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Nov 13, 2010 08:05 PM

What's Your Earliest Conscious Food Memory?

I'm talking about what you remember, vividly, as your first conscious pleasurable experience with food: not what your mom tells you about your childhood like/dislikes; not what you "remember" about your 1-year-old Birthday cake from seeing it over and over on 8mm family movies, but your own recollections. My two oldest food-related memories are of being maybe, 3 and having Gramma Mimi's homemade chicken soup with matzo balls and farfel (which is toasted bits of matzoh cracker.) That soup was so good; clear and golden and savory and warm; scented with love. The matzo ball was delicious; pillowy and flavorful all the way through. She'd always garnish it with snipped dill or parsley. The farfel had a crispy texture and a nutty, buttery taste, and it would slowly absorb the soup and soften. I remember feeling safe, warm, protected. I didn't know the word "nourished", but if I had I could've used it that day.
The next is maybe 6 months later. I remember being with my dad in the garden, and how it smelled. I didn't know until that day that you could actually smell different shades of green. I remember the sky, how blue it was, and how warm the sun felt, and how good it was to crouch and get my hands dirty. And daddy handed me a whole warm tomato, fresh-off-the-vine, that he'd given a quick rinse with the garden hose. He'd brought a salt and peppershaker out with us, and we had us a little tomato picnic, so deep and luscious and juicy and fruity....
What's yours?

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  1. Hmmm ... my earliest food memory is a real memory but it's not pleasurable: I remember looking down with loathing at a soft-boiled egg mashed up in my stainless steel baby bowl. This may in fact be my first memory, because it was before I was verbal enough to tell my mother I hated eggs. Yeah, I was a weird kid who loved beets and hated eggs (and still do).

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      so you were a baby who didn't like the taste of sulfur but didn't mind the sweet, woody, slightly funky taste of beets? that doesn't sound strange to me at all!

    2. my first food memory is of a beverage!

      my grandparents would give me milky sweet coffee. i still picture their kitchen table, and them sitting there pouring the coffee into a lovely china cup. i can still see the little screen door out to the back porch, with the night blooming cereus in the garden.

      i don't really recall birthday cakes in particular, and i don't really have food memories until i was probably eight or nine. i know i loved broccoli spears! and carrot cake! and bbq ribs. and my dad's "fudge royale" ice cream from winn-dixie, the fudge streaks of which i'd tunnel out like some burrowing mole. that would really tick off my dad! LOLOLOL!

      mamachef. don't you love the smell of the tomato stem just-picked? that sure brings memories to me, and i'll even sniff them in the grocery (to remember -- and see how fresh is the tomato).

      edit: now i DO remember my first food memory -- and i was probably six. my aunt billie made me a special scrambled egg sandwich, crusts trimmed and cut into nine perfectly white soft-as-a-cloud squares. i felt so special eating those delicious mini-sandwiches, each filled with rich yellow egg curds and a decent amount of mayo and some salt. <sigh>. it was the beginning of my life-long love of mayo. or maybe it is due to genetics from my southern mom (it was her sister, billie, who said that her real name was "wilhelmina," but my mom said no, that was just an affectation. aunt billie always had a gift for the story, ya know. ;-).

      i may have to have a scrambled egg sandwich for breakfast. it is hard to beat a scrambled egg sandwich (no pun intended).

      2 Replies
      1. re: alkapal

        I think that's just lovely, alkapal. So funny, what food evokes for us. It was exactly the scent of the tomato stems that possessed me to write this question: when I was in the garden earlier, I tore out the rest of the vines and got a hit of that smell, like the very last of high Summer.
        I love the little shandwidges your Aunt would make. Oh, when someone does something special for us! It just takes a taste to bring back the glow.
        Cracked me up about Dad and the cake. My dad used to have a similar complaint about how I ate corn on the cob, and I'd sit there thinking, there's a RIGHT way to do this?

        1. re: mamachef

          no it was the ice cream that my dad loved! the "fudge royale" had these huge streaks of fudge throughout the vanilla ice cream. i'd come home from school and pull out the ice cream. my mother told me not to do the tunneling, but she never *really* scolded me about it. maybe she was secretly happy that i did it. perhaps that was her passive-aggression-by-proxy-through-food? LOL.

          here is publix's version.
          (maybe winn-dixie's was spelled "royal," but i think it did have the "e" -- making one certain to pronounce it ro-yal with the accent on the second syllable "yal"). fancy, huh?

          aunt billie made me those sandwiches for years, almost every time i'd see her. she also made the best sweet tea, and did NOT skimp on the sweet. she is probably playing yachtzee in heaven with my mom and aunt martha right now. she may even be cheating. (oops, i DID say that!)

      2. Getting into my chocolate birthday cake when I was two. =)

        1. Hearing the ice cream truck's bell and calling for my mother to get me a toasted almond. She dawdled, and the truck moved on, and I did not get my popsicle. I'm still kind of pissed off about this.

          1 Reply
          1. re: small h

            small h, I totally feel your pain. She may have given you something that you should sue her for your therapy bills for. I live in a neighborhood where the truck doesn't come by much (it's always going fast on it's way to somewhere kids live..) but everytime I hear the weird, calliope-ish music, I tear a** downstairs, because all I need at any given moment is an ice cream pop (especially since I quit smoking.) and am inevitably left shaking my fist which is clutching two 1-dollar bills at the truck's vanishing rear lights. Sigh.

          2. From about 3 years old or so: my mother's fried meatballs right after coming out the rendered pork fat in which they were just "bathing" but before going into the long-cooked gravy. The crunchy/crusty outside, the moist garlicky, cheesy inside, the porky taste of that rendered fat.! They were amazing. And for as long as I lived at home, she always set aside one or two freshly fried meatballs just for me before they took the "plunge." This is my earliest and by far fondest food memory. :)

            3 Replies
            1. re: ttoommyy

              Oh, my goooooooooooooooooodness, ttoommyy. You wouldn't, ah, happen to have that recipe around? or is it a family thing (which I would totally get.) Your description has me salivating at just after 5:30 a.m. Lucky you!! Did Mom call them meatballs, or polpetone?

              1. re: mamachef

                She called them meatballs and sorry mamachef, that recipe was all in the hands, heart and soul of my late mother. I have tried numerous times to replicate them, but to no avail. I can make a tasty meatball, but they NEVER taste like hers. Of course, the rendered pork fat had a lot to do with it when I as younger, but as we got older, she switched to a combination of olive and vegetable oils and they were still delicious. I honestly think I cannot cook like her because I know too much about cooking (which is not necessarily a good thing), whereas she did it from instinct.

                1. re: ttoommyy

                  Wow - that is such a good point ttoommyy!

                  And it's exactly the same about my grandma's meatballs. They were amazing. And no one else in the family (including my mother) could ever duplicate them - even following her strict guidance! Grandma just had the "touch" ...the "instinct" as you put it!

                  And we too, would always have a ball or two before they went into the gravy!!