Posted by: Hallie | March 14, 2009

Memories in Cantaloupe

On March 6, Mitch’s grandfather Walter passed away. It was somewhat unexpected as he was in pretty good health for an 84-year old man, but it was also comforting to know he didn’t suffer through a drawn-out illness like many others. Obviously, I only met Walt two and half years ago, but he was a dear man and I really enjoyed the time I got to spend with him. I was most inspired by how he cared for and adored his wife of 60 years, Mitch’s grandmother Evelyn. I can only pray that I have a loving marriage that lasts that long. She has Alzheimer’s, and we’re not sure if she understands that he’s gone, which is a blessing in its own sad way.

But ok, why am I writing about this on a food blog (other than the fact that it’s MY food blog and I can)? Well, I was thinking yesterday about the role that food plays in connecting loved ones together, how memories are passed down through recipes, etc.

I don’t really have “family recipes” (unless Chinese takeout counts) but I still have “food memories” that connect me with people in my life. For example, a few weeks ago at work, a coworker was slicing a cantaloupe and I mentioned that I’d never cut a cantaloupe before, and it looked scary to me. I was sorta teased for that, but then when I thought about it some more, I realized why I’d never cut open a cantaloupe.

When I was younger, my grandma used to buy cantaloupes at the grocery store, cut them into bite-size pieces, and pack the pieces in Tupperware for my family. A few times a week, she’d call us to say, “come on over, I’ve got cantaloupe for you” and when she was talking to my mom on the phone, my brother would ask, “does Grandma have cantaloupe?” because he and my dad LOVED it.

Now sure, my parents were capable of buying and cutting up cantaloupe, but they never had to because my grandma would do it for us; she enjoyed it because she knew the boys were such fans. So now, when I did finally buy a cantaloupe and cut it up myself, I saw how easy it really is, but it made me think of her and how she loved taking care of us (she’s got Alzheimer’s too so even though she’s still around, her mind is pretty much gone).

I remember my dad getting French fries with me every week after my ice-skating lessons (the thick, good kind of fries, hand-cut and all that…I have to clarify). The fry place went out of business (I think…it was called Boardwalk Fries. Ring a bell?), but I remember so clearly getting off the ice all cold and thawing out while sharing fries with my dad.

I remember going to the zoo with my grandma (she really helped raise me, hence the stories), and we’d stop at a little outdoor cafe next to the zoo and I’d always get a tuna sandwich. 

I remember that I was never allowed to get cotton candy at the zoo or Sea World or anything, but once a year at the Del Mar Fair (which is now called the San Diego County Fair, whatever) my mom would let me get a big ole batch of cotton candy. That treat was usually the highlight of my fair experience (especially since I wasn’t going to risk my life on those rickety-looking rides).

So anyway, I think it’s beautiful how certain foods can connect us with certain times in our lives, certain childhood experiences, or certain loved ones who are no longer with us, physically or mentally. Care to share a favorite food memory? I’d love to read about other people’s family recipes, traditions, or silly tidbits like my cantaloupe story.

Walter J (12/28/24-3/6/2009), thank you for welcoming me into your family, and sharing with me the birthdays, Christmases, and dinners over the past few years. I promise I’ll make Evelyn’s peanut-butter balls at Christmastime again this year. And I promise to keep your rowdy grandson in line (as best I can). You’ll be greatly missed.

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Responses

  1. My favorite memory of food is spending my childhood summers down south in Brownsville, Texas with my grandparents. We would go to South Padre Island and purchase a HUGE watermelon and cut it into slices and eat it with salt in the bed of my grandpa’s truck. He also used to take me to the candy store and I would buy a pickle, corn-nuts, and M&Ms. Oh and soft-boiled eggs that we would crack an opening on top and eat with a baby spoon. God bless them and may they rest in peace.

  2. My favourite food memory involves grandparents too. My family used to move out to a cottage in the summertime, and my grandparents had a cottage right next door. At least one evening a week my mother and I would take our dog for a walk. As soon as we hit the path home, I would race ahead of her and run all the way to my grandparents cottage, where my grandmother would promptly feed me chocolate pie. My mom would always show up a few minutes later to find me smiling and covered in pie 🙂

  3. This post totally made me cry! Almost all of my food memories involve my grandma in some way…she did the same cantaloupe thing (and honeydew, and watermelon). Grandma also used to make us egg salad sandwiches, and she made the best banana chocolate cake!
    I’ll bet they’re all hanging out somewhere now 🙂

  4. I think that one of the great things about food is the emotional attachments that we build to it. Most holidays and special occasions, especially in the US, are food-centric. Holidays are mostly nostalgic and fun for me because of the food and traditions. I always complain when my mother doesn’t plan on making a traditional meal. Like on Christmas Eve, we always have lasagna. Always. Except when I am there! If I miss a holiday w/ her b/c of whatever reason, she loves the excuse to break out of the tradition and try something different. I still make her award-winning lasagna on my own though! 🙂

  5. Aww, this was a really sweet post.

    It’s funny – we have a joke with my Grandma about cantaloupe, too. She’s not much of a cook, but once, years ago, my sister and I spent the night and she said, “but I make the best cantaloupe.” We still joke about it to this day!

    When I was in elementary school, my mom, younger sister and I decided to make fudge. Well, something went wrong and it never firmed up. So we used it as hot fudge, and we invented this philosophy called “yum stuff.” If you take good ingredients (like chocolate, sugar, butter), even if the texture doesn’t turn out right, it will still be good!

  6. […] I love that I’m not the only one with a cantaloupe/Grandma story. Thanks for sharing your food memories; I loved reading […]

  7. When I was in kindergarten my dad got laid off from his job. Every Friday he would pick me up from school at noon and then we’d go to Papa Gino’s for lunch. We had great talks over lunch. Then, when I was in high school he worked third shift so he was usually waking up when I got home. So I’d make his coffee and we’d chat while I had an afternoon snack. Now that I’m all grown up we swap recipes and bond over cooking techniques. It’s pretty awesome.

    My favorite food memory involving my grandma is twisted but hilarious. My grandma is one of those rare grandmas who is an AWFUL cook but thinks she’s amazing. So one time at dinner when I was in my early twenties, grandma offered me seconds of her mystery meatloaf. Since the thought made me want to gag, I politely declined, to which she replied, “oh that’s right you just got dumped again, you must be watching your weight.” She’s a peach, my gram 🙂

  8. […] talked before about why cantaloupe has special meaning for me. It never fails to remind me of my grandma and the way she used to take […]


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