Eating your Feelings: Nostalgia

What did you grow up eating? The daughter of two Yankees, I was born in the South and until college, never had a chicken fried steak and I still remember freaking “the truck” out when I saw and was asked to consume, an okra pod.

That said, we grew up with a fair mix of home cooking and boxed foods and as quarantine moves on, I find myself cooking from two categories: from-scratch-method classics (think Julia Child’s anything, cassoulet that takes days of prep, lasagne with noodles, sauce and filling with nary a box or can in sight) and then the other category: my feelings.

Not in the way of eating my own emotions and drowning in sorrows, but the nostalgia brings a happiness that I have reveled in sharing with my child when we can’t be making memories at the zoo or museum on a weekend. The kitchen is my way of showing him something that he hasn’t seen before, and sharing my history makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something – teaching him where he comes from.

And yes, even fish sticks are a lesson. So what are the foods you grew up with? I started to think what up made my “childhood menu” and came up with the following…I’m sure more on this will come later. #BecauseFood

Of course, I can easily pull out dishes of my heritage – pierogi, cabbage rolls – but there are also flavors and things that you can just pull off the shelf and remember those moments. There are the meals that take ten minutes to cook but make up the fabric of our memories – you remember the table the sat on or pot they were served in, and it takes you there. One day, I wonder what my kid’s list will be. These precious ones make me think of summer – easy peasy, tastes great when the cold of pool water is still sunk in your skin and America’s Funniest Videos was on and the family was watching it.

Spinach Noodles – Skinner used to make green spinach noodles and my mom for a cheap and easy meal would take out this huge feed-an-army sized pot and boil them. Then she would saute one onion and add in cottage cheese and butter with salt and pepper. Funny quarantine story: when my husband couldn’t find much pasta on the shelves, he came home with a bag of these (much more expensive than Moms version, but she was clearly fancy before fancy was cool!) and I lost my brain remembering this dish.

Mushroom Ramen Noodles – yep, the like 7 cents in a bag kind. We used to make them with just a titch less water and they came out kind of creamy. This was the best sick day food ever. I was sad to learn this isn’t a flavor they carry any more.

Mom’s Chicken and Rice – not only one of the first dishes I ever adulted with, it’s also been a staple of comfort eating made with few ingredients and requires very little prep time. You have to serve this with frenched green beans in a can for this meal to “taste right”. I grew up with many dishes borne in the 10×13 dish, and continue the tradition today, but this is what started it.

Schwan’s! The Schwan’s Man delivered so many things – and as a stay-at-home kid during the summer, armed with a microwave and a good amount of 90s television, I could serve up the best lunches. Pizza burgers (which most of us know now as a Juicy Lucy) , the ever-kid-favorite chicken nuggets, orange push up pops, and the apple flautas they used to have. Those flautas, they were like apple filling in an enchilada – our trip down memory lane I used this amazing apple cider jam I had hiding in my pantry from Trader Joes. Just roll into a crust “jelly roll style” and bake according to package directions. Heaven.

Again, Mom would pull that big fat pot out and make a hot batch of Beefaroni. It’s pretty simple – brown ground beef, maybe an onion or garlic, some spaghetti sauce and instead of cooked spaghetti noodles, use macaroni. However, during the making of this – we sang The Beefaroni Song! which I didn’t know until later was a commercial tune. I just thought my Mom had made it up.

When you couple this with watermelon, burgers on the grill and eating on the patio, corn on the cob – this made summer for me. Stay tuned for the other seasons….I’m sure my tides (and tastes) will turn and I’ll have more memories to relive and re-share.

Happy noshing.

Photo Cred: Insider

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