In looking through my recipe box earlier today, I found a recipe for Date Nut Loaf, a sinfully rich and decadent concoction my mother made every year at Christmas time. Of course that recipe sent me back several decades to the days when my major involvement with dinner was setting the table and eating it. I began thinking of family recipes in general. For many different reasons, we eat rather differently today, and memories of those foods are both nostalgic and comforting.
I’ve already begun writing about recipes. I have one story, Crunchy Frosting, that I wrote about the time I used granulated sugar instead of powdered sugar to ice a cake. I thought it was fine, but nobody else in the family liked it. That story includes the cake recipe as well as describing my thoughts and actions while baking the cake. I’ve also gathered a collection of recipes for all the Christmas candy Mother used to make. Those recipes include brief paragraphs of memories of helping make the candy, and tips for ensuring that it turns out right.
When I finish this post, I’m going to make a list of dinners I remember from childhood, like fried chicken, baked Spam, macaroni and cheese, and pan-fried trout, fresh from a mountain stream. None of those are foods I ever fix anymore, and they deserve to be memorialized. I’ll also include foods I used to fix in the early years of our marriage like Glop, Recycled Chicken, and Honey Granola Peanut Butter Chocolate Stuff. I’m an impulsive right-brain cook, so those foods didn’t have formal recipes, but they also deserve to be recorded for posterity. I can tell about the disastrous Chocolate Stew, and the $.50 dinner special of breaded oysters and discovering the delectable economy of pork loin roasts.
If I write one recipe and context story a week, I can have that collection done in time for Christmas gifts, maybe this year, maybe next. This volume won’t be competition for Ruth Reichl’s scrumptious food-based memoirs, Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me With Apples, and Garlic and Sapphires, but my life doesn’t center around food the way hers does, and mine will be written strictly for family.
How about you? What foods do you remember growing up with? What foods did you learn to fix when you were young? Realizing that many readers are likely to be men, who probably didn’t grow up cooking and may still not, it’s okay to just write about the food and not include recipes or instructions. But how could a lifestory be complete without mention of food? You may also want to write about memorable meals away from home, dorm food, or other food experiences
Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal