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.