Mika at The Green Jackfruit asked me to contribute to the Five Childhood Food Memories meme a while ago. I am finally getting around to it.
My five favorite childhood food memories:
I grew up in the 60s and 70s on the California coast about 40 miles north of Santa Barbara. The "town" we lived in til I was 6 years old had a population of 99, with telephones with party lines (more than 1 family sharing a phone line, imagine. You could pick up the phone and hear what anyone was saying, though that was considered quite rude). When I mentioned Chef Boyardee in my profile, my mom said "I wish you would have said it was 40 miles to town and sometimes we ran out of things." Hey, mom, I'm not complaining - I loved Chef Boyardee, especially Spaghetti-Os. They were as much a dessert as a pasta, they were so sweet, but I did love eating them.
My mother was unafraid to experiment with ingredients, maybe because we lived so far from the grocery store and she had to. I remember a snack of crunched-up saltines drizzled with maple syrup. Crunchy, salty AND sweet - as a kid, that was a perfect trio.
Mom was president of the parent-teacher association for a while. So on the nights she had to preside over meetings, Dad prepared dinner for us 5 kids. As a child, nothing was quite as thrilling as having dad make pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse's head, or my initials. He also did other creative things with Bisquick - tiny flat muffins with dabs of jam inside. Pure heaven, a fabulous change from those nutritionally balanced meals Mom prepared.
We lived near the ocean and dad had a little boat and some lobster traps. He would catch California spiny lobsters and bring them home. I remember them alive and terrorizing the cat on the back porch more than I remember eating them. We also had fresh abalone and big scallops. We all loved sitting around the kitchen eating little pieces of salty smoked bonito that came wrapped in thick waxed paper (maybe because of the way it smelled - really strong and fishy, LOL).
I remember when we moved to the big city (population about 50,000 back then). I was 12 and for the first time we had Chinese food. The whole experience was so new and exotic for us. It wasn't fancy Chinese food - it was a standard Chinese-American Cantonese family-run place. But I loved the food so much I wanted to eat there all the time. All those great flavors and textures and you shared the food. Wild! Anyway, that wonderful food opened my eyes to the fact that there were amazing things out there that I had no idea about, and I wanted to go try all of them.