Food, Family, and Memory

cauliflowersoupWhen I was a young girl, my mother and father packed up the rented mini van and took  us four children and usually a few friends for my older brother and sister,  my widowed,  Aunt Else, on the ferry from England to Norway. We stayed at an idyllic hotel called The Strand Hotel for two weeks every August.

We spent our days fishing for our lunch in a little wooden boat and cooked our catch on a remote island, over a fire, made from collected twigs and dried seaweed.

My parents always said we were too many to feed every meal in a restaurant, and so when supper time came, the prepared hotel feast was always a relief and absolutely delicious after a somewhat usually chilly, but fun day catching fish and swimming in the sea that never dared to go above 65 degrees.

Supper always began with soup. My favorite was the cauliflower... Usually a tasteless soup, but this one was utterly scrumptious. Here is my own, very simple recipe, my comfort food.

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foodifight sm
Christopher Low

When I was younger my brother and I were constantly fighting. One day, my mother decided to ban swearing. We were at a loss. We stared at each other across the dining room table with enough venom to take out a tiger, but we had no words. I have no idea how it started, but we began to call each other the names of the foods around the kitchen.

"You're such a Quaker, Oatmeal." "You're a can of tuna fish that isn't even dolphin safe." "You're a carton of milk." "You're a half empty bottle of soy sauce. We threw these terms at each other every morning over breakfast and every night over dinner, somehow making the terms more and more apropos to our specific fight.

"You're Tropicana orange juice, some pulp." "You're sour cream." "You're such an apple." "You're a nectarine." "Yea, well, you're a banana." It went on for days.

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greenspotI went to cooking school at the advanced age of 17 in 1973 in the bustling town of Newton Centre, Massachusetts. There wasn’t any question in my mind what my future held for me, I simply had to find the perfect place that would form it exactly as I had dreamt it would.

Newton Centre was an upscale, hip little suburb just a short distance from Boston. Affluent and hip enough to embrace a greengrocer called Blacker Brothers just as the ripples of the food revolution were beginning. Blacker Brothers was a Mecca for so many, long lines formed out the door every Saturday morning. Boxes of the most gorgeous and exotic produce lined the floor along a very long wall just waiting to be delivered in company vans. As boxes were loaded more took their vacant spots. It was “THE” place to shop long before Whole foods was on every block because they did it right.

Buying produce and putting together deals is what the two brothers and their father did each night as their customers’ house lights turned off. This store was so unique and full of jewels that Faschon in Paris was their only rival. The extensive selection of fruit was “ready to eat” and fragrant, that you could always count on. Fresh herbs were a new phenomena, yet they had them all, including chervil. Even if berries weren’t on my list I could never resist the sweet scent as I entered their store. Everything was hand chosen.

I could keep extolling the virtues of this store until my last breath. It was magic and made an impression that changed my future, or rather, my destiny.

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222_peachpie.jpg After decades of biting into and spitting out mouthfuls of mealy mushy flavorless fuzzy fruit sold as ‘prime peaches’, suddenly this year the peach crop is reminding me of the juicy beauties I enjoyed 40 years ago. Almost certainly it’s because I’ve been getting my peaches at local farmer’s markets from growers who actually let the fruit ripen on the tree before hauling them off for sale.

This wondrous ‘back to the future’ phenomenon has spurred me to forego dinner on many a night for big bowls of sliced peaches lightly dusted with brown sugar and tossed with sour cream, a childhood summer treat I thought I’d never again experience. In my enthusiasm to recapture a fond memory, I have several times purchased many more peaches than one person could possibly consume.

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sorrentohotel.jpgI was barely six years old and on an early summer vacation with my sister, Tanya and my Mother, a woman way a head of her time. The three of us were off on another adventure this time to the small town of Sorrento, Italy. Our father loved to travel but never outside the United States after he immigrated from Albania during the first World War to escape the atrocities in his village.

He indulged our mother's wanderlust and desire to show us the world with enthusiasm. That summer, our adventuresome mother picked the spectacular hotel Bellevue Syrene perched on a sheer cliff hundreds of feet above the ocean. The converted palace was surrounded by formal gardens in full bloom and the ocean side terrace dripped with blue Wisteria. It was dinner that evening that awoke my love of food and changed the course of my life.

The dining room was a formal affair like things used to be fifty years ago. As we three approached the entrance guarded by the Maitre D', he pulled back the heavy velvet drapes exposing the jewel box like dining room. As he led us to our table the azure blue color of the Gulf of Naples view from the floor to ceiling windows was so clear we could see Capri.

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