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©July 2004

Carol Jane Remsburg




Foods From Childhood





Someone queried me today about what was for dinner.  The weather has been icky the last few days and while shopping I decided this Sunday's dinner would be not the norm of a pot roast or pork chops or some other regular Sunday staple.  I opted for comfort food and decided that breakfast for dinner would go over best.  Tonight's fare will be ham steaks, scrapple, home-fries, scrambled eggs with cheese, and buttery biscuits.


Okay, so that's heart-attack food, but it's still comfort food—nary a green in sight.  No, new-age tofu, bean sprouts, but the carbs from the home-fries and biscuits just KILL the carb-fad.  No matter how you look at it, nutritionists will scream.   But it still tastes good, feels good, and brings back the memories.


I'm only opting for the "breakfast food" routine simply because the weather is so nasty.  It's not up for the heavy-weight winter fare, but then again, those low 70's feel cool during mid-summer.  Were it screamingly hot, I'd prefer a chilled pasta salad filled with good chunks of ham, peas, hard-boiled eggs, sweet onions, and a solid dressing.  The chicken grilled a'la firemen's barbecue style (a mixture of eggs, oil, sharp cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning—and nearly blackened).  The hotdogs over a campfire and learning how to toast the rolls atop the hotdog once it was done.  If you were really hungry, you learned faster and lost less rolls because after losing two to the fire—you didn't get any more tries.  Or how about those nights, sans air conditioning in the house, were it was SO hot, that the thought of food nearly made you nauseated?  It would be a cold sandwich platter.  Yeah, you could opt for the ham or bologna but even that felt heavy.  However the best thing on a steamy summer's night was indeed a sandwich yet one without meat.  The best would be on REAL homemade bread, but Mom didn't make it during summer.  Freshly sliced tomatoes from the garden, juicy and red with flavor, topped with equally fresh, cool cucumbers on toasted bread, slathered with Mayo and lavished with salt and pepper.  It was cooling, filling, and refreshing all at the same time.  Nature's bounty at her best.


Come mid-September, the more stalwart menu stepped in.  Meatballs and noodles with gravy (my very favorite of ALL childhood foods). an enormous platter of corned-beef hash, fried hamburgers with mashed potatoes and gravy—with greens of course.  Spaghetti was always on the menu as well—but never from the jar.  With Mom's version you had to watch out for those whole cloves, they'd sneak up on you and give you a real bite.


When the weather finally turned colder, the aromas of baking chickens, turkeys, and the fabled pork roasts with brown sugar and sauerkraut filled the house.  Tough old beef roasts were babied and marinated and offered up with care.  Once in a while, due to Dad's heartburn, we'd actually get a pot of chili. 


And when the cold came, it was soup time.  Vegetable beef soup, beef stew, potato soup, and bean soup.  The house was steamy with the heat, the aroma of incredible richness while the yeasty bread rose not far from the fireplace. 


My mother lived to feed others.  Her feasts were legendary and no one ever left the table hungry---except for a couple times during a summer's inventive streak that really got out of hand.  The tale of the Salmon Mold was never repeated but still lives in infamy. 


My mother could roast, bake, broil, grill, braise, simmer, or fry any type of meat you'd imagine—often with spectacular results.  She could make from-scratch cakes and breads.  She simply could.


Now, after being married 20+ years, looking at a menu with a hubby with a narrow view, makes things not as easy.  However, a breakfast for dinner, such as tonight, with a little lemon cake to follow isn't too bad.


Just makes me wonder what others remember from their childhood days.  Those are items I'd love to hear about.


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