Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Three Memories of Food

1. LA

We used to visit my grandpa Art once or twice a year before we moved to Ohio in 1995. Art lived by routines, and so we'd do the same sorts of things every time. We'd go down to Santa Monica to a park on the beach with a playground and a stone dragon. We'd stop by Brentwood Library where Art liked to raise hell. We'd go to a bookstore and each pick out something. And we'd eat a deli: Frohmin's or Junior's (their respective owners may be dismayed that it never mattered much to me which one and I can't distinguish one from the other in my memory).

I remember baskets of nice, dark rye bread. (Being a hungry kid, I loved a basket of anything, which may explain why there's a special love for rye bread in my heart to this day.) I remember ordering a bagel and lox every time or at least almost every time. I'd take the green, unpitted olive off the top and give it to my father but I loved the rest. Lis remembers the blintzes best--it's interesting to me that we never remember the same things, so that even people who have been through exactly the same experiences will emerge with radically different histories.

2. The Mojave Desert

The food was actually from Delano, picked up as we visited Gill cousins on the way back from LA. They sent some extra with us for the road, though. We stopped somewhere in the Mojave desert, on a route that went Bakersfield, Barstow, Baker through the heat and unwrapped a few for a snack. Time spreads spice and the day-old-but-still-soft stuffed flatbreads were so good. This is my first vivid memory of aloo paratha.

Time spreads spice well, and by high school a friend told me that when I'd been out working and came back inside, the sweat smelled just a little like curry.

3. Provo

We lived in Orem, in those days of frequent trips to California, and my grandparents lived where I live now in the northern part of Provo. All but one of their children lived there, too, in the days before we started our international game of danda dook, and we'd meet once a month, I believe it was on Fast Sundays, for food and the time together that inevitably goes with it. We'd drive down one hill and up another to their house, or else mom would drive while Dad and Lis and I got to ride our bikes.

Taco Salad was a favorite at these extended-family dinners, a carryover from the days of my mother's childhood, when her mother found that the only way to keep seven children from asking and asking when they would get to eat on a fast sunday afternoon was to give each of them a food preparation task. Taco Salad was a great Mormon socio-theological statement: it came together through the collective delegated work of the whole unit, everyone involved, the grater-of-cheese no greater or less than the dicer-of-tomatoes or the-masher-of-beans, the feast open to all as they had room to receive it.


  1. Hey . . . Tell Dr. Rudy about this post. You should follow up with more of these. Food has been an important part of creating ethnic and cultural identity. Our kitchens connect us to so many cultures: matzo ball soup mix, masala, couscous, corn tortillas, trail mix, hummus, black beans, Nutella, chickpeas, salsa, roti, and cheddar cheese. How many traditions can you trace from that map?

  2. In reading part one, a memory came immediately to mind. Of being at a deli with Grandpa Art when you were still young enough to be teething. (I'm not sure if this is really a memory or just a story I heard enough that I can visualize it, since I would have been pretty young, too.) You were in a high chair, and had been given a bagel to chew on. The waiter was completely blown away when he came back and the bagel was gone--he could not believe that you actually ate the whole thing. He even looked on the floor to see if you'd dropped it. Grandpa Art was surprised as well, but Mom assured them that yes, you were definitely capable of eating a whole bagel.

    We always used to go to Ben & Jerry's with him too, and he always got vanilla chocolate chip.

  3. And you forgot the chocalate covered bananas after playing on the water dragon.

  4. okay, who is Aviva? It has to be one of 6 people, all of whom are in my immediate family...


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