Saturday, April 05, 2008

enduring memories of food

i don't remember which grandmother said it, but i smile fondly when i recall an older matriarch bending over me, saying, "i just like food."

at the time, it seemed both funny and controversial to admit such a thing. this wholly confident mantra seemed absolutely reasonable to me, a slightly rotund and enthusiastic eater. likely around 10 years of age, my mom's mom delighted in my habit of over-staying at the table, calling me "a good eater," never raising an eyebrow as my grandfather and i continued our feasting long after others had taken leave. it's this love of eating that likely informed my curiosity around cookery, even though that path was less straight and narrow and more roundabout and halting.

and now as i read food magazines, chef biographies, and search for new go-to recipes, i'm reminded of my own influences in cuisine growing up in the 1970's heartland. it was my mother, whose invention and determination to not raise kids who eschewed all but hamburgers or PB&J on trimmed Wonder Bread crusts, it was she who invited our tummies to imagine foods not found in the middle of the country. sure, we ate our share of green bean casseroles--and they were delicious--but we also had chile rellenos and belgian waffles, and we learned to master the art of chopsticks and egg roll folding.

while my interests were focused on eating rather than cooking, it was mom's knack for creativity in the kitchen that jump started my curiosity as a 30-something cook. and she--ever cautious about the parental push--chose the perfect time (just last year) to offer me a tome of recipes dear and old and packed with memories. it's a joy to read and explore, a treasured gift, for sure.


jewlee said...

I still have a love for all things potato and cheese. I am the best mashed potato maker around....adding such delights as peperoncinis, horseradish, garlic, mushrooms, onions and red wine. I buy at least 0ne new cheese a week as well as my 3 faves....The Dubliner, Drunken Goat and a brie. I also remember my sister being praised for her eating ability. I wasn't very good at the clean plate club.

jini said...

this is a lovely post that surely warms a mom's heart. i'm glad that you are enjoying cooking, reading about cooking and of course eating. you do come from a line of good eaters on both sides, and of grandmothers who loved cooking and showed their affection by feeding their families.
it always amazed me when my friends said their kids didn't like vegetables when you three were willing to be adventurous. you seemed to enjoy the challenge of chop sticks and the different tastes and textures you experienced. of course you were advanced egg roll makers at a very young age!
now i find myself feeling challenged by the new things you bake bread, so i forced myself to try the same. i enjoy trying the recipes you publish on your blog - and they are often things i haven't tasted before. so now you are teaching me - how about that?!