Memories of childhood food
I feel I've been somewhat remiss in posting lately, alternating between feast and famine. So when I was finally driven from the warm comfort of my bed at the unbearably early hour of 7am today by the rain that pounded down on the roof all night I figured it was a good day to catch up a bit. You can perhaps imagine my frustration that the same deluge that kept me awake a lot of the night is turning my satellite into a highly intermittent communication device: this does NOT make blogging easier! And I am nowhere near the Gulf coast and Katrina. (if you are, stay safe)
Top of my list of undone writing is Five Childhood food memories you miss, having been tagged by either Mrs. D, Chopper Dave, or one of the four-legged furlings at Belly-Timber. Personally, I am betting it was the cat. Anyway, after the usual delay, here goes.
Apricots in bed I was once lucky enough to have a bedroom with its very own apricot tree. Everyone else in the family used to talk about this tree as if it were communal property, but I know it was mine. See, I shared a bedroom with a cousin of mine for a while and we had bunk beds, mine being the top. Say what you want about bunk beds, they do give you useful height on occasion, and this was one of those occasions. I could lay in bed, open my window (whose screen mysteriously disappeared soon after I moved into the room, I can neither confirm nor deny the rumor that it ended up in a pile of rubbish in a neighbor's untended yard) and by scooting to the edge of the bed and stretching my arm as far as I could, pick apricots without getting out of bed. Fresh from the tree is one thing, but this was amazing. I'd lay there, with juice dribbling down my arms and chin, and eat breakfast in bed. I've had many an apricot since then, but there is something very special about eating fruit that is slightly warmed by the morning sun and mere moments off the tree. Yum.
Frozen bananas I grew up in a beach town in Southern California...you'd know the name. When I was there it was a small artist's colony; now it's an MTV show with these richer-than-thou supermodel "kids" who didn't live there when I did--must've imported them from LA. Whatever. Back in my youth, however, the place was only semi-discovered, making it a great place to grow up. We'd walk to the beach almost every day during the summer (that season lasting about 10 months down there) and one of the vendors who set up shop along the sand's edge was a guy hawking frozen bananas. Not some factory produced, flown in from the east coast, bland thing either. This was the real thing. If it was on the menu at some trendy café, it would be described thusly: One perfectly ripe, unblemished banana, peeled this morning and flash frozen, hand-dipped in rich chocolate then rolled in your choice of nuts, coconut, and other toppings to add a bit of crunch. I think they cost 25 cents. That's a pretty cheap slice of nirvana.
Jewish holiday food Okay, so this isn't exactly a food item, it's a category, but I am going with it. I grew up as a member of the "They tried to kill us all, they didn't, let's party" tradition of Judiasm with a grandmother who had run a catering business so as you might guess, holidays meant food--lots and lots of food. I'd be hard pressed to decide on a single favorite, but if I had to I think it might be potato latkes, crisp outside, tender inside, redolent of onions, with a side of homemade applesauce. Or cheese blintzes, which we'd make trays of to freeze, providing one of my favorite winter after-school treats. Or maybe chopped liver, something I've never managed to recreate in a way that even came close to what I was used to. Or charoset, because really, with apples, nuts and honey as a start, how could you go wrong?
Homemade candy Another benefit of the aforementioned grandmother was her willingness to make pretty much anything we asked her to combined with a sweet tooth that was happiest with her own confections. Her favorite creation was penuche, a sort of brown sugar fudge that she had made her own version of. I remember standing on a chair when I was a very small child, holding the hand beater over the steaming pot of brown goo while she spooned in sour cream and nuts, watching for the difficult to describe moment when the texture smoothed, the surface took on a certain sheen and it was ready to be poured into the well-buttered dish to cool. The last part of my grandmother's candy ritual was handing me a spoon to scrape the sides of the pan, after which she kicked me outside to run off the sugar high.
Carrot cake I had to really think about this last one, partially because there were so many contenders, and also because there's no good reason why I don't make this one more often. When I was a kid, carrot cakes were just gaining in popularity, being in what I'll call "the Sunset and BHG stage," and were usually made with a lot of oil and far too much sugar, resulting in an overly sweet, dense, moist to the point of being slightly greasy cake with cloyingly sweet cream cheese icing. Our version was made with butter, beaten until it was downright fluffy, a bit of honey, lots of chopped walnuts, and a lemon-cream cheese frosting that one might describe as delicate. For some reason (it had carrots?) this cake was considered sort of healthy by the parental units who would often let me eat it even when I couldn't have a sugary snack. Ahhh, the halycon days of delusion.
Wow, I hadn't thought about several of those for years! Now for the tough part, who do I want to tag? Being a somewhat new food blogger myself, I think I'll go with a group of relative newcomers:
- Tana, who hangs out at Small Farms
- Aki (and Alex too) of Ideas in Food
- Shauna, the original Gluten Free Girl
- Susan, the homesteader of Farm Girl Fare
And the other piece of the chain-meme. For those of you who have been tagged, remove the blog at #1 from the following list and bump every one up one place; add your blog's name in the #5 spot; link to each of the other blogs for the desired effect.