Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Today I am talking about food

Yes, food again. This time though I'm not going to bore you with a recipe or a step by step dish preparation. Today I want to talk about comfort foods. For me, these are the foods from my past that evoke strong emotions of content and satisfaction.

I'm sure while some of my comfort foods might also bring you fond memories, others will make you gasp and think "what the heck?" That's ok because this list isn't really about you, it's all about ME! So, here you have it, my list of foods that make me go "Mmmmmm!"

  1. Sunday dinner - this is actually a meal, not just one food. My mother always put a roast in the oven before heading out to church. We came home to the delicious smell of it cooking, a smell that could be detected before opening the back door. Side dishes: green beans, yellow corn, white rice, and gravy. After eating all the above, a "dessert" of white bread smothered in gravy was the crowning touch. I've learned to duplicate this meal at home though usually not for Sunday dinner. Early in our marriage we fell into the trap of eating out after church. I guess it was an act of rebellion on my part, it was the one day of the week when I refused to cook rested. I do, however, cook this meal a couple of times a month. It's made complete by the fact that I have a pot just like mama's to cook the roast in. This pot belonged to my husband BM (ewwww, not THAT, before marriage silly), and in fact is one of the reasons I married him! Call it a mind thing or whatever but I CANNOT cook a roast in any other pot, it's like a sacrilege or something. Recently I saw one of these pots for sale at Goodwill and I almost bought it, figuring it would be nice to have  second one on hand just in case something happened to mine. Unfortunately I didn't get it that day and when I went back it was gone. I guess there's someone else out there who likes to cook in old-mom pots. Roast disclaimer here - do NOT confuse this roast with the traditional "pot roast" that so many of you grew up eating. You know the one that is cooked with carrots and potatoes in the same pot? That's just GROSS, all those flavors cooked together. UGH!  Unfortunately for my husband that pot roast is the kind he  grew up eating but doesn't get at home. It's just one of many adjustments he had to make upon marrying me. Sometimes I will cook carrots on the side for him, but never, NEVER, in the same pot as my roast!
  2. Sugar-n-butter sandwiches - yes, you heard that right: sugar, butter, bread. Specifically white bread, never wheat, spread with butter (though now that I think about it, it was probably margarine) and topped with white sugar. And this wasn't just a thin sprinkling of sugar, there was a good, heavy coating of sugar that completely covered the butter. After adding the top slice of bread we mushed the bread together to keep the sugar from falling out. Do NOT confuse this with cinnamon toast which will be listed separately here. This is NOT a toasted sandwich. I'm not sure where this concoction came from, I think it was something my mother grew up eating. And most of you are probably aghast at the thought of it but you know what, I don't care! This is a darn good sandwich and it totally beats out lunch meat anytime. Ironically I haven't passed this tradition on to my on children and it's not for lack of trying. They think it's sounds gross and totally unhealthy. Hmmpf, they have no idea what they're missing.
  3. Toast - I grew up eating two kinds of toast. One is the aforementioned cinnamon toast - white bread (again, it's all we ate at our house, wheat bread was for old people), butter, sugar, and ground cinnamon. This is something my boys will eat. The other kind of toast would be peanut butter toast. Nothing better than a warm slice of toast, spread with peanut butter, mmmm gooey, melted goodness. Just so we're clear, there's only one brand   and it has to be CREAMY, not Crunchy. My husband actually eats one slice of peanut butter toast every morning for breakfast. I don't eat it very often but when I do, one slice is never enough, it always has to be two. 
  4. After the last two "favorites" I feel embarrassed but compelled to list the following. Sugar. Yes, that's one word. And it's a food but then it's not a food. No one eats just sugar, except for me. Nothing was better than sneaking into the kitchen, grabbing a spoon, and dishing up a spoonful of sugar. It started when I was young, too young to really know better, my mother walked in and found me sitting in the middle of the table helping myself to the sugar bowl. I quickly learned that sitting on the table eating sugar wasn't such a great idea. But I was not to be denied. I simply learned to be sneaky, going into the kitchen when everyone else was occupied doing other things, I satisfied my sugar craving with a quick spoonful.  (Hmmm, do you think it might have had something to do with Mary Poppins singing her Spoonful of Sugar song? Surely it didn't have anything to do with the aforementioned sugar and butter sandwiches!) Funny thing is I never really went for other sweets. I'm not a big cake, candy, pie eater. But give me a spoonful of sugar and I'm happy as a clam. And sweet. I tell my husband that's why I'm such a sweet person today, it's from all that sugar I ate as a kid. Stop laughing, I AM a sweet person, I just hide it well!
  5. Individual size frozen pizzas - my mother bought these in the freezer section, they were just small round pizzas with sauce and cheese on them. She started buying them for me after she went back to work. They were there for my afternoon snack. I'd come home from school, pop one in the over, and settle down to watch Gilligan's Island. Every day. And I never gained an ounce. Wow, I miss those days!
  6. Chef-Boyardee  pizza kits - Yes, I know I've already listed pizza, but this is different. Besides you can never have enough pizza. Growing up back in the stone ages there wasn't pizza home deliver like there is now. Your choices were to eat at the local Pizza Inn, cook a frozen pizza or make it "fresh" using the box kit from Chef-Boyardee Chef Boyardee Pizza Kit. Mother would brown ground beef  which she crumbled and put on top of the crust you prepared. It came with a sauce and a package of grated Parmesan cheese for toppings. Back then we didn't use shredded mozzarella cheese which is a staple today. But you know what, that "homemade pizza" was delicious without mozzarella! I found this photo on the internet where someone made it the 1970s way. It looks so good I could eat the screen!   For the record, I didn't learn to eat actual ingredients like mushrooms, pepperoni, and sausage on my pizza until much later in life and actually prefer those ingredients today, But, every once in awhile I can close my eyes and smell/taste that pizza. You can still buy the kits in stores today but I haven't done so in a long time. I have a feeling my boys wouldn't be as enamored of them as me. 
  7. Pillsbury Layered BiscuitsI liked them because they came in layers which I peeled and ate one layer at a time. For awhile I ate them every. morning. for. breakfast. A whole package of ten - just for me. No butter. No jelly.  Just plain biscuits. And no, again, I was not a fat child. In fact I was overly thin, but not for lack of trying to beef up! I guess I should also mention these are the only "biscuits" that I would eat, then and now. I do not care for buttermilk, grand, whatever biscuits. Just give my some flaky layers and I'm content.
  8. Mama's cornbread dressing - southern style, dressing NOT stuffing. No one makes it like mama. I've tried, using her recipe, with her help, but I just can't quite pull it off. I've actually gotten to where I prefer stuffing, specifically that made by my sister-in-law (Hi,Pat!) who has stopped making it (sob) but every once in awhile I get a deep yearning for mama's cornbread dressing. Throw in a little turkey and I could eat until I fall over into a deep coma. 
  9. Homemade vanilla ice cream - you know the kind. Made at home, duh, using the hand cranked churn. This was the method back in the day before electric.  I'm NOT saying I lived back in the day before electricity, contrary to popular belief I am NOT that old. I'm just referring to the ice cream makers that were used when I was a kid. Everyone took a turn turning the handle. Of course as the ice cream began to form it was harder to turn and that's when Daddy took over. At some point it was determined that the churning was done but it wasn't ready to eat. First the container had to be packed in ice and allowed to sit to allow the ice cream to hardened. This time of waiting was the hard part (pun intended). Sometimes we'd fill the time by taking rock salt, which is used in the process of churning the cream, and sprinkle it on slugs we'd find slithering across the hot summer pavement. It was cool and gross at the same time, watching them wither up and die. (I can't believe I just announced to the internet world that I killed innocent, albeit, slimy slugs) Back to the ice cream, once it was deemed "done" we all gathered around for our bowl. If you've never eaten homemade ice cream you have no idea what you've missed out on all this time. Some people like to add toppings to their ice cream, like strawberries, chocolate, etc. Others like to mix fruit like peaches in the batter before making the ice cream. But me. I'm a plain old vanilla girl. Just know this, homemade ice cream - beats store bought any day of the week.
  10. I call this the "Visit with Grandmother" meal. I won't go into details because I've blogged about it before (here if you need to read up on it).  Cliff notes version: this meal includes Coke in a bottle, cinnamon rolls, and Krystals. Even now, every time I eat a Krystal I think of my Grandmother. 
Ok, that's enough talk about comfort food. I'm making myself hungry. One sure way to kill the appetite is to follow up with another list. My second list, which I will try to make short and sweet, can be referred to as the list of Foods that No Mother Should Have Fed Her Child - AKA Foods Sherri Hated Growing up:

  1. Salmon Croquettes -   According to mama it was cheap and filling. To me it was just gross!
  2. Fried chicken livers - my siblings fought over them, I ran from them  They looked and smelled nasty!
  3. Liver and onions - regular old liver,makes me shudder to think about, I'd rather be anemic.  If I'm not mistaken I think Mama finally agreed and stopped torturing feeding us this meal.
  4. Sardines on a cracker - Daddy actually ate these, he got a can of sardines in his Christmas stocking every year. Stinky! 
  5. Hash - Mother use to make this dish that was made with shredded roast beef mixed in gravy and served over crinkle french fries. Ugh, I'm feeling queasy thinking about it!
  6. Corned Beef Hash - not to be confused with #5, still nasty! It looked something like this but, if my memory is correct, creamier. It was served over toast 
  7. Lima beans - one of those veggies that I was forced to eat. I could only do so by covering them in Ketchup, I will eat them today but I still pour Ketchup on them. No, it does NOT look very appetizing, but hey, it's another serving of a vegetable and a fruit. And speaking of eating your vegetables...I lived with my sister and her family for about a year back in the early 80's. She served brussel sprouts, which makes me gag to even think about. She made me eat them because I was supposed to be setting a "good example" for my nephew. Carol, if you're reading this - that was MEAN! I think I've been scarred for life. 
Ok, that's enough of grossness for one day. I'm beginning to feel a bit nauseous. I know there are other nasty foods in my past but fortunately they're buried back in the far recesses of my memory. 

If you're wondering why I wrote today's post I can give you three reasons (yes, another list)
  1. I wanted to jumpstart my readers to thinking back on their own favorite foods from the past. Hopefully it will be an encouragement to all you cooks, to know that what you're doing is not just feeding your family but also creating comfort foods that will stick with them throughout their lives
  2. In another vein, I also need to remind you that you just might be creating lifelong aversions to disgusting things that will also stick with your family throughout their lives.  And, 
  3. I survived it all and lived to tell the tale. 
Being the family cook can be rewarding and it can also be a thankless task. For the most part we just try to do our best and hope for a good outcome. 

I end today's blog by giving a shout out to four people: To my mother I say - thanks for the comfort foods, and blah to the nasties, but especially thank your for sugar-n-butter sandwiches, all my friends were jealous. 

To my children I say - I survived and so will you. Specifically to Ian - love ya buddy, but I so hope you end up with a picky-eating child just like yourself. It's only fair! Andrew, thank you for being willing to try just about anything, you're a trooper. 

And finally, to my loving husband - are you keeping a list of all the meals I've forced upon you that fall onto the second list above...you know, the ones that you refuse to eat...? Just be thankful that I usually only cook those dishes once. Except for that shoe leather country fried steak that I optimistically attempt to cook at least once a year. I swear one time it's gonna come out right. 

Bon appetit

Now, what's for dinner? McDonalds anyone? 


  1. I share some of your memories. My top comfort foods are mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese and banana pudding (homemade custard in the double boiler topped with meringue). My mom also cooked Sunday roasts that I can't duplicate. I took some things from her kitchen including the black cast iron skillet she made cornbread in and the 50's pyrex bowl set. Another comfort food memory for me is popcorn my dad popped in a beat up aluminum pan on Sunday nights after church. It was ALWAYS in the big yellow pyrex bowl, and we watched Bonanza. I totally share your feelings about lima beans and salmon croquettes! That was about as exotic as my mom ever got. Then she learned to make Chinese pepper steak and made it so much that I can't stomach it to this day!

  2. Wow loved the blog-maybe I'll do one of my own in a similar style later today, I was a picky eater growing up but will eat ALMOST anything now ;)

  3. Sugar on buttered bread! That's a fond memory from my grandmother in Cairo. We didn't make sandwiches tho. She would sprinkle sugar on the buttered bread -send me outside on the back steps to eat it. I still eat it to this day on occassions. I have introduced my grandchildren to buttered bread, but not added the sugar as I figured their mothers would shoot me! Carlos loves butter bread. I've had to give up cinnamon toast bec. cinnamon gives me heartburn. Carolyn introduced me to pnut nuttiest toast, which was toasted bread w/ pnut butter and then covered w/ syrup - which my kids ate for awhile too. I also share homemade ice cream memories - and I can see your dad clearly in my mind cranking the last 5 minutes. We used to make cranked ice cream early in my marriage - but at some point stopped - probably when I moved to those northern locations that only had 2 weeks of summer [or so it seemed]. The one addition I liked was peaches. I made many a Chef Boy boxed pizza also early on. guess I gave it up when we moved to BR and it was too hot most of the time to heat up the kitchen by using the oven and there was a Godfather's pizza very close by. Pot roast isn't prominent. Louella would make a dessert on Sunday, and when it was gone, there wasn't a dessert until the next Sunday. I didn't grow up w/ a dessert every day. Who knows what my kids' memories of food are! I never really learned to cook and I made the mistake early on of catering to my kids' individual whims, which made cooking even less enjoyable - finding something all 5 people would eat at the same meal made for some boring meals. Marrying a Yankee didn't help, as he wasn't big on vegetables or fruits, and all of my children have followed his footsteps - much to my sorrow as a fruit and vegetable lover. I met friends for lunch the other day and brought home a takeout order of collard greens! No one developed a taste for baby lima beans -sigh. At Carolyn's place in Fernandina they would drop them thru the cracks of the deck [the kids table was on their back deck] and the dog would eat them - and I was foolish enough to believe they had eaten them! No wonder i could never cook lima beans like she did - I didn't have a back deck to drop them thru with a dog to eat the evidence!! :) Louise

  4. Love. This. Post. My grandma had a pot like the one in your picture; I guess I need to haunt Goodwill and find one and make a pot roast in it. I am also quite fond of peanut butter on toast and have warm memories of home-churned vanilla ice cream and Chef Boyardee Pizza Mix, a menu staple when I was growing up. I take issue, however, with your stance on salmon patties (love them) and lima beans (love them, too) - although I agree that the rest of those food items you mentioned should be outlawed. :-)