Sweet Memories Are Made of This – Food

September 27, 2010 § 8 Comments

I was talking to my friend Redawna Kalynchuk, a food blogger, sugar artist and gift basket designer from nearby Sexsmith, recently about how her writing about food preparation is working with two art forms at once.

Then I started thinking about how many wonderful memories are associated with food.

churchill’s roast beef and yorkshire pudding

Image by Joits via Flickr

Amongst my earliest recollections as an adult was the Sunday fare when I boarded with the Hunter family in Richmond, B.C. while attending college. What particularly stands out is the Yorkshire pudding that accompanied the roast beef and gravy.

Of course, that was just a precursor to the pecan pie! I’ve had a weakness for that sweet pastry delight ever since.

I boarded with the Hunters for three years and we’ve remained close friends – more like family – over the years. In fact, I just celebrated my 50th birthday with them.

It is 27 years this fall since Joyce and I started dating. At one of our first outings, I made a small wager for dinner. I won. Joyce made me Chinese food. I reciprocated with a spaghetti meal shortly after. Very nice memories of our first weeks of dating!

Over our 20 years in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, nearly every Christmas dinner was shared with Jeni and Jim Rice and their daughters in alternating years. Our kids are grown now and dispersed. We live three provinces away, but I can almost smell Jim’s rhubarb-strawberry pie baking as I type.

It was wonderful to share these many special occasions with another family when neither of us had relatives in the Sault.

Speaking of food and family/friends could not be complete without mentioning my sister-in-law, Louise, and the sumptuous carrot cake recipe she shared with me many years ago. It’s been the highlight of many gatherings in our home and in the workplaces Joyce and I have had over the years.

When I mentioned my idea for this blog, many friends ate up the idea of sharing their memories.
Here are a few:

Jackie Ostashek, Parkland County Communications Co-ordinator
My Baba (Grandmother) has mastered the art of making cabbage rolls. She makes them so tiny, they are barely the size of the end of your thumb – and sooooo delicious. She always makes them in this ceramic dish that is probably 50+ years old. I swear that is the magic behind the most spectacular cabbage rolls.

I was nervous about telling her I’d become a vegetarian. But my Baba, being the amazing lady she is, took it in stride. Knowing how much I love my cabbage rolls, she makes a point of making them, bacon-free, every time I visit.

This amazing and spectacular woman turns 98 October 1st. For a woman of her age, she is shockingly spry and modern in her thinking. I can only aspire to be half as amazing as she is. But no matter how much I try, I will never come near her talent in making her tiny, tender and amazing cabbage rolls – even if I inherit the old ceramic dish.

Alina Popescu, Principal, Mirror Communications, Bucharest, Romania
They don’t make bread like they used to!

I might sound like an old lady, but the statement is nevertheless true. The best bread I’ve ever had was while visiting my grandparents (from my dad’s side of the family) in a small village near the town of Ramnicu Sarat.

Getting the bread was quite an adventure. I’d take my tiny bike and ride it to the bakery, a trip that seemed to take ages, when it was actually a 10-15 minute bike ride, but time always flows a lot slower when you’re young.

I’d buy this huge, round bread, put it in my bag and go back home. I would just walk along the bike because the bread was way too heavy for me to be able to ride. I’d get home to an extremely warm and lively kitchen where my grandfather would wait for me with stories and smiles while grandma would bicker about the meal being ready for quite a while.

We’d place this huge, wonderfully smelling bread in the middle of the table and break steamy pieces out of it as it was too fresh to cut it.

Whenever I sense the smell of bread resembling that special type that I cannot find no matter how long I look for it, I am taken back to a place of extremely long days filled with wonder, where I never asked for any given day to be longer than 24 hours.

Grande Prairie businessman Brooks Hoffos

Shauna and I were in Cinque Terre, Italy. We hopped off a train and grabbing a lunch break in a quaint little restaurant.

We had a local Chianti wine and spaghetti and local fresh clams. Now, whenever we cook spaghetti and clams, it takes me back to that time and place. We shared a table with an Aussie and an American. We laughed. We drank. We ate. We bonded. It was a great experience. Italy also made us the cooks we are today. It was a life changing experience! Forever!

Debra Ward, Edmonton Communications and Professional writer
I can’t remember what we even ate but my family and I were in Christchurch, New Zealand having dinner at this really nice restaurant when we all had an attack of the “sillies”. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, made us laugh uproariously. …It was a memory moment.

The first Christmas back in Canada was the best turkey dinner with all the trimmings dinner I have ever had. It was special because it was our first “in Canada” Christmas meal after living overseas for so long and because it would turn out to be my mom’s last.

Dale Tiedemann, Youth Facilitator, City of Grande Prairie
Family Dinners at Grandma’s place were the best! Always delicious with home-grown vegetables (she had a market garden)! It’s always amazing watching her cook…no need for a recipe, just add a little of this and a little of that! Plus, you can’t forget about the home-baked goodies for dessert…chocolate pie with whipped cream! Yum! 🙂

Grandma doesn’t cook as often as when I was younger, but when she does … bliss!

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So, what stories do you have where you and family and/or friends partook in some great food while forging wonderful memories? Want to share any special recipes?

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§ 8 Responses to Sweet Memories Are Made of This – Food

  • Wendy Peters says:

    My Grandma made jam cookies when all of us were growing up. From aunts to cousins, these were everyone’s favourite. They were made by making two round discs of dough, adding a dollop of Grandma’s homemade raspberry jam and sealing the edges to make a sort of cookie jam pocket. The cookie jar was always full.

    Thanksgiving with my Dad’s family in Swift Current has always been a “family affair”. A thousand kinds of salad, fresh buns, turkey and stuffing, Aunt Verna’s pies… it’s a tradition I make every effort to go back to each year.

    Grandma passed away about six years ago this summer. Sometime after she died, I had a hankering for her jam cookies. It took some digging by my Aunt Susan, but eventually she came up with the recipe. The cookies were called Angel Cookies. She also came up with a jar of Grandma’s jam that she found in the basement.

    The following Easter, I tested out my first batch of Grandma’s jam cookies on my cousins here in Calgary. My cousin John bit into them and asked “Where did you find these?” He was astonished that they weren’t Grandma’s. They tasted exactly like the ones she used to make.

    After the first successful run of jam cookies, these have become my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner every year. My cousins and aunts and uncles enjoy eating the cookies, but for me it’s about making them. It’s my ritual for remembering her. In that way, her cookies have become her tribute.

  • Redawna says:

    They say the sense of smell has the strongest of triggers to ones memories.
    It can instantaniously take you back to another time and place.
    Aromas can bring back memories of forgotten times, even at points bringing up the emotions you felt at that very moment.

    Food, it brings people together and creates memories that are ever lasting!

    I have made sure my kids grew up in a home where the food not only feeds the body but more importantly, it feeds the soul.
    To know that they can grow and create anything, they are only limited by their imaginations.
    Not only will they have the recipes to carry on they will also have those flashes back in time, to moms garden and kitchen, and the joy I had creating for them!

    For myself, it is not so much the specific smells that take me back, but the techniques.

    Ever since I was little, I was always aware of the things which were going on around me.
    Little did I know that later in life, my quiet study of others would be the awakening to one of my greatest passions, cooking.
    Both my parents worked so I often found myself in the care of others.
    And it was in those kitchens where I watched the magic happen!

    When you walk into a room and every surface is covered with sheets and there are thousands of tiny little golden buns, which I later learnt were filled with an creamy dill and onion cottage cheese filling, its hard to not notice.
    Or get excited!

    To be on the edge of a garden that spans as far as the eye can see.
    Sneaking in to steal shoots of rhubarb and the sour faces we would make when unable to smuggle sugar out of the house!
    Memories!
    Real food! Grown with love!
    What could be better!

    I find I am drawn to the labour intensive dishes as those were the ones I first tried to master when I started my adventures with food.
    I felt that not only was it important to learn the dishes that took me back to my roots, but to take on the challenge of these complicated recipes because that was what excited me when I was just quietly watching those many years ago.

    To make a 1000 little Perishke, or 80 dozen hand rolled cabbage rolls, there is a lot of love there!

    But even better then that is I am now creating food memories for those around me and passing on my passion for food to my children.
    Because the only gift better then them enjoying the food, is being able to create those kind of memories for their kids someday.

    Stay inspired! And never stop cooking!

    May food be as good as the memories you are about to create!

    Who inspires you in the kitchen?

    Do you have any recipes that are close to the heart?

    Or perhaps you have taken a family favorite form the past and put your spin on it?

    We would love to hear your stories! So please, sit and share!

    You never know who you MAY inspire!

  • Redawna says:

    Before I go I must pay hommage to those little golden buns that inspired me to become the foodie I am today!

    Perishke

    Dough:

    ½ cup of water
    1 tsp of sugar
    2 pkgs of yeast

    Combine the above to:

    1 ½ cups of scalded milk
    ½ cup of oil
    ½ cup of sugar
    1 teaspoon of salt
    3 eggs, beaten
    5-6 cups of flour

    Let the dough stand for 15 minutes.

    Filling:

    2 cups of dry cottage cheese
    1 egg yolk
    2 tablespoons of white onion, finely minced
    2 teaspoons of fresh dill, finely chopped

    Combine all the filling ingredients in a small bowl.

    Pinch off a piece of dough about the size of a large walnut. Make a pocket and place in 1 heaping teaspoon of the filling. Shape the dough into a small oval bun, completely covering the filling. Pinch the edge to seal.

    Place the buns into a lightly greased 9×9 baking dish, continue making buns until the dish is full.

    Immediately place into a 350º oven and bake until lightly browned. Remove to racks to cool. Now the Perishke can be frozen or served immediately with warmed cream.

    Cream for Perishke:

    2 cups of whipping cream
    1 tbsp of butter
    1 small white onion chopped (optional)
    2-3 tsps of fresh dill chopped
    Heat until nice and warm.

    Toss baked Perishke with warmed sweetened cream.

    Enjoy!

  • Janie says:

    Hey David,
    Funny you should be writing about this now. I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about the many, many meals and snacks I shared over the years with Joyce and how much I miss her. Diane and I still talk about all the times the three of us laughed until our sides hurt. It was the food that brought us together, but it was the people who made it memorable. And your mother-in-law’s famous coconut casserole story(which really should have been rice!) is one of the funniest stories I still share with people. I miss you both.
    And remember my mother’s favourite saying, “food feeds the body, but desserts feed the soul!”

  • Erin Steidel says:

    We always got to choose our birthday dinner and until I was 14 it was always going out, sometimes even fast food. For my 14th birthday though, I wanted to help my mom make Potato Pizza Casserole. It is one of my all time favorite dishes!

    I love cake, and I make no secret of it, but a great summer treat is booger pie, my kids love it!

    Pistachio pudding (use half the milk) and a small tub of whipped cream mixed together. Add in a bag of skor bits and pour it into graham crakcer crusts (makes 3) Freeze for about 8 hours.

  • Em Petrova says:

    Wow, some great memories and recipes here. One of the best Thanksgivings I’ve ever had, my husband and I skipped the family functions and cooked a pizza. Untraditional, but a meal that lives in our memories and hearts.

  • Kristi Mingo says:

    With the weather as dismal as it’s been these past few days, I decided to make some homemade soup. The flavours in it remind me of so many meals shared with family at Grandma’s. It’s my grandma’s recipe, and I love how it’s simplicity packs such an incredible flavour punch. Plus, I love dill, so really it reminds me of her cooking (she puts dill in sooo many things haha!)

    Grandma’s Home-made Vegetable Soup

    Put approx 7-8 cups cold tap water in a pot and turn on high to boil

    Turn up small-medium frying pan on medium. Sautee chopped onion and chopped dill in margarine or butter until soft and fragrant. When finished, add to pot.

    Add low-sodium dried chicken bouillon powder to taste. Remember, the longer your soup sits the better it will taste!

    Add 1 can of no salt added crushed or diced tomatoes to pot.

    Chop vegetables into similar sized pieces. I tend to cube my carrots and cut the rest approximately the same size.

    Add vegetables into pot

    Add in raw pearl barley (1/2 a cup)

    Add seasoning to taste – black pepper, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, dill

    Bring to a boil for about 10 minutes. Turn down to low and let simmer for 5 – 6 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste the broth throughout the day to see if you need more spices.
    Choose from different vegetables like carrots, corn, beans, celery, peas, potatoes, etc or sub out the barley for dried macaroni or broken up spaghetti- whatever you have lying around.

  • Redawna says:

    Kristi, your grandmothers soup sounds wonderful!!!

    Love dill! It makes everything better!!!

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