Food Memories

One of the “tricks of the trade” for creative writers is to use “prompts.” I have been to a number of writers’ workshops where the workshop leader will employ prompts to help us get in the writing mode. One of the least useful for me was when some “musical out-takes” were used as prompts. I drew a blank. Not only a blank, but a total and complete blank. The music was meant to elicit some response in me that I was then supposed to translate into words. It did not work. I found the music chosen for the exercise was totally uninspiring, but it taught me something. It taught me that some things connect with some people, and some things do not.

One of my most successful columns was written years ago and it talked about Sunday dinner, and if I were ever in the position to lead a writing workshop, I would probably use that meal as a prompt. Who does not have memories of Sunday dinners, or who wishes they had memories of Sunday dinner? My mother created memorable Sunday dinners, and for years my whole family was expected to show up at the dinner table, married or unmarried, kids in tow, boyfriend or girlfriend included. There was no edict–we were not forced to be there–we wanted to be there–for the food and the comradery. (I want to spell this “comraderie” but my spellcheck insists on comradery).

According to “Eat Love Savor”, a self described “Luxury Lifestyle Magazine”, the “history of the Sunday dinner meal originated in England. The British Sunday Dinner or Sunday Roast as it was called, was the main meal of the week.” Our big family Sunday dinners almost always consisted of a roast of some kind–roast beef with lots of gravy being my favourite, but of course we had pork roast, roasted chicken, and on occasion ham, which for some reason is baked and not roasted. But by far, the meals that remain at the top of my memory were those with roast beef, copious amounts of gravy, mashed potatoes, roasted carrots, and of course a tossed salad that included everything but the kitchen sink and homemade dressing. And dessert was always something wonderful–fruit pies with ice cream, or a special cake, and sometimes mom would get fancy and create something new, which we gobbled up without discernment.

I have fallen out of the habit of creating Sunday dinners, and the special meals I fix are mostly for birthdays or holidays, or days when I can actually see the top of my dining room table. I am disappointed in myself for not continuing the tradition I so loved, but passed into oblivion when my mom died. But the lovely memories live on—and at times I do rise to the occasion to give my kids a taste of something I so took for granted.

In the article about rediscovering the tradition of Sunday dinner by Angela Tunner in “Eat Love Savor” she says that the Sunday meal “is compared in this culture to Christmas”, but in England it was originally “served each week by the squire to his serfs as a reward for the week’s work.” I guess I can be forgiven for not upholding the tradition as I have no serfs, but I agree with Tunner when she states: “There is something deeply comforting in simple rituals like a special weekly meal.”

She suggests that Sunday dinner can be made easy and that “it needn’t be complicated or too time consuming.” She says that “simply cooking the roast in a crock pot is fuss free” and gives her take on the new Sunday meal: “Mashed potatoes are just hot water and potatoes cooking…a few steamed vegetables…a lovely loaf of fresh bread…. a butter dish on the table…and a small dish on the table with a few olives, artichoke hearts and other jarred delights.” She calls this a “grand meal on a plate.”

Which brings me to my next memory–who remembers the pickle plate in the days of yore? I remember my mom had a big glass plate broken up into compartments where we laid out carrot and celery sticks, radishes when they were in season, sweet and sour pickles, dill pickles, and those little green olives with pimento (at holiday meals–we did not have olives every day). I have a friend who takes the time to put one of these trays together when she serves meals, and it brings back fond memories for me. I guess they are the forerunner of the ever-popular charcuterie trays of today.

In essence, perhaps I should harken back to the days of my fond food memories and create some memories for my own family. I wonder what they will remember fondly besides mom trying to fix the simplest meal in the shortest time ever?

What is your favourite food memory?

Published in: on March 7, 2018 at 4:18 pm  Comments (4)