Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How to write a food memory

I see a little boy in a white chef's hat at the play stove concocting some imaginary meal for me . . .
When I dig out the chef's hat, it's yellowed from age. But the memory---now over seventeen years old---will never yellow, never fade. There are days it is as fresh as today's gardenia blooms.

Recalling our loved ones through food makes sense. Food and gatherings with food are a large part of our lives; everybody has some food-related memory to share.

Memories coupled with favorite recipes go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Spend some time writing your own memory of a loved one.

Some Tips

* Take your time. We rush through much of life; this is not the time to plough through. Instead, slow down.
* Find a secluded spot away from distraction.
* Use a comfortable pen and notebook.
* To help you remember, look at a photo of your loved one. Spend some time describing the photo. As you think about your loved one, let yourself remember.
* Write with your senses----sight, sound, smell, and touch.
* Tell your story in your own style.
* Play some music to enhance the experience.
* Close your eyes; recall.
* After you have written a few lines, dig a bit deeper. Ask yourself what is it that you want to convey.
* If sentences are hard to compose at first, just jot down words that come to mind.
* String the words into sentences.
* Read your memory aloud.
* Make any necessary changes.
* Read it aloud once again.
* You have created a food memory!

Two Examples

Billy loved meatloaf sandwiches. Just reading that line makes me want to read more. It's not every day that you hear about meatloaf sandwiches. In my first cookbook, Slices of Sunlight, this memory, coupled with the instructions for making meatloaf provided by his mother, brings a smile.

"Billy was much like his dad, Bill, in that he could eat the same thing every day for months at a time. After taking peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school every day for two years, Billy discovered meatloaf sandwiches for his school lunches. Throughout grade 3, 4 and 5, I must have made hundreds of meatloaves! After cooking, I'd put them in the refrigerator to cool, then slice them. I froze the slices. By the time lunchtime at school rolled around, Billy had cold meatloaf sandwiches . . . every day for three years!" (page 14)

The following memory from Kara's mom, first recorded in Down the Cereal Aisle and also included in my newest cookbook, Memories Around the Table, due out next month.

"When my daughter Kara was old enough to no longer ride in the shopping cart at the supermarket, she and I devised a plan that would keep her close to me in the store. Unless I asked her to get an item for me, she was to always have one hand holding onto the side of the shopping cart. We continued using that system for several years until it was no longer needed.

When Kara was in college, she would take me grocery shopping whenever I came for a visit. I could always expect to find a sizeable list ready and waiting for Mom to “foot the bill”. I did not mind as it was just part of the fun of being with her and enjoying our time together.

More than once during these grocery expeditions, I would notice Kara walking beside me, unconsciously holding onto the shopping cart as she had done so many years before. Sometimes I would put my hand over hers and smile. Other times I just let it be a fond memory to file away and cherish in later years.

After Kara died, it was (and still is) very painful to see moms and daughters together, especially when I see a little blond-headed girl in a grocery store with her hand on the cart."

Now it's your turn!

Let writing a food memory bring you some sunshine.

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