food for thought

A lot of memories I have of my childhood seem to have food involved.  Whether it was my mother having her family or my dad’s family over for meals, sitting the the backyard by the pool eating cherries we picked off of our tree or going to my grandmom’s house every Sunday for lunch (or dinner by the time we got there) when we lived in the Caribbean.  Even when I think about the times I spent with my friends, I always remember the food that we had.

In my earlier years I couldn’t decide to made better food; my grandmom, her maid Martha or my momma.  To be fair, I only really remember Martha’s chicken, but that stuff was so damn tasty that she could have made it every day of my life and I still would have thought she was one of the greatest cooks on earth.  My grandmom made traditional Lebanese and West Indian foods and honestly,  I used to wish that Sunday came more than once a week.    My momma, on the other hand, could make almost anything.  Almost anything that wasn’t Lebanese or West Indian.  Rice and peas with garden peas, anyone?

When I would spend my hours and days and weeks daydreaming away my childhood and picturing life as a grown up, I always pictured being able to whip up these dishes that would have my family want to come to my home to eat their meals as well.   I thought that I would somehow learn through osmosis I guess, because I really didn’t make anything until I was WAY older.  Aside from a few gourmet creations (that’s right… I’m talking egg salad pirate ships and fruit in a watermelon basket)  in my cooking classes at the Armour Heights Community Centre, right before my gymnastics class.

When my momma made my daddy mussels, I filed that one in my head as a Must Make When I Grow Up.  I did the same with the stuffed chicken leg she came up with for my dad and uncle’s restaurant.   My Aunty Tressy made too many things that I wished I could make, especially her breadfruit souse.  Yeah, I know, why that?  I don’t know if it is because I seriously love it, or if it just reminds me of being at her house.  Actually, I could totally add her to the list of best food makers in my life; macaroni pie, stewed beef, rice and peas, flying fish, conch.

When I became a teenager and wasn’t so intimidated by the off chance the stove would blow up when I tried to turn it on, it appeared that I had inherited my father’s cooking skills.  Eggs.  I could make an omelet, but anything else that came without instructions was way too advanced for me.  I would visit my daddy in St.Kitts for 3, 4 or 5 weeks at a time and whilst I was there he let me do whatever I wanted in his kitchen.  So long as I kept him supplied with mashed sardine, vienna sausage or corned beef sandwiches.   He’d take off to St.Martin for a day and return with whole Goudas and Edams and wheels of Brie.  I would then commit foodie sins with these food by making macaroni and cheese with mass amounts of melted gourmet cheese, noodles and tins of tuna.   Sometimes I would kick it up a notch and add raw chopped onion.  I loved it, my daddy shrugged his shoulders and laughed at it, and sometimes my friend Alex was kind enough to pretend it was edible and share it with me, sitting on the roof.

I have come along quite a ways in my mac’n’cheese skills.  I promise. Please do not feel the need to report me to the food police over those youthful indiscretions.  In fact, I made some last night.  It was great.  In fact, it was so near perfect that I thought it might convince Noah to come over to the Pasta Not In Red Sauce side.  My hopes were soaring.  However, after an initial enthusiastic grab for the bowl, one peep of the contents led him to proclaim “note!”.  We let him think about it.  We let him watch us eat two bowls eat (what, you thought we got these sweet physiques through genetics? HAHAHAH) and still, nothing.  Not one flipping noodle.  Not a nibble, a sniff or a lick.  Instead he wolfed down a peanut butter and jam sandwich.

Mac n Cheesy

Seriously, if I can’t get a 3 year old to eat mac’n’cheese, what chance to I have to recreate these memories in the minds of my own children.  Never mind the fact that the thought of cooking for people outside of this house fills me with dread.  We’re talking stomach cramping, sweat beads on the forehead, seriously faint inducing dread.

People seem to be pickier than I remember growing up.  The whole I don’t eat that and we’re on this diet or I’m allergic to this, that and oh this too but I eat everything else melts my brain.   What happened to showing up, enjoying what was on offer and being grateful for a full belly and a great time with good friends and family.   To try and cover all of the bases, I end up over cooking.  That is, on the rare occasions I actually dare feed anyone my cooking.  How is it that this simple childhood dream went so wrong?!

Thing is, I can cook.  At least I think I can cook.  There are often times when we sit down to dinner and I have to hold myself back from sounding like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.  Not saying that happens every time, and certainly there have been nights where I have choked down my dinner or given up all together.  Though I have never got is so wrong like maybe doing baked salmon in red wine.  Thanks Momma .. via Two Fat Ladies.  I’m not a master at cooking in an oven.  I like to see what I am doing.  Though I have turned out some amazing briskets lately.  I don’t give up though.  There are a lot of things I’ve wanted to accomplish in life and abandoned the dream at the first stumble.   Filling Noah and Amy’s memories with amazing food is not going to be one of them.  And I’m not just talking all you can eat peas and Yorkshire puddings from the Toby Carvery buffet.

So mac’n’cheese may not be what Noah takes with him in his Food Memory Bank, but there will be something.  I’ll make sure of it.   Luckily, at this point in time, Amy thinks I AM the greatest cook on earth, so we’ll hold on to fooling her a little longer.  Until I can convince myself of the same thing!


One Response to “food for thought”
  1. Cathy says:

    It is amazing how you can store the taste, smell and memory of a food in your mind for so long – there are so many things my mom and later my dad made that I still can conjure up taste of…and by the way, Noah loves your homemade pizza!

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