I have a lot of food memories. In fact, most of my childhood memories involve food in some way.
I used to play “cafe” in the basement for hours. I had a big cardboard box of play food and plastic menus, and the box doubled as a stove for my “cooking.” I was the hostess, waitress, and chef; the customers were a few very lucky stuffed animals.
When I think of sleepovers at my grandparents’ house, it’s flavors that come to mind first – not words. Waking up at the usual kid time (5:30 – 6:00 AM), my grandfather, hearing me stir, would wake himself up, and head straight to the kitchen. There he’d prepare the best oatmeal I have ever had to this day. I seriously think there was magic involved. And cream. There was definitely a lot of cream. We would sit quietly at the kitchen table in the early morning light; my grandfather, in his bathrobe and slippers, and me, in pajamas and socks. With my grandmother still asleep, this was our special morning time to be together. The memory of a bowl of warm cinnamon raisin oatmeal hiding under a pool of silky cream is intricately intertwined with the memory of my grandfather himself.
One of the great things about cooking is that kitchen tools transform intangible memories into something tactile. Instead of just remembering your grandmother’s applesauce, you can actually recreate it by using the very same food mill she used when she made it for your mom. This is not a random analogy. I have my grandmother’s food mill and pink bowl. She always served her delicious pink applesauce in that pink bowl. I’ll be using her recipe, food mill, and bowl to make it for Rosh Hashanah in a few weeks. I think that’s pretty darn cool. Here’s the recipe if you want to make it with some of those delicious early fall apples.
So, sometimes you remember special things, sometimes you inherit special things, and sometimes you make things special. Like when my friend and I went to paint-your-own-pottery in Brookline, Massachusetts during college and spent the afternoon making a bowl (for her) and a mug (for me). I rediscovered the mug when I was going through things in my childhood home. It made me so happy. She did a stellar job with the puzzle piece pattern.
What are your favorite food memories? Do you have any special kitchen tools?