Childhood Memory Meme

You’ve seen it on other food blogs. You’ve laughed at it, you’ve cried at it. Now…it’s my turn. It’s the Childhood Memory meme!!! (cue dramatic music)

Barbara knows I don’t like memes. The thing is, I can’t really give an adequate reason why. Someone else (I forget who) wrote that memes are “a lot like homework”, which is sort of true. But I have a lot of posts like that. Posts require research, be it digging through history or cook books, or simply making a recipe, all of these are activities that must take place prior to writing. So the “homework” defense doesn’t quite seem correct.

Perhaps, as I travel the road of middle age, I’m simply a cranky beeyotch.

Hmmmm…I think we found a winner.

At an rate, here are five childhood memories surrounding food:

I have to burst any bubbles, but I was not raised on an organic farm, a child of hippie parents who taught me at a young age to enjoy the simplicity of food. I was not weaned on wine and cheese. Instead, I am a product of two very different people. My Mom (still alive) and Dad (not so alive) only have one similarity which I can discern. Both are what I would call “Trailer Park Mensans”. I wear that label proudly. Before they divorced when I was all of 8 years old, we lived in a suburban development outside of Pittsburgh. After the divorce, my Mom moved into a trailer park, my dad moved into a lower middle class ethnic neighborhood. This should provide you some context for what’s below.

1. Cereal: I believe that Saturday morning cartoons in the early to mid 70′s was the best time to be a lazy child. Bugs Bunny on several channels, the Little Rascals on others, and really, really crappy Hanna-Barbera cartoons on the rest. The best thing about Saturday Morning cartoons was that we were allowed to have sugary cereals.

During the week, it was all Cheerios and Special K, but on the weekends? My four siblings and myself partook of a vast array of cereals that bring forth pangs of nostalgia whenever I even hear their names. Sure there were the boxes of Cap’n Crunch and Sugar Smacks,cereals still around today.

But I vividly recall sitting down to classic cereals that many have forgotten. People may know of Count Chocula, but I was a Fruit Brute fan. Mention Cap’n Crunch, and I long for Jean LaFoote’s Cinnamon Crunch Cereal or Vanilly Crunch Cereal with Wilma the Winsome White Whale. I even recall Sir Grapefellow and Baron Von RedBerry.

More importantly, I remember the spats that took place over the various toys and prizes found within each box. The fact that the cereals were high in sugar and that we would fight over the baking soda submarine were not mutually exclusive facts.

2. Halloween: Steve Almonds book CandyFreak talked about Halloween as if it took place in my own childhood neighborhood. These begging events for candy took place after dark, not like nowadays. I recall each child in my family going off with their circle of friends, the older children dressed in costumes of their own creations, while the younger kids wore those pre-packaged costumes that smelled of poly-vinal eurythene and had masks of cheap plastic that chaffed the face. Not that the mask mattered, because in that mask would fall off when the cheap rubberband broke 15 minutes after you went on your routes.

After we had completed our neighborhood rounds, the five children would compare stashes, while a parent would look for any evidence of razor blades or needles.

A currency system soon was created and trades occurred in great haste. Our living room looked like a elementary school version of the New York Stock Exchange. Snickers and Reeses peanut butter cups were highly valued, with Three musketeers and $100,000 bars close behind. I recall the Marathon bar, which has long ago disappeared from the market. In the middle of the value range sat the York Peppermint Patty, the demarcation line of candy bars. Those above the Peppermint Patty were highly valued. Those below were not.

Of those below the Peppermint Patty line included Chuckles, Good n’ Plenty the worst thing one could get during the Halloween excursions, the dreaded popcorn ball.

The people who gave out the popcorn ball were looked upon with great suspicion for the rest of the year. We were sure it was no coincidence that those who gave away these lame treats were childless. As popcorn ball givers walked the neighborhood over the following year, the children would look upon them like they were extras from Village of the Damned. These miscreants wouldn’t escape the children’s suspicion until the next Halloween, when inevitably they changed from popcorn balls to chocolates, or their porch lights were no longer lit.

3. Tomatoes: Grocery store tomatoes suck.

Sorry. There’s no other phrase that adequately describes the situation. The reason I know they suck is due in large part to my neighbors of the Italian neighborhood we moved into after my parents divorced.

The back yards that these people had would make people weep nowadays. They were chock full of zucchinis, cucumbers, onion, and the precious, precious tomato.

These were fruits that were both sweet and acidic. Their aroma was sharp and distinct. Every summer until we moved out of the area back in the early 80′s, we had bags and baskets of tomatoes, as the neighbors gladly shared their bounty. We ate slices with a teaspoon of sugar on them. We had tomato and mustard sandwiches. We had them in our salads.

If we were really lucky, the neighbors would share their sauces with us as well.

I know supermarket tomatoes suck, because I’ve eaten tomatoes as they’re supposed to be.

4. Cheese:I was my father’s gourmand. I’m not sure if I was doing it to separate myself from the 4 siblings, or if I really liked the new tastes. Regardless, it lent itself to very peculiar situations.

As mentioned before, my father was on the road quite a bit. When he’d return home, he’d feel guilty enough to take us to Baskin-Robbins and treat all of us to a cone. At first, I’d only eat coffee ice cream, partly because I liked it, but mostly because none of my siblings could stand the stuff.

Until my older sister decided she did, indeed, like the taste of coffee ice cream.

Determined to be an individual, and not be lumped in with the rest of the children of the family, I decided to act “grown up”. The next time the father unit took us to Baskin-Robbins, I asked, instead, to get my treat at the next door cheese shop, called “Northstar Cheese”. My dad, to his credit, agreed without hesitation.

I was allowed products of equal value to the cost of a cone, unless I promised to share my choice with the other children. Then I could have whatever I wanted. My choice was a cheddar cheese spread with a box of gourmet crackers. I promised to share.

No other child seemed that interested in cheese…and I reaped the benefits of their indifference. Each trip to Baskin Robbins included a quick stop to the cheese shop, always with a promise to share, and never did I have to follow up on that promise.

After that point, my dad would return from his trips abroad with special treats for me. Sourdough bread from San Francisco, salsa from Texas, and BBQ sauce from Western Virginia all made their way home, each time my father asking my opinion of them. All because I didn’t want to share coffee ice cream with my sister.

Stuffing: My mom makes the best stuffing. Period. No argument.

Mom is a good cook, but after I moved in with her, I quickly discovered she worked too much to cook on a regular basis. The exception to this was during the holidays. She was in charge of the turkey, and she would make the stuffing.

The stuff (ahem) was the food of legends. Everyone wanted her stuffing on their plate. When my Step-mother once made a holiday dinner for us, with stuffing made with chestnuts and oysters, we all remarked that it wasn’t like Mom’s. You could have sworn we just smacked my step-mother with a wet mackerel.

Mom’s stuffing also ended up in a special recipe created by my younger brother…the stuffing Sandwich. The recipe is as follows…take two slices of white bread. Place two spoonfuls on a slice. Pour a little leftover gravy over the stuffing. Top with remaining slice of bread. Enjoy. Essentially a bread Sandwich. It was damn good though.

Truth be told, I’m sure her recipe is quite common, but I’ve never sought it out. It would ruin the aura that holds us to her cooking.

Who do I pass this meme along to?

Megan from I heart Bacon
Molly from Orangette
B from Culinary Fool