A History Lesson

When I was very young I would sit with my mom on weekend mornings and watch cooking shows on the public television channel. We didn’t have cable, but on these mornings the programming was filled with the culinary forefathers of televised cooking. My mom would sit with a notebook and pencil in case a recipe sounded good enough to recreate, and I would marvel at the confidence with which Graham Kerr would assemble a perfect looking pasta sauce all the while chattering on and making jokes and doing little dances.

By the time I was a teenager I spent most nights falling asleep while watching the Food Network as late as possible. If you remember the Food Network of the 90’s there wasn’t the vast scope of programming that they offer today, but I was perfectly content with Emeril, Rachel Ray, Mario Batali, Iron Chef, and of course Julia Child. My first job was in the kitchen of a local restaurant as a dishwasher, and I spent plenty of time pestering the chef and his prep chefs about knife cuts and cooking temperatures, mise en place and safe food handling.

Over time I began to amass a collection of cookbooks that made moving around, which I do quite often, more complicated. Still, I carry that albatross of a collection each time we move, and carefully box the books, pausing now and again to leaf through one I haven’t read in a while to see what might spark my creativity. In perfect truth, I rarely use my cookbooks at all anymore, but I cannot part with them for the simple reason of emotional attachment. Each recipe I executed evokes a memory of where I was, which kitchen, which table I sat at, who I sat with, and how the food made me feel. The books sit in my kitchen and sigh as I move past them, filled with memory and potential. Now instead I have a chalkboard wall in the kitchen where I scribble my notes as I develop recipes of my own to add to my old, worn notebook.

There are so many things we surround ourselves with…books, music, movies, photographs, family mementos passed down through generations. For me it is always food and music, the ultimate memory keepers and sensory surprises. Where do your food memories lie?

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