Tuesday, November 25, 2008

5. Feed yourself and others

"What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?"
~Lin Yutang

What did you eat growing up? What was your favorite food when you were a child? What is comfort food to you now; what do you crave when you’re sick or depressed? To me, it’s nursery fare — hard-boiled eggs mashed with butter and salt and pepper, accompanied by buttered toast and hot chocolate.

As to what we ate growing up, well, my mother was a resentful cook. One of her standby meals was creamed tuna on toast; if she happened to be feeling particularly festive, she’d toss in a handful of frozen green peas. I became a foodie when I realized I could taste the difference between a buerre blanc sauce and canned cream of mushroom soup.

Our household was much like that of Calvin Trillin, who says, “The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.”

Trillin says thank God for immigrants or we’d still be eating English food — the awful kind served before the English learned how to cook. British chefs used to believe in the motto, “Boil until no further changes occur.” Even today, he says, well-brought-up English girls are taught by their mothers to boil all veggies for at least a month and a half, just in case one of the dinner guests turns up without his teeth.

Trillin claims to have been first in print with the discovery that the tastelessness of the food offered in American clubs varies in direct proportion to the exclusiveness of the club. The food in such places is bland because the members associate spices and garlic with just the sort of people they're trying to keep out.

More about this later — but here’s the next question: what would you want for your last meal (this is a favorite chefs’ Q&A)?


Susan Thurston Hamerski said...

My last meal would be the mussels in wine and garlic as prepared at this waters-edge restaurant I dined at in Stockholm; the sweet shelled-gems were finished in a light cream and teased with lemon zest. I sopped up every last drop with the crusty bread. Then I would be instantly transported to Florence where I would have a large portion of Baci gelati while walking along the Arno looking for the most beautiful man in the world whom I saw back in the day. This time, I'd offer him a taste of my ice cream.

Lynn Fisher said...

Just found you blog and I LOVE IT. I heard you on 107.1fm...and you are singing to the choir. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! Everyone I know makes these odd assumptions about my "status".
I have a full life, I'm single...but have just never met someone that special after my divorce. Thanks again.


Jacquelyn said...

What a great post! Besides my very favorite comfort foods from childhood (my mother served grilled peanut butter and hot chocolate on sick days), my very favorite meals of all time were overseas like Susan.

The meal I had at a little restaurant just off the road near San Gimigiano in Italy where they served the most amazing tomato bread soup. And on the same trip, the wild boar that I had while sitting in a terrace restaurant that overlooked miles and miles of the Tuscan countryside. Bliss. Absolute bliss. Thank you for taking me back there!


Katie Courtice said...

Should my last meal involve my fave childhood food, peanut butter (as in, a PB & lettuce & mayo sandwich)? Or the slightly more elevated taste I've developed as an adult? The grown-up wins by a fat gram: Celery root & pear soup (Gotham Grill); a few escargots broiled in garlic butter; lamb shank Provencal; chard with currants & pignolas, all of the above with an Australian Shiraz; and if I'm not dead from overeating already,to finish, peach palacsinta with Hungarian Tokay, and one or two lovely cheeses. Now I can die -- or, rather,I'd better, because I'll no longer be able to fit into anything I own!