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What foods say "home at last" to you?

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I work for an international company, and recently two of the (young, male) employees went back to their home cities, one to stay (Paris), one for a visit (Istanbul). I asked each of them separately what they most wanted to eat when they got there - and the answers were "my mother's chou farci" (whole stuffed cabbage, Paris) and "my mother's cabbage dolmas" (Istanbul). Interesting that the choices were some of the humblest foods to be had in each of these two gastronmomic capitals. It got me thinking - if I could go home to my mother's kitchen, what would I most want? Her macaroni and cheese, made with old Ontario Cheddar/white sauce, baked with field tomato slices and buttered crumbs on top; her pickled beets (wicked sour); sliced field tomatoes...and her first apple pie of the season, with new Macs and a slice of the cheese. What do you ask for - or wish you could ask for -when you go home, or what do you make for yourself after a long trip or just to make yourself feel grounded?

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  1. If I wanted something "special", it would be my mom's 20 lb lasange (which was only served at christmas. Yes we weighed it one year!), but for simple comfort it would be porcupines, meatballs of beef, rice, garlic, and oregano fried then simmered in tomato sauce with a little water and more rice and oregano. Simply flavoured and divine. I could never get the meatballs as large as she did to come out as well as she does. I can make smaller ones, but somehow she managed to make fist-sized balls that didn't fall apart.

    If grandma was still around, I would request her chewy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, which used a much higher portion of white sugar to brown but still were somehow very moist and chewy (and we seek to recreate this recipe to this day. the recipe card disappeared when she passed away, but the taste and texture remain burned into our memories)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Popkin

      "Home at last" and "home cooking" were epitomized by my mom's Christmas spreads. Now departed for 15 years, her last fest was fondly enjoyed on 12/25/92. It was an eight hour processional that started with Aunt Suzanne's famed whiskey sours accompanied by early afternoon appetizers of either jumbo shrimp w/ cocktail sauce or crab claws w/ creamy mustard sauce and parmesan spinach balls. By four, it was time a crock of her homemade French onion soup. Six was the Christmas dinner hour with a 24-lb free range Amish turkey, family recipe filling, gravy galore, potato cassarole, petite buttered peas, creamed pearl onions, corn cassarole, cabbage slaw, croissants with parsley butter, mini cinnamon buns and a few bottles of champagne. Dessert followed around nine with pecan pie, pumpkin pie, mom's Christmas cookies (one year she made a hundred dozen!), coffee, Cointreau and cognac.

      Maybe those fabulous meals will never be replicated but I have pictures and countless fond gustatory memories of "home at last." And how I miss those weeks before and after Christmas of countless cookies.

      CP

    2. Zabar's nova on a Kossar's bialy. (of course i can't eat bialys anymore...)

      1. For me, a true taste of home would be my mum's empanadas and my grandma's milanesas and homemade gnocchi.

        1. El Bulli tasting menu.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Evilbanana11

            that is home to you? or just what you want to have....

          2. Sonoran food, especially green corn tamales, flat enchiladas , carne seca, and chile rellenos.

            1. Two things say I am home.

              A roast beef poboy from R&O's in Bucktown, right outside New Orleans says I am back in New Orleans and when my mother was alive, her jambalaya or mac and cheese. She used to fix either of them for me when I visited. My dad can make a version of her mac and cheese which is just as good, but not so much on the jambalaya. These last two dishes say I am home.

              1. honestly, I read the subject and before I even read the post I was thinking "Mom's stuffed cabbage". She makes it in an Italian style (note: I didn't say she makes Italian Stuffed Cabbage - the two are very different). Her recipe is the only one like it I've ever seen, but to me, it means "home".

                5 Replies
                1. re: tzurriz

                  Tzurriz, I would love to see the recipe if you have it.
                  jns7

                  1. re: jns7

                    It isn't exactly a recipe

                    Combine raw ground beef with raw rice, and a bit of crushed garlic
                    Parcook the cabbage so it's easier to roll

                    Roll a handful of the meat/rice mixture up in a cabbage leaf, and layer these in a big pot. Pour over 2 cans of tomato sauce, 2 cans of whole tomatoes, a splash of wine, oregano, basil, more garlic, and a minced onion.

                    Bring it all to a simmer, and let it cook until done. It usually takes about an hour. Give the pot a shake now and then so that nothing sticks.

                    That's it.

                    Basically, stuffed cabbage in a simple homemade marinara sauce. It is DELICIOUS!

                    1. re: tzurriz

                      Tzurriz, thanks for the recipe. I know the Jewish version of this dish so it will be fun to try this out.
                      jns7

                      1. re: jns7

                        Oh, we are Jewish, my parents just both hate sour salt, and so developed their own recipe keeping what they liked from stuffed cabbage, and ditching the rest. ;)

                      2. re: tzurriz

                        This is just how my mom makes stuffed cabbage!

                  2. My normal first meal when I get home after, say , a two or three week holiday abroad is a takeaway curry. I find it the perfect antidote to an excess of restaurant dining or the cuisine of whereever we're visiting. By contrast, Mrs H normally wants nothing more than cheese on toast.

                    1. When my mother was still cooking farm style dinners in rural North Florida, her standard meal when I came home was: fried chicken, fresh sliced tomatoes with Duke's mayo, a creamed corn that cannot be duplicated to this day; field peas; rice and gravy, blueberry muffins, sweet tea with lots of lemon, and home made peach ice cream. It literally could not be beat anywhere!!!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: steakman55

                        Okay, yum. I want some of all of that.

                      2. Sort of weird, but when I come home from travelling afar, I always want take-out sushi - the cheap, inauthentic kind (California Rolls, Yam Tempura Maki). There are so few places in the world, Europe especially, where you can get cheap sushi. It always makes me know I am home when I have 15 places to choose from to get $4.99 rolls :)

                        1. Korean Soups (almost doesn't matter the type).

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Soup

                            completely agree- even the most simplistic as kongnamul gook, a soybean sprout soup or miyuk gook- seaweed soup. favorite though is haejang gook!

                            1. re: liveloveat34

                              Or dubu chigae (spicy tofu broth) - yum!

                          2. We often having Masamba upon returning home from travel. It's potatoes and greens topped with a mixture of salsa and peanut butter. Unfortunately, I have to avoid greens until the end of Oct for health reasons : - ( . We're vegan and I'm also gluten-free and we're traveling soon to an area not known for catering to or understanding either...

                            1. My mother's shrimp w/lobster sauce, pepper steak, chicken wings w/carmelized onions, spinach w/fermented bean curd and for special occasions - stuffed, braised black mushrooms.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: comestibles

                                Is there any room in your family for two adoptees?

                              2. My grandma recently passed away at the ripe old age of 93, and as recently as a year ago she made her oatmeal spice cake with broiled coconut topping. It's the one family recipe I have never made, because I so loved that grandma made it for me everytime I came home. Sadly after I moved away, I was only able to enjoy that cake and her company a couple times a year, but I treasured every moment and every bite.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: cycloneillini

                                  I have the same feeling about my grandmother and her steamed carrot pudding with hard sauce. I sure miss my grandmother and the things she lovingly made for us.

                                2. Dinengdeng. My grandmother makes it with pork belly, shrimp, Chinese long beans, and calabaza squash that she cooked until the squash became the thickener in the stew.

                                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinengdeng

                                  I'm so Ilocano :)

                                  1. Two foods:
                                    My mom's 3-cheese mac 'n cheese has said "home" to me ever since I was in college and would take the leftovers home back to the dorms or apartments I was living in. With frozen peas, of course.

                                    The second is the Indian dish of sabudana kichidi, basically a lightly pan-friend tapioca dish with peanut powder, potato, spices and a dollop of yogurt. It's quick to make, so my husband and I often have it after coming home from a long vacation. But, more than that, I associate it with my mother-in-law's cooking, and what she cooks for us when we visit my husband's home..

                                    1. Even though I cook a decent amount of Korean food, I always feel like nothing tastes as good as my mother's cooking. I love coming home to a traditional Korean meal - rice, kimchi (hers is the best - but every Korean loves their mother's the most), duk bokee (spicy rice cake stir fry), and mandu (dumplings) but my favorite has to be these little balls of fried chicken and peas that she makes. Yummy. I'm glad I'm going to see her this weekend!

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: CreativeFoodie42

                                        Yup, Mum's Korean tastes the best. It is the kimchi that is particularly striking. My mother's kimchi has a very distinctive flavour. I have just recently been able to recreate one of her kimchis, and the flavour is very very close! But for the real deal, I have to go home.

                                        My mum's duk (she makes great moo ji gae duk, rainbow rice cakes) is also outstanding, and reminds me I am at home.

                                        Her tofu soup (dubu ji gae) is so homey and comforting! And I love her crabs in black bean sauce (rip off of the Chinese dish, but Koreanified as only my mother can do), plus her homemade pierogies (yup - she got the recipe from a Ukrainian grandmother). Her home made egg rolls, love those things.

                                        Going home in November I hope. Good eats soon.

                                        1. re: moh

                                          I'd like to say "Mom's kimchi" as well, though my mother was never really fond of kimjang. Our household was supplied by my aunt (her sister) instead. ;) She makes a really delicious type that includes chunks of fish in it. Man, I'd do anything for some of that and a nice plate of mackerel - godeungeo jorim - right about now.

                                      2. Grandma's lasagne, although at age 90 she doesn't make it anymore--I do.
                                        Pastrami on rye.

                                        1. We live abroad, so whenever we return to the States to visit my parents, the meal I always request is my mother's fried chicken, green beans and sour cherry pie.

                                          1. Thanks for the replies - so many wonderful meals described. Food is home.

                                            1. A decent cup of tea is the number one on my list if I've been abroad.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: greedygirl

                                                That was always a joy for us too, when returning from the States to Canada. Red Rose Tea! My mom used to mail it to me.

                                              2. My mom's macaroni salad and stir fry rice. My grandmother's banana chocolate chip bars. RIP.

                                                When I come home, my "feel better soup" which is just a chicken noodle soup with dumplings. I love carbs.

                                                1. Mom's home made vegetable soup made with a very light roux and full of chewy wheat flour/ egg dumplings. I can't seem to replicate it and she had been gone for almost 26 years....

                                                  1. When I get back home to PA I always have a ham and cheese hoagie (or cosmo) w/ everything waiting for me. I usually will have a cheesesteak at some point too. A plate of cheese ravioli at a mom & pop red sauce place - with good italian bread and peppers in oil. Then, on the way out, I swing by the deli and stock up on ham loaf, ham spread, garlic ring bologna and italian cookies to take home.

                                                    Buttertart, your mother's mac n' cheese sounds heavenly! And I have always loved apple pie w/ a slice of sharp cheddar cheese - very old school. ;-)

                                                    1. Not fancy by any means, but there is something about my mom's chicken and spaghetti that makes me feel at home. I guess because i never make it for myself, and it isn't exactly something you order anywhere. It just reminds me of home. She makes a big batch, and i eat on it for a couple of days (and then avoid the scale for about a week).

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: iluvtennis

                                                        I left Long Island 40 years ago and I haven't been back in 15. Two things I long for -- LI pizza and my mom's Manhattan clam chowder. I'd go out in the bay, tread for cherry stones and chowders and the rest was magic.

                                                        1. re: Cameraman

                                                          chowders? what are those, little necks?

                                                          1. re: kubasd

                                                            They're whopper little necks. About five or six inches across.

                                                            1. re: Cameraman

                                                              holy crap! i've never seen those! I'm a sucker for steamers, little necks, mussels and cherrystones all steamed with a little butter for dipping..... add in some steamed lobster and my uncle's clam chowder and we're home.... oh and some fresh grilled corn on the cob

                                                      2. After spending some months in another state on business, eating all my meals in hotels and restaurants, all I wanted was the simplest home-cooked food.

                                                        Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas whisper 'home' to me. They are, all together on a plate, my favorite comfort food.
                                                        Hot dogs and beans a close second.

                                                        1. Mom's spaghetti and meatballs.

                                                          1. Oh it's got to be a big bowl of cavatelli with pork gravy - braciole, spareribs and loin...yummm sprinkled generously with Locatelli .......and a hunk of bread

                                                            1. Arroz mamposteao, pork chop and tostones and a with a dollop of sofrito.

                                                              1. When I was in college, I knew that when I came home at Thanksgiving, Mom would have a big ol' pot of jook on the stove, and sometimes I'd scoop myself a bowl before I even unpacked my stuff. For years, I never gave it a second thought that the jook usually *follows* the Thanksgiving turkey, not the other way around, but Mom just knew that 'jook = home'.

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: ricepad

                                                                  sorry ricepad, but what's jook?

                                                                  1. re: icey

                                                                    Congee, Chinese rice porridge.

                                                                  2. re: ricepad

                                                                    Yeah, we had that too. Nothing like jook made with Thanksgiving turkey bones and meat scraps.

                                                                  3. It would have to be my noni's polenta topped with homemade tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. She would spread it out on a huge board on the kitchen table and cover it with the sauce and cheese. We would all sit around the table with our own forks and eat till we had enough. What a feast.

                                                                    1. I'm Dominican so for me it would be white rice, my mother's beans, pepper steak and fried sweet plantains. My mom makes it for my first meal every time I go home.

                                                                      1. home is where you find it.

                                                                        my mom would always put a huge spread together on sundays. i would invite friends to join us. later, when i went off to school, my friends continued to show up for sunday dinner.

                                                                        my uncle insisted i work for him in south korea. i insisted my wife join me. we served a lot of hungry gi's in our modest house. i really liked the christmas ornaments on the banana plant.

                                                                        there's just something about shopping every day in rome. time, a measure of change, achieves another dimension there. home-cooked meals take on an importance not to be taken for granted. the roman attitude is infectious.

                                                                        hong kong is a place i return to every december. i'm not sure why. it just feels like home.

                                                                        lots of other places. maybe i should start a thread on my top 10 places for a sailing couple to do laundry.

                                                                        1. My grandfather's squash pie.

                                                                          1. I live overseas (in Istanbul, actually), and when I went home over the summer, the first thing my mom made was a pork roast with the skin. Heaven! I also love a big pot of brown beans and ham with her cornbread, or Mom's homemade pepperoni rolls. My last homecooked meal before I came back here was meatballs. She picked up the recipe from an acquaintance who puts a container of ricotta into the meat mixture. It makes the meatballs super moist and delicious.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: hariscruff

                                                                              Now there's an interesting idea, hariscruff, adding the ricotta to the meatball mix. I'll have to try that. Might do nicely for meatloaf, too.

                                                                            2. just by reading the header I would want my mom's mac & cheese or tuna mac & cheese followed by a rhubarb pie.

                                                                              1. My mom didn't really cook, except for Thanksgiving: Green-colored marshmellow fruit salad, Luby's cloverleaf rolls, brisket with a killer au jus, green bean casserole.

                                                                                www.thelunchbelle.com

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: LeahBaila

                                                                                  My grandmother is 88 now, doesn't cook anymore, and lives far away...but when I was little coming home (grandma's was my "second" home) meant stuffed potatoes (no, not the American kind, the kind with meat and mashed potatoes), tortilla, and kasha varnishkes (I would only eat the bowtie pasta of course and leave all the kasha) :-)

                                                                                2. Creamed chicken over baking powder biscuits, either my mother's or my grandmother's as their versions are just a bit different from one another.

                                                                                  My paternal grandmother's cinnamon rolls and her potato soup. No one knows exactly how she made it and she's been dead for 14 years.

                                                                                  1. Rice. A simple bowl of hot, fragrant rice with something slightly salty on the side. Doesn't really matter what -- a bit of fish, or even just a few drops of soy sauce. I swear I get crabby if I'm away from rice too long.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: mogo

                                                                                      Mogo you reminded me with the rice...I guess coming home now means (oddly enough) very hot pasta with canned tuna, topped with parmesean cheese. I know that sounds gross, but it is so homey to me... Actually either that or a simple grilled cheese on wheat bread...

                                                                                    2. My dear mother's hockey puck oatmeal cookies. She has spent years wandering away from the quaker oats recipe to something terrifying; no butter but much, much more wheat germ. But I miss them. More seriously, her cornbread and cranberry sauce, which I shamelessly mash together and consider a complete meal that I can eat 3 times a day.

                                                                                      1. My family's thick, hearty pasta sauce evokes home to me the way nothing else can. Lots of ground beef, some Italian sausage chunks, rough-chopped green pepper and onion, all in a textured and perfectly spiced tomato sauce and served usually over penne. Especially at this time of year, I often make this. One whiff and I'm in my teens again, back in the days when a huge pot of this would simmer on the stove while we all did laundry and watched football together on the weekends. It's one of my most treasured memories, and I can relive it a little now when I make it for my own family.

                                                                                        1. The Homiest dinner for me is a pork roast simply seasoned with salt pepper and garlic, cooked to a crispy outside and served with apple sauce and creamed potatoes. That was mom's sunday dinner. Or corn fritters, which were always a special treat.