Waxing Nostalgic

The fondest memories are made when gathered around the table

– Unknown

Every one of us has special food memories that we hold dear.  Maybe it’s the smell of your Grandma’s biscuits baking on a Sunday morning.  Or maybe it’s the way your mom’s homemade sauce makes you feel all warm and cozy inside.  Or maybe it’s just seeing a particular food label or product that takes you right back to being a kid. Whatever your memory, food has an uncanny way of stirring up in us so many feelings, emotions, and memories.  When I think back, some of my best food memories center around my grandparents house in Farmingdale. They’ve long since sold it and sadly, my Grandpa is no longer with us, but I’ve always looked back fondly on the years that I spent there as a child.

One of my most favorite memories are of sleepovers at my grandparents house which always meant waking up to the delicious smells of warm bakery goodies for breakfast. My Grandpa was always an early bird so he’d be out and at the local bakery first thing in the morning to pick us up the most incredible raisin biscuits, sugary jelly doughnuts, and my favorite “booby rolls” (as I called them when I was little) which were just soft rolls with the little peaked swirl on top.  There was no better breakfast than these delectable treats that my Grandpa bought home.  We’d gather around the table, Grandpa with his hot cup of coffee in hand and Grandma with curlers in her hair, and we’d just eat and talk and laugh and make memories.

When the weather turned from frosty winter air to warm summer breezes it meant lots of time at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and lots of BBQ’s.  We always had your standard fare at our BBQ’s, burgers and hot dogs, but we also had some traditional staples that were made by the family.  My Aunt Lorraine would always make her delicious homemade macaroni salad and someone in my family would always make sure to make homemade Italian potato salad which is a delicious mix of potatoes, hard boiled eggs, oregano, salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Simple but so good.  Even now, decades later, that Italian potato salad is a staple at all of our family BBQ’s.  We’d spend hours relaxing in the yard, swimming in the pool, eating around the picnic table, and making memories.

Then there were the holidays which were always a very special time at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, especially Christmas.  All of my family would come together a few weeks before the holiday and every aunt, uncle, and cousin would work together to make the struffoli, cake balls, and Italian pizzelle cookies. We would spend hours listening to Mitch Miller and Bing Crosby singing the holiday classics while we all rolled dough, mixed ingredients, and made memories.

Because that’s what food is all about, right?  It’s not so much about the food itself.  Food is about the people you’re sharing it with, the love that went into making it, and the way it brings people together.  So many things have changed in my family over the years and even though we might not all get together to bake like we use to, BBQ’s are fewer and more far between, and sleepovers with Grandma and Grandpa have long since ended I still have all of my very special memories.  EVERY time I bite into a pizzelle, make a batch of Italian potato salad, or have a soft buttery “booby roll” it takes me right back to those times on 11 Hallock Street and I smile.  Because, well, memories.  REALLY good memories.

So now that I am a mom it’s really important to me to continue the kitchen traditions of my family so that my children grow up with their special food memories too.  They’ve made homemade pizzas with their Grandpa, we bake traditional Italian Easter Bread every year and eat it on Easter morning for breakfast like I did as a kid, thanks to my mom’s cooking they’ve been able to try my Great Grandma’s delicious Pizza Rustica recipe, and every Christmas we make Italian Pizzelle cookies on the same cast iron griddles that my Grandma used.  Memories.  Tradition.  It’s what coming together in the kitchen and gathering around the table is all about.

So even if though life gets busy, try and make the time to gather around the table, even if it’s just for a bowl of cereal.  Talk.  Connect. Make those memories.  When you’re tired and not in the mood to cook alongside your kids do it anyway because the time that you spend with them showing them how to mix, measure, or chop will be the little things they remember as they grow up.  If my kids so much as hear me open a drawer in the kitchen they run in and beg to cook and bake with me.  I admit, some days I want to (and have) said no, but if I am not in a rush I try to remind myself that these moments are important.  This moments matter.  So I grab the extra bowls and towels, throw some aprons on my little sous chefs, and we get cooking.  The smiles on the their little faces as we work together in the kitchen make it all worth it!  The experiences and times we’ve shared together in the kitchen are my most priceless food memories of all.

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