Food, Family, and Memory

philadelphia_skyline.jpg I’m in Center City Philadelphia, back in my hometown for a medical meeting, waiting to cross Market Street, and I hear this exchange between two people who have approached from behind:

“Hey, jeet?” “No, jew?”

Since I keep the Anti-defamation League on my cell phone speed dial for times like this, I’m about to call, when I realize where I am and what the natives are saying:

“Hey, did you eat?” “No, did you?”

Indeed, those two are not casting any aspersions on my ethnic identity, but merely seeking to hook-up for lunch using the area’s “ancient” short-circuiting vernacular.

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brewedchocolate.jpgI remember first smelling the scent of coffee roasting in North Beach. I was a teenager and it was exotic and intoxicating like the City itself. Even though I didn't drink coffee, I loved that smell. Over the years whenever I've smelled fresh coffee, especially during roasting, it's been a combination of soothing and exciting to me, like the promise of something wonderful and dangerous. Sadly drinking coffee has never held the romance that smelling it does.

If you take the Scharffen Berger factory tour, and I highly recommend that you do, you will more than likely be enveloped by the scent of roasting cocoa beans. It is such a warm and happy scent it reportedly makes those who work there giddy. Even a few minutes will give you a profound sense of well-being. Having taken the tour twice, I've often wondered, would it be possible to make a drink out of the roasted beans? Not the cocoa powder or chocolate, but the roasted beans themselves, like coffee? 

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farm2.jpgDaddy was everything to us. He was a lot to many and my mother's whole world. He moved from Los Angeles to a small southern town in Georgia when he was 16 years old and met my mother shortly after. Mom was 15 and the rest is history. He left us, very unexpectedly on an early Spring night. Nothing could have prepared me for it. He was the pied piper, the epitome of a fine man, the definition of love, all the reason I turned out to be me. He was kind and gentle, inspired me every day to see the good in people. He inspired the adventure in me. It's why I grew up in a small southern town on a cotton and pecan farm and have seen so much of the world that most folks will never see.

I always packed a cooler on my way home to the farm and took Daddy things he just couldn't grow on the farm. Italian prosciutto, spicy tuna roles from my favorite sushi place, homemade fennel sausage lasagna from Bacchanalia (one of two, 5 star Michelin restaurants in Atlanta.) He liked tiny blueberries from Vermont from Whole Foods to put on his Raisin Bran every morning. And the late summer 'wild king salmon' I got at the fish market. I brought him Peach Bread from Breadwinners Bakery. The finest olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Italy. I always brought him several boxes of Lily O'Brien's sticky toffee chocolates from Ireland along with a loaf of local soda bread. He loved the whole cranberry sauce Amy turned me on to from the LA Farmer's Market.

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frozen_lime_pie.jpgMy son and daughter-in-law, Andy and Katie, and their sweet baby Claire were here for a few days. Andy and Katie enjoy being in the kitchen and appreciate good food. It seems nine-month-old Claire will soon be joining in on kitchen fun. There's no doubt she is turning into a little foodie. She sits in the Tripp Trapp chair (we've had it since our boys were little) at the table with us, gumming small chunks of cooked potatoes, avocadoes, sweet potatoes and peaches. Before long, she'll be wanting garlic mashed potatoes, fresh guacamole, sweet potato pie and peach salsa. And probably some of her mom's Frozen Lime Pie.

I've never been a big fan of frozen desserts that do not include ice cream or gelato. I call Katie the queen of homemade ice cream. She makes the best and often stirs it up and treats us to her homemade frozen cream when she is here. So, when Katie said she would make the Frozen Key Lime Pie from Ina Garten's "Barefoot Contessa Family Style" cookbook, I was only mildly excited. I love lime and I know anything that comes from one of Ina's cookbooks has got to be delicious. I figured there was a chance I might like the frozen pie.

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poohmanners.jpgI grew up in a family in which manners extended well beyond “please” and “thank you,” and the placement of one’s napkin on one’s lap. I answered the phone “Graham residence, Ann speaking” and said “excuse me” before I interrupted adult conversation. I was also expected to recognize adult conversation, and to refrain from interjecting my own opinions or anecdotes unless they were requested. I was never encouraged to believe that I had the same rights as adults in the household, and consistently taught to consider “the other person” in matters which ranged from sitting through dull stories told by old people to expressing great joy upon receiving a(nother) knitted hat for Christmas.

My brother and I were not allowed to chew gum, yell or play loud music in the house, or to thump up and down the stairs. We wrote thank-you notes, ate what we were served as guests and held doors for people. My mother disapproved of containers (milk, catsup, salsa, soda bottles) on the table, and required that condiments be decanted, and that we knew which forks and spoons were used for what purpose. We could sit through a concert or lecture without getting up or rattling wrappers, and we could eat at a nice restaurant without disturbing other diners. If we had to, we could sit still while the adults drank (endless) cups of coffee after dinner  and discussed people we didn’t know. We were not allowed to use the words “fart” or “butt” or to comment in any way about the passing of gas.

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