Wednesday, February 24, 2010


ph: ralph crane
"When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory." - Marcel Proust The Remembrance of Things Past
The things we remember often reveal the essence of who we are, and the many facets of our own unique experiences. They are the many layers of our individuality, spun over a lifetime. One that evolves, and unfolds in an episodic fashion: childhood, adolescence, college years or early career, marriages, parenthood, senior and so forth. We collect a million different memories, each recollection a window to our past, a marker of some juncture in our lives. At each stage we develop passions, interests, and personal preferences that are specific to us, that help shape and mold us. In Simple Abundance, Sarah Ban Breathnach writes, "Each life experience leaves a layer of memory like a deposit of sediment; things we've loved and moments of contentment we've cherished that when recalled, reveal glimmers of our true selves." And nothing quite evokes those memories like the smells, tastes, and textures of food. Throughout history food has marked every special occasion in our lives, from birthdays to weddings, and funerals. We use food to celebrate, to medicate, or to pass the time away. To be social, or anti-social, but whatever the case food is deeply interwoven with our memories. Edible morsels that act as catalysts in transporting us back to another time and place. The remembered association is an indelible trace to a time long since faded but not forgotten somewhere deep within your psyche. Often the emotions they piggyback on are as fresh as the day they happened despite the intervening years. I find it's not the big moments in our lives, but the small ones that shape who we are. Small details that are the tell-tale marks of a life in progress. They indicate so much more about the person you are than the superficial labels we wear for the outside world. They are in a sense the gestures that give cadence to our self-expressions.

Many foods make me nostalgic for childhood but there are times when an unexpected waft of something pleasant triggers a long buried memory that's both random and unexpected. One you didn't even know you had until you're reliving it like an old super 8 movie. An unexpected surprise that none the less delights you for however brief that moment. The smell of coffee on someone's breath always takes me back to when I was a little girl, and early morning kisses from my indulgent father before he left for work in his military uniform. The aroma of burnt sugar, sweet popcorn, or spicy rice cakes remind me of busy street markets, and a time when our family lived in Korea. Fried chicken and homemade biscuits bring to mind my grandmother, as does oranges and honey. Chitlins take be back to summer food festivals in the South with my childhood best friend in her family's roach coach. Pop Rocks of being a kid and sharing stories, big whoppers that we all believed more or less. These as with all my memories are unique to me, and therefore are the markers of my life. And still with every passing moment I'm collecting yet another memory, one that at some point in the future will be more satisfying than a shoebox filled with old photographs.

ph: leon levinstein

"The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order." - Eudora Welty

The following dessert is a classic 1950's Jell-O Lemon Pie recipe sometimes called Berried Treasure Pie because of the fresh strawberries. I know for most of you strawberries are out of season so feel free to use whatever berries you have available.

Jell-O Lemon Pie (Berried Treasure)
1 package (8-oz) cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 prepared graham cracker pie crust
1 cup halved fresh strawberries
1 envelope Dream Whip* or 1 small Cool Whip
1 package (4 servings size) Jell-O Lemon Instant Pudding
1 cup milk
  1. Beat cream cheese with sugar and 2 tablespoon milk in bowl until smooth.
  2. Spread evenly in bottom of pie crust.
  3. Arrange berries on mixture.
  4. Prepare dream whip.
  5. Prepare pudding mix with 1 cup milk as directed on package for pie, fold in 1 cup of Dream Whip.
  6. Spoon into pie crust. Garnish with remaining Dream Whip and additional berries.
*Dream Whip is a whipped, non-dairy topping for desserts that is made at home from a white powder. You empty the powder into a bowl, add 1/2 cup of cold milk, and 1/2 tsp vanilla, and beat it with an electric mixer for approximately 4 minutes. Each envelope makes 2 cups in volume.

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