A Trip Down (Food) Memory Lane

“When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It’s also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be.”

Molly Wizenberg, from A Homemade Life

In this quote, Molly Wizenberg expresses a sentiment I’ve long held – that food transcends the moment. For me, this is a beautiful thing, like when the smell of celery and onions sautéing in butter takes me back to my mother’s kitchen in Pennsylvania on the Sunday afternoons of my childhood when she made homemade stuffing for roast chicken. In fact, I remember my childhood in large part through the flavors and smells of the foods that were most often present. Roast chicken or turkey, mashed potatoes, buttered noodles, broiled trout caught by my dad, spaghetti with tomato meat sauce, crown roast of pork, hand-ground cranberry relish, char-grilled steaks, baked potatoes with crisp outer crusts, fresh-picked corn on the cob slathered with butter, heirloom tomatoes and butter lettuce and cucumbers and scallions from our backyard garden.

Beyond all of that, my mother’s baking is legendary. There is no one in our hometown that doesn’t know and love her sweet creations. Cinnamon rolls, chocolate layer cakes, apple crumb pie, lemon meringue pie, custard filled cream puffs, monkey bread, pumpkin bread stuffed with raisins and chocolate chips and walnuts, glazed almond poppyseed bread, and the best chocolate chip cookies you have ever tasted. I inherited these recipes and the techniques to produce them the way I imagine some women inherit china or silver.

I was raised in the kitchen and it seems a love for food is simply in my blood. My mom was a foodie before the term was coined. She had the accessories to prove it, too: a microwave before anyone else in town, a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, a crepe maker, a fondue pot, a citrus juicer, an interchangeable grill, griddle and burner tray for her Jenn-Air stove (now that’s just cool!), a wooden butcher’s block cart with a full set of Wusthof knives. To me these things were just the accoutrements of a normal kitchen. Amid them, and the aromas and flavors they produced in the hands of a truly talented cook, my foodie self was born.

My husband often teases me about my ridiculous food memory. I can tell you what we ate on nearly every date we ever had, recall with excruciating detail every successful and failed kitchen experiment we’ve undertaken (Exhibit A – “Broccoli Joshua Trees” from our definitely failed grilled vegetable kebob effort when we were dating!). I speak with reverence about special restaurant meals both during and after eating them. I can tell you about the first time I had branzino (Le Cirque, NYC, December 2003), raclette (outdoor patio of Restaurant Caleche, Chamonix Switzerland, June 2001), pork tenderloin (kitchen of the Waldorf Astoria, NYC, February 1995) or wood-grilled California pizza with edible flowers (Café Pesto, Kona, Hawaii, June 1993) the way some people recount first kisses.

I tell people that I love everything about food…learning about it, talking about it, shopping for it, displaying it, cooking it, and especially eating it. I love food that is freshly sourced and prepared well, and for the last number of years that has also meant I enjoy healthful foods the most. For years I had healthy meals OR indulgent meals…but never both at the same time. Yet there is something deeply satisfying about knowing that the delicious food you are putting into your mouth is actually good for your body too.

As I launch this blog, it feels a bit like coming home to the kitchen table and recounting a bygone meal with my mom. I hope this is a place where you can do the same as we develop a community who will cherish the opportunity to talk about food and health and life together. I’ll have ideas to share and I look forward to learning from you as well as we explore food that is decadently healthful.

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