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Antonio Burrell

Formative Food Memories

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7 hours ago, curiouskitkatt said:

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. 

And thank you for bringing this to the top of my unread content list.  I actually teared up reading some of these descriptions from those who are far better writers than myself.

If I had to do a Top 3 list, I'd describe the following:

1) Stuffed cabbage - There was never any question when it was stuffed cabbage day as soon as you walked in the house. Probably not authentic by any stretch (mom was a WASP from suburban Chicago) but man were these fantastic. Sauerkraut and tomatoes with a simply meaty stuffed cabbage. Everyone loved these in our house and whenever we made them one of my best friends insisted on getting a phone call and joining us - even through high school.  He still posts on Facebook about my mom's stuffed cabbage and it was the first thing his wife told me about when I met her.

2) Chopped liver - It never even occurred to me that this was something that kids avoided.  My Aunt Barbara (that's Jewish for 'older distant relative') and her mom made this every year for Thanksgiving and it was like crack on plain old Saltine crackers.  I can't imagine the nutritional content here, but Thanksgiving was an annual tradition with so many memories that persist to this day - starting with chopped liver.  And yes, as an adult, foie gras mousse is objectively better.  Not sure which I'd go for first though.

3) Italian feasts - I'd always loved food and decided to study Italian for two key reasons. One - everyone loves Italian food, right?  Second - everyone in Spanish 1 in college clearly had taken Spanish for several years - except for the two frigging Puerto Ricans who I spoke to after the class.  I'm sure they never studied Spanish in high school.  Anyhow, studying Italian led to a year in Bologna, which is still one of the most amazing experiences I've had.  Weaving through the streets to maximize the smell of the macelleria on one street and the panetteria on another.  The capstone of that whole adventure though was the wonderful Herb Market - an enclosed warehouse of various fruit, vegetable, meat and other stands. I could - and did - spend hours just walking through here, making friends with the stand owners, and buying absurd amounts of food to feed myself and my flat-mates.  Makes you realize that much of what makes the food in Italy (or insert another country of your choice) is that the fresh produce, meat, fish, or dairy was grown or raised to maximize flavor, not for almost any other attribute.  I may need to book a trip back just thinking about it.

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10 minutes ago, zgast said:

And thank you for bringing this to the top of my unread content list.  I actually teared up reading some of these descriptions from those who are far better writers than myself.

2) Chopped liver - It never even occurred to me that this was something that kids avoided.  My Aunt Barbara (that's Jewish for 'older distant relative') and her mom made this every year for Thanksgiving and it was like crack on plain old Saltine crackers.  I can't imagine the nutritional content here, but Thanksgiving was an annual tradition with so many memories that persist to this day - starting with chopped liver.  And yes, as an adult, foie gras mousse is objectively better.  Not sure which I'd go for first though. 

My eyes welled up as well reading through the posts, and by the way, I love chopped liver.

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My mother is a terrific cook. She gave me a copy of her cookbook. I tried a recipe and it didn't taste anything like her cooking. So I called her up and she went on to explain how she did this, and that, and doubled this thing and left this thing out. I took notes and all of my cookbooks have notes in them.

My grandmother. She would, once a year, make gumbo (seafood only to be very clear). To celebrate her life and introduce my second child to the family, my cousin got a photocopy of my Mimi's gumbo recipe with her notes written on it. Counsin purchased all of the stuff for it, and a bunch of cousins spent the day making a HUGE pot of gumbo. It was so fun. I don't even know what my kids were up to at the time.

Thanksgiving. Growing up three of my cousins and I all had birthdays Thanksgiving week and the feast would end with a birthday cake. Every Thanksgiving the host would make the bird, and everybody else would bring various sides. For some reason, when I "grew up" I insisted on making pretty much all of Thanksgiving until this year. This year, all I made was the bird and a soup. Guests brought the rest. I loved it. I felt that familiar joy of sharing and family memories. 

Gardening. Taught by parents. I do it. My kids do it and like mentioned up thread, we eat warm tomatoes and cucumbers off the vine. We are horrible gardeners but that's not why we do it. We do it for the warm tomatoes. The other stuff that grows is just lagniappe. 

Love this thread.

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