Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Comfort Food

All this talk of Mamaw’s chocolate pudding and apple tarts has really made me think about 1) food (but what else is new?) and 2) how childhood memories – at least in the South, though I assume it's universal – have a way of getting tied up with food. I have tons of memories of being outside and riding bikes and exploring the chicken coops in Papaw’s barn – but those memories are linked to walking back inside, wandering into Mamaw’s kitchen, and finding a snack of fresh lemonade and leftover toast with a little homemade plum jelly on it.

When I was a little girl, being at Mamaw and Papaw Davis’ house meant chocolate pudding, homemade apple tarts, fried chicken, fresh vegetables, and a loaf of white bread on the table at every meal. Mamaw Davis died when I was 12, so I haven’t had her food in over 20 years, but I can taste her fried corn right now, not to mention her sweet tea that had so much sugar it actually made you pucker a little bit when you swallowed it.

Being at Mamaw and Papaw Sims’ house meant sixteen kinds of ice cream in the deep freeze, boiled peanuts, and basically all the treats Mama and Daddy would never let us have. Mamaw Sims died when I was five, so I don’t remember her cooking, but I do remember that Papaw Sims would LOAD US UP on candy and popcorn and peanuts and ice cream when we visited. To this very day, if Sister and I are together and have to stop at a convenience store, one of us will buy diet Mountain Dews (it would’ve been Sundrop back in the day), peanuts, bubble gum, Red Hots, etc. – and then imitate Papaw Sims when we distribute the goodies.

Even at three, Alex knows that going to my mama and daddy’s house means donuts, Coke, and Cheetos, and going to David's mother's means biscuits, Goldfish, and chocolate. It makes me smile.

Now I know I’m from the South, where we talk about what’s for lunch while we’re eating breakfast, where we bemoan how stuffed we are while we ask somebody to pass us that coconut cake, but my guess is that just about everybody has two or three (or nine or eleven) foods that remind them of childhood, and comfort, and family.

Mine are fried okra, mashed potatoes, chocolate pie and sweet tea.

What are yours?

I reserve the right to ask for recipes.


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