Saturday, February 6, 2010

foods of my childhood

the snow that arrived late last evening brought back memories of snowstorms that occurred with reliable frequency in Chicago, where I grew up. And my thoughts turned, as they do so often, to food, specifically the foods of my growing-up years in the midwest. I suffered a serious illness in my childhood and my parents would stry anything to tempt my near-nonexistent appetite. After my father made his Saturdy rounds at the hospital, he would stop at the French Pastry Shop for their raspberry ice, which I adored. The color was gorgeous, the flavor voluptuous and slightly tart, and, always, it was accompanied by pretty little butter cookies lavished with powdered sugar. My mother was a gifted cook, and, long before eschewing red meat I was a dedicated carnivore, so her superb oxtails had a most appreciative audience. They were amazingly succulent and always served with potatoes and carrots. I adored sucking on the big bones. Tongue was a favorite of mine, and hers was superb. The next day was a treat, with tongue sandwiches on rye bread, with swiss cheese, lettuce and thousant island dressing. My siblings and I got to choose the kind of birthday cake we preferred. Early on I opted for yellow cake with white seven-minute frosting, atop of which sat little bunnies made out of marshmallows. Be still my heart. I graduated to yellow cake with caramel frosing, which I sneakily swirled my finger through - mother was not amused ! When my parents entertained, which they did frequently, mother often served shrimp on frilly picks, arranged on upside-down grapefruit halves, which we kids found wonderfully sophisticated. We'd sit on the stairs looking down on the adults eating shrrimp and hot cheeese and chutney canapes. We couldn't wait until the platters were picked up by the servers and returned to the kitchen, where we'd attack the leftovers. On Christmas, out family dinner was served in the early afternoon. Aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents, an enormous turkey with all the traditional side dishes. Mother baked cookies for weeks preceding the holiday, and big platters of lebkuchen, crescents, brownies and more would top off the meal. Then, around eight in the evening, father's colleagues and their wives showed up, champagne flowed, and big platters of cheeses, smoked turkey and more were put out, as well as caviar, smoked oysters and shrimp. One of the physicians was Armenian and always brought trays of baklava and other pastries - heavenly. We stayed up very late and sneaked champagne till we were caught. These are but a few of my early food memories.

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