Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Mmm, a delicious meme, my favorite

I've been tagged by The Amateur Gourmet in a meme. The idea is, you write a blog entry on a given topic, then pass the topic on to more bloggers who are compelled by the Code we all signed in blood to follow up. The topic here is childhood food memories. I'm supposed to vomit out five of them. Good thing I had a happy childhood, otherwise I might have to forward my therapy bill to the Amateur and it would seem he's got enough expenses as it is (e.g., eating in places that charge $14.50 for a grilled cheese sandwich).

1.&2. My Bubbe's food. She lived in Brooklyn and we would eat all sorts of interesting things when we visited her. I remember square potato knishes with a crusty exterior filled with smooth mashed potatoes (the sort you can buy from street vendors all over NYC), kosher deli sandwiches, and the earliest saccharine-sweetened diet soft drinks (Tab, Pepsi Free). She also made Passover seders and shabbat dinners but it's the takeout and soda I remember. I might gag on Pepsi Free now but it was the only time I ever had soda as a very little kid--that stuff hadn't made it to Canada yet--and I really, really loved it. That's one.

The second memory of my Bubbe's food is the cooking she did when she visited my family in Toronto. Some of it was not so appetizing: she prepared bland white fish (perhaps turbot) in our toaster oven and it always looked and smelled odd. But for Passover she made delicious charoseth (a condiment she made from sweet wine, apples, and nuts) and pancakes--their Yiddish name escapes me--that we ate with sugar. In her later years she became very sick and wasn't herself, but before that she was a doting grandmother. I was her first grandchild and she gave me a ton of very welcome attention.

3. My Nanny's food. She lived in Belle Harbor, in Queens, and we ate fewer dinners around her table than around Bubbe's but she fed us too. Her children disagree about her culinary competence, but I remember her beef-a-roni very fondly. To this day we still call it Nanny's hash. If I were making it I would use elbow macaroni, ground beef, and Prego. But she used a tomato sauce that is no longer in existence, so no matter how badly you might want some of Nanny's hash you can never have it again. Like my Bubbe, Nanny was a wonderful grandma. I was her eighth grandchild, though, and my cousins knew her better than I did. I envy them that. One more thing about those trips to Belle Harbor: we had yoo hoo and devil dogs there, both at Nanny's house and at my Aunt Harriet's house down the block, and we loved them so much. As with Pepsi Free, no yoo hoo or devil dogs in Canada. But Canada has lots of great junk foods you can't find down here: coffee crisp and smarties, to name my favorite two.

4. My parents and their friends had a "gourmet club" in the 70s and 80s. Every few weeks or months, they would get together for a themed meal. Provence, Japan, Russia, Morocco, the world, all of it kosher. This was for grownups only and I never tasted a morsel of their meals. I'm still a bit bitter about that because it all looked and sounded so delicious. But they kept my brother, sister, and me very well fed so I have no real complaints. My mom makes dynamite roast chicken and turkey for Friday nights and holidays. I would rather eat that than just about anything.

5. My father taught me a lot about cooking as a young child because my mother doesn't believe in breakfast and because she often taught in the evenings (and still does) and wasn't around for dinner. So my dad would make us pancakes, grilled cheese, eggs, and lots of other yummy stuff. I also loved and still love some of his favorite side dishes, including baked beans and peas. He taught me to put ketchup on baked beans and Worcestershire sauce on peas, and he taught me that it's not improper to eat the latter off the blade of a butter knife.

Ah, memory lane, a fine place to spend an evening. Ok, now for the part where I curse another blogger or two or three with this meme. I tag Pyewacket, Caryn, and Femme Feral.


Blogger mzn said...

My mother, the little fella's grandmother, comments via e-mail to me: "Buba's Passover pancakes were called chremslach."

Note that she prefers an alternate spelling of the Yiddish word for grandmother. That's because she prefers that you call her "Buh-beh" (as I called my grandmother) rather than the more typical "Buh-bee."

9:04 AM  
Blogger the sad billionaire said...

Since I shared some childhood food experiences with MZN, and I may get tagged with the meme stick at some point, I thought I would think of shared childhood food memories that would not make it into my own top-5 list:

A) The range of food items available at a certain convenience store on Eglinton avenue in Toronto. This establishment was commonly referred to as "Export" after a sign for "Export A" cigarettes, which served as the store's sign. This store was run by unusually mean shopkeepers, and (in my "Happy Days"-addled memory) was frequented by genuine neighborhood toughs. But they had at least 2 great delicacies for sale: A chocolate disc of some sort with a novelty cardboard package (not Peppermint Patty), and an original Slush Puppy Machine, which allowed user agency over the slush-syrup ratio. They also had some pyramidal frozen treat that was eaten by cutting a diagonal incision in the apex and pushing the frozen pyramid towards the mouth. Delightful.

2)Chocolate milk at a restaurant called "Bagel King." Mmm, delicious. It had a Fox's U-Bet flavor that i have never been able to replicate.

3)First taste of a calzone at the home of the Mandelcorns. Pretty sure it involved unkosher cured meats.Scandal!

4)Combination of moo-shoo pork and shoestring fries at Ginsberg and Wong near the Art Gallery (how is it that I now forget the name of this neighborhood-- senior moment?). G and W became less goofy with time. Why the hilarious Chinese/Jewish wacky eatery trend in the 1970s.

5)Food eaten at family restaurants such as Ponderosa and the Ground Round. I love the look of rows of ice gream glasses filled with colored jellos, jiggling in unison.

12:36 PM  
Blogger mzn said...

We must start a blog just for this topic, SB. You have primed the pump and my memories rush in.

The chocolate disc was called a Trog-lo-dyte. It contained a Mad-magazine-esque riddle which you solved by squishing the cardboard. In my memory these were sold at the candy shop called the Wiz, not at Export, but my memory is generally lousy for details like that. The pyramidal frozen treat was called a lola. It was like a big, fat Mr. Freeze. The Ginsberg & Wong "neighborhood" was (is) the Village by the Grange. On the history of the Jews-eat-Chinese phenomenon see this article. I have no idea why in the 1970s people opened Jewish deli-chinese restaurant hybrids. That decade never ceases to amaze. Finally, I don't see how you could have missed Pappy's Good Eats and their sundae bar.

1:54 PM  
Blogger bfp said...

I bought aposter 18 years ago from Ginsberg and Wong called "the Yiddish Lesson" it's quite the conversation piece. I've been seaching the web to find this poster and have not been successful.

Still seacrhing.

9:01 AM  

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