Do you have foods that evoke specific memories? I’m eating Cheez-Its right now, and they remind me of my grandmother, my mother’s mother. She lived with us one summer, and I would watch TV with her in her bedroom. We had these small rice bowls that we used for ice cream, and I’d fill one with Cheez-Its and watch TV with my grandma. She preferred unsalted peanuts.
She liked to watch old westerns, Wheel of Fortune, even Nickelodeon. She didn’t understand a great deal of English, so she liked programs she could understand by the images. Westerns, it’s pretty clear what’s going on, no dialogue needed. We used to watch a lot of Hey, Dude!, because it was on a ranch and you could figure out what was happening pretty easily.
I remember that my grandma was there, but not particularly warm. I know now that she showed her love with food, that when she was trying to force you to eat a rack of ribs, she was saying “I love you.” When she let me watch TV with her in her room, she was trying to be closer to her grandchildren. I didn’t know that then, but I know it now.
Another food that takes me back are grilled cheese sandwiches and pickles. Plain wheat bread, plain American Kraft singles, and sweet pickles. My dad would make this for us after church on Sundays. It makes me think of the sweet relief of being home again, after sitting through church, of getting to wear non-formal clothes. It was a meal that prepared you for the chores you’d have to do on Sunday afternoons, dusting and weeding and mulching and washing cars.
We always ate grilled cheeses with sweet pickles. I’m not sure why. I think it’s because my dad liked sweet pickles. To this day, the combo makes me think of a respite, a time to breathe a bit in between Sunday duties.
Beef with broccoli. My mom used to make simple Chinese dishes, meat, veg, brown sauce, white rice. I remember watching TV in the other room while my mom hacked a piece of meat into pieces, cooking it in the red electric wok. She’d take a few pieces out and lay them on a cutting board for my brother and I to snack on while we waited for dinner. In the rice bowls, soy sauce and cornstarch would mix to make a flavorful brown sauce. In goes the broccoli, in goes the meat, out comes dinner.
When I was really little, my parents tried to get me to eat broccoli by dunking it in the brown sauce. I would suck the sauce off of the broccoli, and then hand the broccoli back to them. I knew then it was the best part.
What are your food memories?