Saturday, August 9, 2014

Food Memories


My recovery has been steady. I can feel my toes and just a tiny soreness in my back. However, 8 days without leaving the house was driving my crazy. By yesterday I had a raging case of cabin fever. Remembering I had a gift card to Tinseltown, Sweetie and I went to see The Hundred Foot Journey.  It's been awhile since we've been to a movie.  Early matinee, buttered popcorn, holding hands with my husband, and a sweet movie all took my mind of my back.

The Hundred Foot Journey proved to be my kind of movie. If you've seen the trailers you know it's about an Indian family opening a restaurant right across the street (100 feet) from a local French restaurant with a 1 star Michelin rating. Predictably there is a conflict of cultures and cuisines. It is all held together with some cooking, flirting, dancing, bike riding, prejudices, a smattering of French sauces sprinkled with the soul of the Indian kitchen  - spices like turmeric, cardamon, cumin, and cinnamon.

"In the childhood memories of every good cook, 
there's a large kitchen, a warm stove, a simmering pot and a mom." 
Barbara Costikyan

Midway through the movie one of the characters stated, "Food is memory." Three words, like lightening during a summer storm, sent memories flashing through my body towards the vicinity of my soul.  I tried to pay attention to the movie, but instead of seeing a restaurant sitting amid green hills of the French village, for a few minutes I was transported to the place where most of my food memories took place. Our dining room.

Later as I waited for sleep to come, quiet tears dripped onto my pillow.  Even after all this time, missing the people I love makes my heart hurt. It's the tears that wash away some of the pain. Thoughts of those who are no longer here and the meals we once shared blended into a savory mulligatawny stew of remembrances.  I could almost smell the curry, and taste the beef. If I strained, my ears picked up the faint sounds of adults discussing politics or religion at the dining room table while they drank coffee and sipped brandy from small Asian cups. From the kitchen came the soundtrack of my childhood - a symphony composed of my sisters' laughter, the clinking of silverware and rattle of pots being stuffed in the dishwasher.  With my eyes closed I conjured up the scene after my father's funeral when his grandchildren toasted his long life with raised cocktail glasses filled to the brim with his favorite mixture of Bourbon and sweet vermouth. Was the sight of melted butter dripping down my mother's chin and the smell of lobster a dream or a trick memory played on me?

The minutes passed by. Sweetie's breathing had evened into sonorous lowing. The cats had adjusted and readjusted themselves between the pillows.  I counted food memories instead of sheep.

Good times shared in Zori's kitchen and around her table; my mom making chicken curry and my dad reciting the 21 condiments served along side the curry in the officers' mess aboard ship; 2 inch thick sirloin steaks my father grilled to perfection and mom slathered in butter to make a delightful juice for dunking pieces of crispy French bread; Grandmother's fresh apple cake, so similar to Betty Garrett's Apple Dapple Cake; the way my friend Pam always ordered extra cheese for her onion soup, and Bearnaise sauce for her well-done fillet; my ex-husband's famous "hole in the middle" breakfasts accompanied by hash browns almost too peppery to eat; Thanksgiving turkeys; Sunday morning pancakes; sharing old traditions with new friends at Shabat dinner; clam dip and Fritos Scoops; hot dogs and canned chili warmed on a small gas grill on the side of a mountain highway; the first meal Sweetie made for me - crock pot cooked roast, oven fried potatoes and green beans; Beach Road Chicken for a crowd; homemade mac 'n cheese; 5 Spanish chickens, Bella sharing plastic spaghetti with me;  eating Panera's bear claws while sitting at the table covered with first drafts and critiques; Holy Communion served at midnight on Christmas eve. Mercifully I fell alseep before thoughts of the pork chops I burned, the snails Jim ate, and the smell of lamb kidneys cooking on Saturday morning could turn memories into nightmares.  

"Most of us have fond memories of food from our childhood. 
Whether it was our mom's homemade lasagna or a memorable chocolate birthday cake, 
food has a way of transporting us back to the past."
Homaro Cantu

What are you food memories?
Merry ME

 *(10/22/84 New York Times Magazine) Charles Wysocki's Americana Cookbook

1 comment:

MamaJoe said...

I always love reading your words...they inspire and encourage. My fondest memories of my mom are always wrapped in aromas floating on the air. She used to wake me up around midnight a couple of times during the summer and the scent of garlic, butter and shrimp would coax me out of my sleep and propel me downstairs. Shrimp scampi was on the menu and sitting with her, there in the kitchen, feeling secretive and decadent, I shared in her love for good food. It is a recipe I cannot recreate....she has been gone now for 18 years and the recipe lost its way in so many moves. But the memory...that has stayed forever.