Life Matters

Nostalgic food memories

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While out shopping to get new curtains, Hubby surprised me with a lunch time visit to Gregg’s Restaurant. We never eat out for lunch, so it was a treat. Once we sat down, however, the real treat was delivered to our table: their famous pickles! Just one bite of the half-sour tidbits and my mind wandered back to the many times my mom and I would stop at Gregg’s after an afternoon of bargain shopping. She was so funny in her frugality. We would always sit down and pretend to peruse the menu while asking for a bowl of pickles. The bowl would always be empty by the time the waitperson came to take our order; one piece of strawberry cheesecake to split between the two of us, along with another bowl of pickles, please.

Food associated memories are usually pleasant for me because I love to eat! When traveling with my parents, we often stopped in my Danish dad’s hometown of Racine, Wisconsin. It was great to play with my many cousins while the rest of the adults socialized and compared notes. Of course, eating Kringles, the official state pastry made in Racine, was also memorable! This flaky, buttery delicacy was shaped like a flattened Christmas wreath, and filled with all kinds of goodies such as praline pecan, lemon poppyseed, chocolate chip, cherry cheesecake, and, my favorite, raspberry. It was topped with a sugary frosting that complemented the inner ingredients perfectly. It was always so disappointing that the pastry would have to be shared among ten or so people and only a sliver would come my way. Just thinking about it now, I am going to go on-line and order a whole one just for myself. (Okay, I will give hubby a sliver.)

When visiting my Polish grandparents, favorite foods were peirogies, kielbasa and golumpkis, which was cabbage stuffed with hamburger and rice. Because of my love of cabbage (and its limited use except for my hubby's Irish relative's specialty of corned beef and cabbage,) golumpkis were a rare treat. Every now and then my mom would try to make the dish at home, but it was my grandmother's version that was most dear to my heart. Alas, now that both my mom and grandmother have passed away, this favored dish is stored in my memory only. It has, however, been a pleasant discovery to find cheesy pierogies, covered in bacon and sour cream, at the Cowesett Inn, to help enjoy and confirm on my Polish heritage.

I can never disassociate cotton candy from Rocky Point. A regular Friday night visitor to the park with my best friend, I always chose the fluffy, melt in your mouth confection. Any subsequent cotton candy twirls at carnivals or amusement parks pale in comparison to Rocky Point's (even if it is only in my memory.)

Of course, where there are fond memories of food, there are also culinary horrors; liver and onions comes to mind. My mom used to make me sit at the kitchen table and finish every last sliver of liver. I would sit there for a long time, slumped in my chair. When she had her back turned to me, the offending meat would find its way into the pocket of my pants. It is a wonder that she never found out, as I would forget it was there and it would still be in my pocket when she did the laundry.

Brussels sprouts, a favorite vegetable of hers that she served often, did not agree with my palette. One word describes this atrocity: disgusting. Even if it was doused in butter and salt, it was difficult to eat, but I would do so because of the consequences. I would cut each one into quarters and slide it down my throat like a pill, (which was ironic because my mom did not believe in medicine and pills.) Fortunately she never objected to my manner of consumption.

Foods, especially food from our heritage, can bring back strong memories. My children, of multiple nationalities themselves, will never have the benefit of Danish, Polish or Irish food. They eat full-fledged American food and have to look elsewhere for fond memories. As for me, being married is a wonderful advantage. I no longer have to eat liver or Brussels sprouts, but can cook whatever I like to eat. It’s Hubby who has to go along for the ride!

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