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Antonio Burrell

Formative Food Memories

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Growing up in upstate NY back in the early 70's, my grandparents would take us to an Italian restaurant nearby every once in a great while. I can still conjure up the taste of their linguini with white clam sauce. I loved it and somehow knew that their food was a cut above the usual fare available elsewhere.

My mom wasn't much of a cook, but she did make some killer chicken and dumplings. The downside was her affinity for canned Lima beans. I would gag at the dinner table. To this day, I think they were the most awful thing I've ever eaten.

My dad was always insistent on me trying everything. I hated a lot of it (only to like most of it later in life), but I partially credit his effort for my interest in food as I got older. Oddly, he isn't much of a foodie. My strongest memory of this is trying oysters when he moved to Baltimore. I thought it was cool that I was the only kid at Lexington Market downing oyster after oyster. He even let me have a taste of his Natty Bo.

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My mom wasn't much of a cook, but she did make some killer chicken and dumplings. The downside was her affinity for canned Lima beans. I would gag at the dinner table. To this day, I think they were the most awful thing I've ever eaten.

Oh, yeah, my mother served canned lima beans too, as well as canned beets.  Emerging from childhood I thought there were 3 things I would never eat: lima beans, beets, and liver.  Many years ago, I was at a dinner party and the hostess exclaimed excitedly that she was roasting beets.  I thought to myself, "Oh, my God, how am I going to choke them down?"  Well, of course, they were fantastic and I've loved beets ever since.  A few years later, I encountered lima beans at an upscale restaurant.  They were fresh, of course, and I really liked them.  Not so much that I would seek them out over other beans, but I don't avoid them anymore.  At a farewell party that German friends threw for me in Berlin as I was preparing to return to the U.S. after several years there, they announced with great fanfare that the main course was liver in a curry sauce!  I thought about feigning illness and fleeing, but fortunately, I stayed and took a very tentative bite and kind of liked it.  It's sad how bad childhood experiences can taint our feelings about certain foods.  And, unless we're forced into trying them, we may never know what we're missing.

And then there are good childhood experiences!  I don't think my grandma was a world-class cook, by any means, but boy could she make a great rhubarb pie with rhubarb she grew in her backyard.  I can still see and taste those pies.  Rhubarb remains one of my favorite foods.  She also grew tomatoes and she used to pay me and my sisters 5 cents for every tomato hornworm we could locate "“ luckily, we didn't have to actually touch the worms, just alert her to their presence and she would dispatch them with great glee.  Her meatloaf, which she cooked in a pressure cooker, was fantastic to my childhood palate "“ it was slathered in a homemade tomato sauce (no doubt made from the tomatoes in her yard) and accompanied by potatoes that were also prepared in the pressure cooker.  I was scared of that pressure cooker, but wow, I loved the food that came out of it!  She also made her own jams and jellies and, to this day, I miss her apple butter.  In addition to her cooking, she taught me every card game I ever knew.  She had so much life in her and I'm convinced that my lifelong love affair with food started with her.

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My grandma made the best peanut butter and honey sandwiches.  Laid the honey on thick, as it should be.  To this day I make a PB&H with creamed honey because it goes on thick (for the record, I'm not a fan of PB&J).  I also remember her big candy bowl of small Snickers bars, and over the course of one visit my 3 siblings and I cleaned that thing out.  I certainly played a big role.  She gave us flak for that.

In a few weeks I'll be visiting her with my mom.  She is in the late stages of dementia and has no clue who I am.

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My mother was the daughter of Lithuanian and Italian immigrants.  She had an uncanny ability to execute any recipe perfectly.  When we weren't having Hamburger Helper or Old El Paso type meals, she'd cook mostly from the original Gourmet cookbooks, which didn't list ingredients, they just started out with the instructions, like "sautee a handful of garlic in the fat rendered from a pound of bacon" or whatever.  Fun recipes to read.  But seriously, you could have handed her a Mexican or Indian cookbook and if she could find the ingredients, she'd get the dish exactly right.

The funny thing, though, is that like a lot of people from her time and place, she was a little embarrassed by her heritage, so she didn't often cook the foods she grew up eating.  My parents fled small town Pennsylvania because they were tired of small-minded people.  No-one expected their mixed marriage to work.  No, I'm not half black; Mom was Catholic and Dad was Presbyterian.  That was a mixed marriage to their people.  Dad's family thought it was beneath him to marry a hunky (regional slang term for poor white Catholics).

But their marriage did work, maybe because they'd moved the family to a more open-minded place (suburban Maryland), and every once in awhile Mom would cook something really, seriously ethnic.  Lithuanian cabbage rolls, for example, or certain Italian dishes, like cappelletti en brodo every Christmas eve, or pumpkin filled tortelloni.  For the most part, though, she just wanted to fit in, so only relatives and close family friends ever got to eat that type of food.

So many of my food memories are tied up with memories of her.  We broadened each others' horizons.  She fell in love with Indian cuisine because when I was in high school I befriended an Indian girl and had dinner at her house one night, which led to my buying Madhur Jaffrey's An Invitation to Indian Cooking and surprising my parents by cooking them something from it, I don't remember what, biryani maybe?  And thereafter my parents loved it when I cooked them Indian food or took them to an Indian restaurant.

Then there's coffee...  My parents were so nuts about coffee that even after we moved from Potomac to Gaitherspatch Mom would go grocery shopping once a week at this little shop in a big apartment building in Bethesda, because they carried Swing's coffee, and that was the best.  (This was mid-1970s.)   I carry on the tradition by driving to Qualia or Filter or Blind Dog or wherever to get good fresh coffee beans, about once a week.

Today is the day after Mothers' Day and the eighth anniversary of my mother's death.  I've been thinking about her all day and just felt the need to write something, somewhere.  Thanks for indulging me.  Hope this wasn't too maudlin or anything.

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Dad's family thought it was beneath him to marry a hunky (regional slang term for poor white Catholics).

Today is the day after Mothers' Day and the eighth anniversary of my mother's death.  I've been thinking about her all day and just felt the need to write something, somewhere.  Thanks for indulging me.  Hope this wasn't too maudlin or anything.

I can't believe it's been eight years. :(

People that grew up being called hunkies are still *very* insulted by the term. My mom was half-Italian, half-Croatian, and I heard that term mentioned around her once - given the situation, it was topical, lighthearted and in jest, but she didn't even crack a smile.

My mom was not a good cook (she worked full-time and raised three kids), but the one thing I'll always remember was her stuffed cabbages. Minute rice, ground beef, canned tomatoes - despite middling ingredients, this dish was in her blood, and she made it well.

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In her novella The Ponder Heart, Eudora Welty wrote one of my favorite character descriptions of all time, when her narrator Edna Earle Ponder describes Uncle Daniel Ponder's estranged bride Bonnie Dee Peacock as "curled up on Grandma's rosewood sofa . . . eating the kind of fudge anybody can make." My mom would have never stooped to making that kind of fudge, but her precisely cooked and beaten mixture of chocolate, butter, cream, and vanilla was my other highlight of every Christmas, and to this day no one in the family has quite been able to reproduce it, even as we all pronounced it the world's best. I suspect the secret was in the old Revereware pan she cooked it in (missing its Bakelite handle) and/or the silver spoon she beat it with--still one of my treasures, with the left edge of its bowl worn flat from the fearsome beating she gave to that hot chocolatey soup until it surrendered into a silky mass that melted the second it touched human lips.

Nearly as impressive was her tissue-thin peanut brittle, stretched to its translucent limits by her buttered fingers that must have been utterly calloused from years of contact with the hot caramelized sugar.

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Dad's family thought it was beneath him to marry a hunky (regional slang term for poor white Catholics).

<pedant> Actually it's about being Eastern European (especially Polish/Ukrainian). The Catholicism part is corollary (if you're Polish, you're Catholic). My WASP ancestors shat on the Italians and the Irish. The Irish and Italians needed to find some way to shit on the Poles and other Slavs who arrived a few decades later. "Hunky" or "bo-hunk" comes from the label of being "Bohemian and/or "Hungarian" and was later applied to all of the Slavs that immigrated to work in the mines/mills. When I was growing up, it was the equivalent of the N-word for those of Eastern European descent.

It shifted into being a general term for teased hair, Chess King shopping, lower class mall rats (think Jersey Shore) without strict regard to ethnicity in the 80s.

It was one thing for a boy higher up in the social order to screw a hunky girl, but god forbid a girl higher in the social order even be seen talking to a bo-hunk boy.</pedant>

Sorry to hijack. It was a lovely story. I use your mom's stock pot and cuisinart on a regular basis and think of her and you when I do. : )

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Sorry to hijack. It was a lovely story. I use your mom's stock pot and cuisinart on a regular basis and think of her and you when I do. : )

I can't believe it's been eight years, either. Your mother's mini food processor is still going strong and has to proved to be very handy for our two-person household. Not to mention the other things we bought, which we use all the time.

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Sorry to hijack. It was a lovely story. I use your mom's stock pot and cuisinart on a regular basis and think of her and you when I do. : )

No worries!  I didn't mean for this to become the memorial to porcupine's mother thread.  I'm glad you and Barbara are still using her stuff.  Mom would have been appalled at my Blanche DuBois turn, but I learned something valuable through that whole experience, about the power of kindness and generosity.  :-)

Back to (happier) formative food memories.

The time I had dinner at a friend's house and tried spoon bread for the first time.  Her mother was from Atlanta.

My introduction to Middle Eastern cuisine was through a friend whose mother came here from Armenia.  I fell in love with Turkish Armenian coffee thanks to that family.

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No worries!  I didn't mean for this to become the memorial to porcupine's mother thread.  I'm glad you and Barbara are still using her stuff.  Mom would have been appalled at my Blanche DuBois turn, but I learned something valuable through that whole experience, about the power of kindness and generosity.  :-)

Back to (happier) formative food memories.

Nonsense. It's a pleasure to talk about your mom, and it's especially nice that others in this community are putting her things to good use.

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My formative food memories:

My Sister and Brother in Law's Italian (Greek) restaurant in Deep Creek Lake.  I loved eating there.  The greek dressing, stuffed clams, clam linguine, veal parm all such good stuff.  The place had the worst restaurant uniforms and those ugly stained glass lights and thick carpet.  In today's standards I am sure it would be quite tacky, but we loved it then and so did everyone else.  There were huge windows that overlooked the lake.  I got to help clean glasses behind the bar for part of my sister's tips.  The best part was the ice cream, you could get a vanilla ice cream sundae with chocolate sauce for 10 cents.  I loved this.  They had Andes mints on the way out the door.  To this day all those foods are things I love.  We went here for most big family occasions, Dad's business dinners.  I ate so many meals at the place, the sides of spaghetti you got with your entree were my school lunches on so many other days, the building still lives on in other incarnations, but nothing will ever be as good as the Silver Tree in my mind.

My favorite foods were mostly from my Amish Nanny- snitz pies, pepperoni rolls, toast with strawberry freezer jam and a slice of colby cheese.  Her apple sauce was made from early apples and is runny and thin, I love the taste.  She made awesome pies, sticky buns, everything.  But her homemade bread with strawberry freezer jam was the best.  My grandad also made great freezer jam, I would eat it on white toast (which I never got to eat) with butter and his breakfasts he would make thick bacon, fried eggs, potatoes, it was so good.  Much better than dinner which was normally catfish.

My brother and I used to go to Sirianni's yearly pre-Christmas to buy a picture by this artist for my Mom.  We loved Sirriani's anyway, but these trips where my brother would drive and we would have this time together was really special.

I have so many food memories, my family is full of food memories.  The last that really left an impression on me was my Mom's chicken fajitas and german chocolate cake (not eaten together although that would be like my prison last meal).  My Mom was a great cook and made so many things well, cabonara, etc.  But I love her chicken fajitas, this was always my stranded on a desert island with one food answer.  There was just something about them that was so good.  Maybe it was the old cast iron skillet they were made in, I'm not sure but they are soo good.  Her German Chocolate Cake isn't unusual, in fact it is the recipe on the inside of the baking chocolate wrapper, but her homemade three layer german chocolate cake is like a miracle for the sole.  Really I could just eat a big pot of the icing but the cake is wonderful too.  It is gooey and perfect.  She normally makes this for me on my birthday, it's always my request.  My Aunt makes really good bread pudding souffle with whiskey sauce, but my Mom's german chocolate cake is just like all my perfect flavors in one.

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Lots of formative food memories:

But here are two that are linked.  When I was a child (under 10) my mother used to try to serve calf's liver to me and pretend it was steak.  But I could not chew it or swallow it-- it tasted dry and unpleasant and minerally and I literally could not masticate it and swallow it.  And the worst was that I was salivating for that steak so the shock of the calf's liver was even worse.  I still cannot abide calves liver.

On the other hand, I adored my grandmother's chopped chicken liver.  She chopped lightly sauteed chicken livers with tons of sauteed onions (drenched in schmalz) and hard-boiled eggs --using a mezzaluna in a wide, shallow wooden bowl that was only used for this dish.  Salt. Pepper.  I loved to watch her turn the bowl and chop over the ingredients until they turned into a wonderful mush.   The  onions, schmalz and eggs made the liver taste very rich and I never associated it with calf's liver.  I don't remember any parsley but I add parsley and thyme now when I make it.  I never saw her use a mezzaluna for anything else.

One restaurant memory:  The first time i had good  Indian food was at Apana on M Street in Georgetown in 1977, I believe.  I was overwhelmed by the combination of spices and flavors -- and I kept saying to my boyfriend: "this food is making love to my mouth."  I went out the next day and bought Madhur Jaffrey's An Invitation to Indian Cooking but I was very frustrated because I  could not replicate the amazing flavors with supermarket spices.  Eventually, I discovered a small Indian spice store in Virginia and then I cooked almost nothing but Indian food for months.

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My favorite foods were mostly from my Amish Nanny-

You've written about her before; the more you write the more I build a sense of her character in my mind.  She must have been a remarkable woman.

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I don't have a lot of positive food experiences when I was growing up.  My family believed that they should feed their kids what they consider to be nutritious, no matter how much the kids hate it.  So boiled liver, unsweetened hot milk, really hard boiled eggs, and goat stew all figured heavily in the childhood parade of food horrors.  My grandmother was a decent cook, but the awful food definitely stood out more than any good food.  A few of the more positive memories were:

- watching hundreds of wantons cooling during the holidays

- fishing for crayfish during one summer and eating crayfish everyday for weeks

- first taste of a pineapple sorbet

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You've written about her before; the more you write the more I build a sense of her character in my mind.  She must have been a remarkable woman.

She is, she is a short stalky woman, her hair used to be jet black, but now it is gray.  In her old age she has gotten some hair on her upper lip, but she doesn't really care about her appearance, she may have at one time.  Her long hair always rolled into a bun and tucked into her bonnet is a lot thinner now since it grew back after chemo. She has this laugh that is halfway between a bird song laugh and a chuckle. So many sentences started with well....  She is such a happy person, full of warmth.  She really was like a second Mother to me.  She always wore teal or purple dresses, she liked color.  She had some other colors, but those were her favorites.  If you ever see an Amish woman walking in Georgetown it's probably her.  She has to come down to NIH for check ups from time to time and likes to see DC.  Her attitude on life has always been quite lasse-fair.  She still watches children, and I am sure she is still quite good at it.  She let you get into just enough trouble to let you be a kid, but not to get hurt in any way.  But she believed that sometimes you needed to learn a lesson the hard way, so she let you make mistakes.   Her touch in baking was so light though.  She would make homemade doughnuts, when I would touch them the rise would collapse, but she could lightly toss them into the hot grease without them losing their puffy exterior.  I was there from 3 months old until I went into Kindergarten and then was still there on all school breaks when my Mom had to work till I could be home alone.  I was always embarrassed by that, so many other kids Mom's were teachers who stayed home in the summer and I was so jealous of that.  But the work ethic that I learned from my Nanny is something I will never regret learning.  Work wasn't a punishment it was just something that you had to do, things had to get done so you might as well learn to enjoy doing them.  So it was just expected and you shouldn't complain.  I can distinctly remember the bowls we would eat out of, some sort of resin substance in neutral colors and she had lots of Tupperware.  When she lived alone before she married the Schwann man used to bring us ice cream and other treats, we loved that.  Once she was married she watched less kids, mainly me so she had more time to make more things.  Her Step Father was one of the heads of the sect in our area, he was a great woodworker.  Her Mother was so small, even as short as I am, she is much more petite.  Which is funny since all of her daughters are taller than her.  Her one sister is beautiful and blonde.  She tragically lost her son who was shot while his house was being robbed this past year.  She also lost one of her daughters, the tragedies for that family have been great.  Her other sister has nine children, all who lead such interesting lives.  Her husband has a business driving wagons pulled by his beautiful horses, he has in particular two huge Clydesdale that are especially pretty.  In the winter he takes people in a big white sled.  He has always been fairly entreprenuial with some ideas working and some not, I think the sect probably gets a bit tired of him.  His sons now run his farm which is probably a good thing, but he is a wonderful guy and his wife is so fun.  I see their daughters from time to time who I loved to get to play with when I was little, that was a big treat as they were more my own age.  I love hearing about what they are doing.  My Nanny has three children, two girls and a boy, none married yet, which is a little strange for their age, but I think like her they are a very well something will happen or it doesn't type of family.  I kind of feel like now it was the other kids who parents stayed home in the summer who got the raw end of the deal.  My law school friends are fascinated by my Nanny and are itching to meet her.

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I had this memory the other day - I think it was my first trip ever to DC. My family came in to see the cherry blossoms and hit the museums (I still have an Air & Space museum poster that's dated September 1984-September 1985, so that time frame). I was so excited about astronaut ice cream...

We went to an Irish restaurant one night. I'd never had that style of food before - growing up in Morgantown, WV, you either ate Italian or "country" style (fish sticks, for some reason, long cooked green beans, squirrel in gravy over mashed potatoes, Western Sizzlin' on special occasions). I had cottage or shepherd's pie or something like that and it blew me away, I'd never imagined a "meat pie".

It was so cool!

I wish I knew what the name of the place was. I can see the outside fairly clearly, but I had no idea of neighborhoods, or where we even stayed...but I remember that restaurant, and the Air & Space museum.

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Growing up, I couldn't stand the taste of licorice or anise.  Not liking the latter was a minor problem in my family, as every trip to visit family back near Pittsburgh involved pizzelle, and the trip back was always by way of a small Italian grocery store called DeLallo's, and Mom would always buy a package or four of pizzelle for the trip home (if relatives hadn't given us some), and my brother would tease me about not liking them...

Sometime in my teen years I started liking anise a little.

Early in our marriage Mr. P and I splurged on a dinner at The Inn at Little Washington.  This was a major thing for us; we lived in an apartment, I had a low-paying job in a lab, he was a grad student.  We really shouldn't have been spending money on something like that.  But we went anyway.

And then one of the palate refresher courses arrived: cream of fennel soup.  Because of my aversion to licorice and anise, fennel was never on my radar.  I'm not sure I was aware of its existence.  Mom never cooked with it, and I don't think Giant or Safeway or A&P ever carried something so exotic.

I remember thinking something like "great, fennel, that's like licorice, yuck, I hate licorice".  And I also thought something like "here I am at this phenomenal (and phenomenally expensive) restaurant that I'll probably never be able to eat at again, I'm not saying "no" to anything".

That soup was so good, so rich yet so delicate, the fennel flavor pronounced but not overwhelming, that it remains one of the best things I've ever eaten.

Suddenly fennel was my favorite vegetable.  It still is.

I still hate licorice, though.

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I love reading this thread, & hearing about everyone's food memories. One of my strongest is that my Dad (who was an occasional enthusiastic cook) loved to fix breakfast on the weekends. Enough food for an army-bacon, sausages, home fries, eggs (& geez, I hated eggs), but I'd try to eat some, so he knew that I appreciated his cooking.

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Another funny story that somewhat involves my Amish Nanny.  I am thinking of it now as the scent of pepperoni rolls permeates the condo.  Pepperoni rolls are a Western Maryland and West Virginia tradition developed by the wives of Italian coal miners because they could take it into the mine and they don't spoil for days. They were known somewhat in Western Maryland too.  I loved them.  I was obsessed with pepperoni as a child.  We used to stop at those little roadside deli/general stores in West Virginia while riding to and through and if they had it I would get a pepperoni sandwich.  Mom used to make pepperoni rolls a lot back before she went back to work when I was born.  Once I was born when we were having a big party, such as Autumn Glory, she would ask Ida to make them for her.  Ida kind of became the pepperoni roll queen of Oakland because hers were very good.  Plain whole wheat bread dough and stick of pepperoni (not slices).  At Autumn Glory we have hordes of people in our homes and these are a staple to feed the masses at parade time and Ida would make them for really cheap, I would help her make big boxes of them.  She started making them for other things too and other people.  The Amish kind of liked them because you could easily take them out on a tractor when you were working.

A few years back she was asked to speak for a group in Baltimore about traditional Amish foods and about the tradition of pepperoni rolls in Western Maryland.  They asked about the pepperoni rolls.  They asked her when she started making them.  Her answer, "Oh well, Mikal probably first asked me to start making them in about 1985." But when did the tradition of making them start? "Well I guess the next year after that it became a tradition." And what makes an Amish pepperoni roll unique? "Nothing, I just make them the regular way. It's not really an Amish thing, Katie and Adam just really liked them so Mikal would have me make them." When did the Amish start making them? "Well I was probably the first person to do it." The poor woman who led the talk had no idea that it wasn't Amish and that it was just something that caught on when Ida started making them for a family originating from West Virginia.  She was a bit embarrassed.  Ida never noticed she just went on.  They changed the subject to apple snitz or something.   Now all my friends from law school know about pepperoni rolls.  And a woman I work with is from the Smoke Holes and Franklin and I take some into work for her when I make them and now my office knows about them, my paralegal went to WVU and wants them too.  The scent reminds me of her kitchen.  We would have pepperoni rolls rising all over the house on pans then cooling after they baked on a huge sheet spread over the kitchen table.  In so many ways I had a very sad childhood and in so many ways I had the happiest.  I have often thought about writing a book about Ida.

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You should write a book about Ida, but first you should post her recipe for pepperoni rolls.  :-)

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You should write a book about Ida, but first you should post her recipe for pepperoni rolls.  :-)

I should!  Here is a picture of the pepperoni rolls made last night.  They aren't Ida's recipe, as I didn't have the right type of flour for that.

post-5988-0-34637800-1405104686_thumb.jp

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The other day I had a hummus type spread at Bayou Bakery.  Its made with pickled black eyed peas, uses cayenne red pepper and a Louisiana Hot Sauce, and a variety of other ingredients to create a Cajun taste.  Quite good.

It had me recall a vegetarian spread my mother made for several decades.  She made it in lieu of chopped liver for various Jewish holidays, wanting to cut down on cholesterol.  It became one of her signature dishes and her effort to combat cholesterol was ahead of her time.  It was quite delicious.  Over the decades she varied its design adding different spices to alter the taste.   Very inventive.

I really enjoyed Bayou Bakery's spread, but truth be told I'd pick my Mom's spread first, every day of the week.

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I love blackeyed peas, over almost any other legume. Your spread sounds great, I think a falafel w/ blackeyed peas would be a hit (I keep trying falafel, wanting to really LOVE it, but it hasn't happened yet).

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On 4/23/2014 at 2:28 AM, Antonio Burrell said:

I got to thinking as I do from time to time about the things that formed me as a person. From how I view life in general and more lately thinking about what formed the paradigm through which I see food. I thought it'd be interesting for all of us to exchange stories about what made us love food first. What memories do you tie to specific people and times, good or bad, funny or somber. Share them all. Let's all get back to what this community was founded on. Good food, good conversations about said food and meeting people who like the same shit you do. Everybody chime in and let's find out how similar we are.

I'll start with two particular memories:

1) the love I have of fresh off the vine, perfectly ripe and warm tomatoes and cucumbers, washed and slice. Dressed simply with salt, vinegar and pepper if you wish. The tomatoes so juicy that it makes its own sauce with the vinegar. The salty bursting through in pockets, the cucumber so crisp, a quick pickle in its simplest. 4-5 things top all perfect. Love it.

2) I always associate bryers ice cream with my Grandfather Luther. My Granddaddy. Well when I was just a wee lass, my Grandaddy used to take me to the store and let me pick out a half gallon of icecream. In the beginning it was Pine State which was awesome and then later it got to be Breyers cause it's what replaced Pine State at the store. I always got to pick the flavor although sometimes he'd hint at something. It was usually chocolate or mint chocolate chip. Every night of my vacation to the farm, after my bath, he'd sit me on his lap next to the freezer in the dining room. It'd just be me and him by the light filtering in from the kitchen, eating ice cream, taking turns feeding each other and rapping about life.

So that's the kinda stuff I'm talking about. You wanna share life shattering stories about some restaurant you visited that changed your life? Fine I guess but..snooze alert. I don't care about that stuff, we wanna know the real you. The online real you anyway.

Share away peeps...

This thread is an absolute gem. Thank you @porcupine for reminding me of how incredible all of the contributions are to DR!

I have so many food memories, I'm not sure where to even start. 

I will start with sharing my theory on how I became one of  coolest kids in school. I owe it all to my Mom, and her refusal to make what I obnoxiously called "American" food. I mean no offense by describing it that way. All of my friends were not Lao, and all I wanted was to be able to eat peanut butter and jelly with juice, but instead my Mom made sticky rice and lemongrass beef. She insisted I invite all the kids from school to our house for BBQ's and afterschool snacks. I remember being so embarrassed thinking that my school mates would turn their nose up to the smell of the food, and how different it was from what they normally ate. 

From the very moment my friends would walk into our home, I remember the sense of awe the kids had from just the aroma of the food cooking. Mom would explain to my friends that we were Lao and we eat with our hands. The kids could hardly wait to dig in. To this very day, I continue to give rice steamer baskets, and thip kaos  as gifts to friends so that they can make sticky rice at home. 

 There are times when I run into friends from elementary school, and to this very day, they remind me how much fun they had eating sticky rice and beef at our house. 

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