trying to live alone in NYC is a gift.

Now I want to tell you about a sandwich I loved, even before I moved to NYC. There was a basement restaurant on my street with a vegetarian sandwich. It started with 12-grain hearty bread and included layers of (forgive me I don’t recall the layering) raw spinach, thinly-sliced mushrooms, tomato, perfect-temperature Brie, alfalfa sprouts… that’s all I remember. Our food delivery folks came last week with a beautiful loaf of oat-topped ten-grain bread and I’m thinking of making this sandwich. For a meat and potato guy, go figure.

I thought you might like to hear about those memories. Shall I tell you about Sauerbraten and red cabbage? Maybe next post.