She said that when she was a little girl, living in Mexico, her family was very poor and often did not have enough to eat. There was a woman that lived close by, named Marina, and she always seemed to have chocolate cake at her house. My friend and her sister, as little children, would go and do odd jobs around Marina's house, in hopes of being offered a slice of that chocolate cake, which they would share. She said many times since then, even since moving to this country, she has tried to find a chocolate cake that would satisfy that memory of what that chocolate cake tasted like. She was teary and giddy as she said that this one did! She tasted it and recounted the childhood memory to her children. Several days later her sister came to visit her and there was still some cake remaining, so she offered her a slice. The very first thing her sister said was how that cake tasted just like Marina's cake from so many years ago when they were children! The sisters revelled in the cake and the memory it evoked. What a compliment!
Food is powerful. Tastes and smells seem to live in our subconscious mind eternally. There are dinners that bring back powerful memories for me of my mother's cooking when I was a child (and before we became vegetarian as a family).
Swiss Steak. I remember her pressure cooker, with it's little thing-a-ma-jig wiggling to and fro on top and the steam hissing forth. She always served it over mashed potatoes. One of my favorites.
Shepherd's Pie. Still one of my favorite meals, comfort food at its finest. My children love this dish too. I remember frequently asking for it on my birthday.
Creamed Chipped Beef. I can so vividly remember my place at the dinner table, with my dad to my right, and Amanda at my left. I remember the pile of toasted white bread stacked on a plate that the beef was served over. I will probably never make this meal, but I remember it with fondness from my youth.
Deviled Ham sandwiches. A Sunday afternoon, after-church quick-meal. Again, I will never make these, but even thinking about them, I can taste them, and remember making them on the counter in the New Kitchen (the room that was supposed to become the new kitchen after remodeling, but never quite got finished.)
Oh, there are so many! And of course, the treats. I still make the giant chocolate Easter Eggs for my children that my mother made for us. I still use the same Sugar Cookie recipe, the dinner roll recipe, and many others. One of my favorite Christmas gifts ever from my mom (and she is a terrific gift giver) was a recipe box stuffed with recipes from her collection, my grandmother's collection, and even great and great-great grandmother's favorites. All handwritten on recipe cards for us. She made a set for each of her daughters. I love that recipe box, and refer to it often.
When Adam and I got married, he had a small issue with my insistence on family meals. He didn't grow up that way, and the regularity of it stifled him a bit. He was used to dinner left on the stove for people to help themselves to, whenever, or even worse, people fending for themselves completely. I am a big fan of family meals. I cook breakfast every morning, and dinner most every night. When we're all home, like on a Sunday, we may even eat all three meals together as a family. I know it makes a difference to kids, even though it is, admittedly, a lot more work for mom. I consider it an investment, not just in their health, but in their well-being. If you ask my stepchildren what they love about me as their stepmom, they both will say 'family dinner'. I believe it makes children feel safe and secure. It provides a stability that they can count on.
It warms my heart when my kids request a meal. It means that those food memories are forged nice and deep in their minds. It means they'll probably call me one day, when they have families of their own, and ask for that recipe, because they've just got to make it. Share it. Pass it on.