November 9, 2009

Food and memory

Some (not totally connected) thoughts about food as personal history:
  • I have yogurt for breakfast every morning (except some weekend mornings, if C makes pancakes or eggs). We all do - Liam likes pretty much any kind (two kinds together if possible), with frozen raspberries and musli, C likes a lot of musli and apricot yogurt, and I like vanilla with a little musli. When I was a kid, vanilla yogurt with sliced banana was my mom's territory, something she didn't have all the time, but would have if she got the chance. I feel a connection to her in staking out the vanilla yogurt as "mine".
  • Shrimp casserole was also a rarity, and a big favorite of mine (all that cheese!), so I made a version of it last night: switch the rice for pasta, the cheddar for an emmental/gouda mix, the soup for heavy cream steeped with garlic and sauteed onions. Just like when I was a kid - but totally different. It turns out that Liam is a huge fan of shrimp; we may have to move closer to the ocean.
  • I've read reviews of Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals, and they all bill it as stark anti-factory farming, conscience-shocking reporting. Truth, in other words, and high moral principle, and would that we all had the time and resources to live by our principles all the time. The excerpt I've read from the book was hardly mentioned in the reviews: Foer's hesitation and guilt at moving away from family food traditions in pursuit of vegetarianism. He tells this story by writing about his grandmother, who fled the Holocaust, who lived miserably but escaped in the end, who spent his childhood feeding him as much as possible, sweeping him off his feet in hugs so she'd know he was gaining enough weight. This is no cliched "what will I bring to Thanksgiving?" whine, and his conclusion is hopeful, forward-looking and old-fashioned: in his family, he will do his best to do the right thing. Food memories and bonds formed depend less on what's for dinner, and more on the time spent and care taken.

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