Childhood Food Memories and Connection with Family

Family visit 2020 via Hangouts

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been interesting and challenging to say the least. It’s given many of us more opportunities than ever to cook at home, experimenting with new things (how many have you tried making bread for the first time this year), revisiting favorites and comfort foods, and maybe making new food memories with your loved ones. Quite honestly lately I’ve kind of hit my limit on several things. I’ve grown a little tired of cooking for myself and I haven’t felt comfortable inviting groups over yet to cook for. I’m disappointed I haven’t been able to travel and see my family this year as planned (so far, for various reasons), and so I’ve been thinking about them. Even with not feeling much cooking motivation, I’m still always thinking about food and with not being able to visit family, I’ve been thinking about food from my childhood (both favorites and not so favorites). I’m sure I could write for days on this but I’m going to keep it to the ones most memorable in this moment. I find that my childhood food memories tend to fall into 3 categories:

Favorites

This category is pretty self-explanatory! 

  • My #1 favorite is grilled flank or strip steak served with a loaf of French or Chicago Italian bread and margarine, soaking the buttered break in the steak juices (nah, we didn’t let the steak rest, but maaaaan….buttered French bread soaked in steak juice….heaven!)  Were there also vegetables?  Likely, but 100% not memorable because the star really was the steak juice soaked buttered bread.
  • Lasagna many years for my birthday dinner meal.
  • Breakfast for dinner, but especially homemade blinis/blinchiki/crepes (I remember calling them blinkies but don’t recall why).  My mom had a specific pan set aside just for these so as to keep the surface clean and unblemished.
  • Local made polish sausage and homemade pierogi for holidays.
  • Mom’s potato salad made with miracle whip. I’ve only had that same potato salad once anywhere else; it was as an adult at a friend’s mom’s house.  Friend’s mom got the biggest hug ever because no other potato salad has ever matched my mom’s until then, or ever since actually.  Always made in the giant yellow Tupperware bowl – you know the one!

I Hope I Never Eat Any of These Again

Really.  I’d eat politely if these were the only options, but I hope they never are.

  • Chipped beef on toast (aka SOS) – salt laden chipped beef, peas, white gravy, on white bread toast.  What was to like about any of this?  Nothing, that’s what.  My parents definitely ate and liked things I didn’t as a kid (pickled herring, liverwurst – see below, etc) but I don’t know who liked this.  Mom, Dad, care to share some light on this one?
  • Bland food, of which there were several examples (this was after we started watching sodium intake, hey in the Midwest in the 70s/80s, salt was THE seasoning): lentil anything, and stuffed peppers with ground beef, tomato, and rice. I’ve since made my own stuffed peppers and I herb and spice the heck out of them (still limited sodium though).  Pot roast goes here too, although now that I’ve discovered Mississippi pot roast that’s the only way I’ll eat it.  Regular pot roast though, bleh, mushy and boring.
  • Fish sticks.  Frozen fish (which admittedly has come a long way in the intervening years but at the time frozen fish from a lake…..dang it was fishy!  Plus I hated tartar sauce.)  I love fresh fish but I’m still wary of frozen fish (although I did buy my first package of individually frozen salmon filets at Sprouts the other week and I am quite impressed, so I’ll keep on trying.)

Braunschweiger/Liverwurst – this is the exception to the statement above that I hope I never eat again.  As a kid my mom would put a thick slice in a sandwich for herself.  I tried a bite – bleh, not for me. It was never required eating though, so with my tastes having changed and palate expanded over the years, I would absolutely try this again (and actually I have and I’d go for the schmear on a cracker with mustard and not as a thick slice between bread!)

Honorable Memorable Mentions

These are things that are memorable and have more personal, emotional, situational attachment than any particular like/dislike in taste of the food.

  • Grampa Trust’s homemade horseradish.  We shared a garage and whoo boy! it would immediately clear every sinus you didn’t even know you had just walking into the garage!  It was amazing! 
  • The never ending plum preserves as a result of the plum orchard Gramma and Grampa Trust had down the street.  I’m pretty sure I never want plum anything ever again, maybe I’d try a little with a pate or a cheese plate.  I do fondly recall one time driving home from picking, with us kids along with all the plums in the baskets in the (open) trunk of Grampa’s blue Impala.
  • Froot Loops at Gramma Trust’s for breakfast (because sugar cereal wasn’t allowed at home, although to be honest we added so much sugar to our Cheerios my mom might as well have bought sugar cereal lol) and ice cream soup before bed (stirring it until it became like soft serve, although my Gramma would add milk to hers and make hers ice milk).
  • Making my own “fried” (in the microwave) bologna sandwiches on white bread.  Yum!  Please tell me everyone loved this as a kid!
  • Holiday memories:  Gramma R’s multiple Jellos (I think there were always 3 to choose from), with my favorite always a toss-up between the strawberry with banana slices, and the peach. Crudité platter before dinner with cocktail onions, cherry peppers, pickles, black olives that we would of course put on the ends of all our fingers to eat, carrots, celery, green olives with pimento, radishes, and green onions.  Also not allowing anything on my dinner plate to touch (I’ve gotten over that, lol). 
  • “Piggy Gourmet” dinners – basically popcorn for dinner (in the giant yellow Tupperware bowl of course). It could also include ice cream, other junk food or finger food, and was eaten in the living room watching TV.  I highly recommend everyone incorporate this into your lazy dinner routine (not often of course but it certainly is a treat to have).

Whew!  This one was long but I really enjoyed all the wonderful feelings that writing this evoked. I hope you enjoyed it, and some lovely childhood memories were kindled for you as well.  Please feel free to share them here; I’d love to hear them!  Thanks for reading, my friends!  Until next time, take care and eat well!

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