So, it’s no surprise that even now I like to cook. I especially like to cook when people are coming over for dinner. At any given time, you’ll find me looking up a new recipe on allrecipes.com, or checking out what Alton Brown or The America’s Test Kitchen are whipping up.
But, I always go back to some of the old standards. Every now and then I get hungry for particular foods from my childhood. There are specific things I remember eating in my family growing up. It’s the food, yes. But, really it’s all about the memories surrounding them.
I can remember my mom making Chocolate Turtle Cheesecake for my birthday. It was a given that she’d whip up one of her delicious cheesecakes each year on Feb. 7. I can picture my dad grilling steaks out on our back deck, sometimes dashing in and out of the house during the winter months, just to make us the perfect steaks (and ask anyone in our extended family – he’s the grill master). When someone in my family makes Kepal (they’re like crescent rolls) I think back to times when I was standing next to my great grandmother, listening to stories of the “old country,” watching her knead to her heart’s content. Anytime I have homemade applesauce, I think of my grandma, who we call Nanny, and her country cooking. Really, for me, food is about the food, yes, but it’s really about the memories you associate with them.
Since moving here, I’ve gotten some new favorites like cheeseburger soup, creamed eggs, tomato basil soup (Rebecca’s Bistro in Walnut Creek has the best!) and peanut butter spread. These new flavors are quickly assimilating into the new memories I’ve created since moving to Ohio. But, there is something about foods of your childhood that bring back such great memories.
Recently, I had a hankering for two of my favorites. So, the last time I trekked up to Northeast Ohio to visit my family, I copied some of my childhood standards. And not too long ago, I tackled these two memory-triggering dishes.
First, I tackled my mom’s French onion soup. I remember my mom making us French onion soup in the winter. It was always such a big, special occasion for us to have the beefy broth, croutons, and cheese broiled to crunchy, brown, perfection. I can even picture the crocks my mom used to serve this special soup. I got this one right – and now, I started new memories with the friends who ate it with me.
The other favorite of mine is creamed pork over rice. Now, it sounds “interesting” but this family classic came over with my family on “the boat” – literally. This is an oldie, but a goodie. I can remember my great grandma, my grandma, and my mom all cooking this dish, and now it’s my time to master it. There are no written down measurements, but I got the general idea of how to recreate this family favorite, and I have to say, it was a success. The first bite brought back memories of our family in Stow, eating together and catching up on the happenings of the day.
Maybe you’re not a foodie. Maybe you don’t like cooking. But, I’m sure there are things that trigger your memory about the past. You might not be sentimental, but reliving the past can prove to be fun.
I don’t know what it is for you, maybe a book, a candy, a scent, a place, an article of clothing, or maybe a favorite recipe. But, whatever it is that triggers those good memories – find them. Find them and share them with the people around you. And most likely, you’ll relive the old memories and end up creating new ones in the process.
P.S. – Here’s the French onion soup recipe my mom used growing up - I’m sure Francine won’t mind me sharing it with you.
French Onion Soup
Yields: 6 servings
2 cans (10 oz.) beef broth
1 can water
5 large yellow onions
2 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons flour
Dry, or stale French bread.
½ cup Parmesan cheese
Soup: Combine oil, butter, sugar, and onions in Dutch oven on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Sprinkle flour on onions, and then add broth and water to pan. Add pepper and salt to taste, bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Simmer on low for 1 hour longer.
Croutons: Cut bread into 1 inch pieces and put on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake in oven on 275 degrees until crunchy.
Put croutons in ovenproof bowls, then add soup and top with Mozzarella, Swiss, or Provolone cheese. Broil in the oven till cheese is hot, bubbly, and turns brown.
Published: January 24, 2012