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December 2015

Mamas: Food Memory Series (6th and Final Post)

As I wind down my Food Memory Series, as well as 2015, I decide to end with my mama.

Mothers make most of our food memories and as such, deserve some accolades, even if it is just as the finale of this series. 🙂 My mom, Gale Dunaway Kinney, has provided her family with too many food memories to count. She knows how to throw a good dinner party, and she cooks for it herself, too! She provided me with a cooking foundation that was one part tradition, one part nutritious ingredients, one part coupon/sale-centric, and one part progressive. She is a baby boomer and loves the old tried-and-true recipes, but is never afraid to try something new. I am the same way.

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The holidays were always her Super Bowl. She seemed to love cooking and baking, and I swear I could taste her joy in her pecan tea tassies, cherry chews, and  sausage cheese balls. She bakes angel biscuits for friends and neighbors, and always made a goodie tray for my dad’s office. She can fry chicken. She can make a grandchild drool with her cheese wafers. As a mother, I can only hope to reach her culinary greatness and her ability to create lasting food memories.

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She’s not only a great cook. She’s actually a great writer, too; she honed her skills during her many years as an elementary school media specialist and all-around lover of books. She kindly agreed to write a guest blog on her own food memories, and it’s a story I never even knew. Thanks so much for sharing, Mom, and for being you.

Food Memories

by Gale Kinney

I grew up in the Southern Methodist tradition of Sunday dinner after church. If you’ve ever heard Lyle Lovett sing “Church”, you have an idea of the spiritual nature of that midday Sunday meal:

“To the Lord let praises be;
It’s time for dinner now let’s go eat.
We’ve got some beans and some good cornbread;
Now listen to what the preacher said.”

I was the world’s pickiest eater as a kid, but there was a meal that I looked forward to, and that was Sunday roast beef and mashed potatoes. When we came in from church, that eye of round Mama had left roasting in the oven would be getting crispy on the outside. The rich aroma from the caramelizing process promised brown gravy to pour over buttery, creamy potatoes. That regular Sunday dinner made us all hope the preacher wouldn’t preach too long.

Come Monday, though, my mainstay was a peanut butter (no jelly) sandwich on white bread. My mother made me one every day for 12 years and packed it in a brown paper sack for school. The only vegetable I ate was corn. The only fruit I ate was an occasional apple. No food mixed up in a casserole or covered in a sauce.

I’ve been reading up on the psychology of folks with “selective palates.” Apparently, this behavior can be explained as: a. evolutionary, b. biological, or c. environmental. Here’s my case study:

I did have overactive taste buds and a high gag reflex. My worst school day in first grade? That day my teacher insisted I taste the nasty big white Navy beans in the school cafeteria and wash them down with a sip of room temperature milk….
My father was a meat and potatoes guy. He also ate peanut butter crackers after every meal.
My mother indulged both of her picky eaters and prepared food the way we liked it. How frustrating for a woman who loved to cook!
So I guess it was destined for me to grow up as a non-foodie.

And then I fell in love with a boy. Opposites attracted in this case. I ate to live; he lived to eat. There was literally a world of food out there that I had never given a chance. Food from Italy, China, Mexico, Africa. For that matter, I’d never even eaten a good old American hot dog! And so, falling in love with Phil opened the door to falling in love with food.

It started with pizza. I hated tomatoes and anything made with them-ketchup, spaghetti, a tomato sandwich- all were on the yucky list. It’s hard to believe, but in 1966, pizza was very exotic in small town Georgia. Our school cafeteria made their version of pizza every Friday: yeast rolls that rose to a height of about four inches, topped with tomato sauce and a bit of cheese and ground beef. This was served with a side of turnip greens for some strange reason. Needless to say, I stuck with the peanut butter sandwich.

But Phil knew a great pizza place in a nearby town, and so at the age of 17, he took me for my first real pizza experience in Rome. This is true-I ate my first pizza in Rome. Don’t get excited. It was Rome, Georgia! We went to the Pizza King, and I fell in love all over again, but this time it was ground beef pizza. I couldn’t believe what I’d been missing. Those delicious little meatballs and the way the hot cheese would burn the roof of your mouth! The mozzarella would string from the slice of pizza to my mouth and remind me of the scene in the Disney movie of Lady and the Tramp sharing their spaghetti.

After that, I dabbled in trying food that had been standard southern fare at my house for years. Pork chops! I had never tasted pork chops, because I didn’t like the sound of the name. Lima beans smelled funny, but they tasted so earthy and buttery! Finally, something green was on the approved list. Still, nothing could be mixed up in a casserole or touching on the plate.

The first time I went to eat with Phil’s family, his mother, who was another great Southern cook, planned her specialty- Chicken Chow Mein. When I found out that Phil had told her not to cook it because I would hate it, I was totally embarrassed. I insisted that she make her favorite food, with the one caveat. Don’t tell me what’s in it. We turned the lights down, and I ate every bite. Little did I know it contained bean sprouts and mushrooms. But what lovely texture with the crunchy noodles, the crisp sprouts and celery! Now I could add China to my world tour of eating.

After that, it was a matter of time before I was eating chili, squash casserole, Shrimp Creole, Reuben sandwiches with sauerkraut and Thousand Island Dressing, even fried okra. When we got married I had to learn to cook all the foods Phil loved, so of course, I learned to love most of them myself. Be careful what you wish for! Nothing good comes without a price. Extra pounds, trips to the gym, and high cholesterol. But the joy of cooking and eating has become an important way we bond in our family, so it’s worth the trade off.

Food memory is associated with happy times gathered with family around the table. Breaking bread takes on a spiritual aspect when it’s experienced with those we love. When my mother gave up her home and was giving away her best loved possessions to her children and grandchildren, my first request was for a sampler stitched by her mother that had hung in the dining room for many years. It is bordered with richly colored embroidered fruits and vegetables, surrounding this quote from Proverbs: “Better a dinner of herbs where love is than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.” This sums up the place food holds for our family.

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The sampler now has a place of honor in our dining room. On Thanksgiving Day, as we gather there, we won’t be having the stalled ox, but Phil will be outside frying a turkey. Everyone will be in the kitchen chopping, mixing, tasting as we prepare dressing, squash, beans, and pumpkin pie. The rituals of preparing our favorite foods, giving thanks and feasting together are family tradition. And, of course the topic of conversation will be “What’s for supper?”

Here’s wishing all of you, my fabulous blog readers, a 2016 filled with happy and lasting food memories!

Be well. Take care of yourselves and each other,

Yellow Daisy Chick

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! May we be arbiters of peace, love, and inclusion throughout the season and the new year. 

Hope 2016 brings you good eats, good books and good health! 

Be well,

Yellow Daisy Chick

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My Dad Can Cook, Too! (Food Memory Series: 5th Post)

I have awesome parents. As a past social worker in another life, I do know how fortunate I am. They were young parents. They worked so hard, all the time. They are the kind of people who never take a sick day. They are high school sweethearts and are still married, into their sixties. I know I’ll never measure up to their parental awesomeness but I am glad they set a high bar for me to strive for.

I’ve spoken a great deal about my mother as a cook and my female relatives as cooks, but my dad can actually cook, too! His grilled chicken, the marinade to which he has never really completely shared, was to die for, and his burgers I still try to replicate. He is also a bartender extraordinaire, as long as your definition of bartender extraordinaire equals strong adult beverages.

One of his specialties growing up was homemade french fries and onion rings. OMG, that is a whole other level of culinary greatness…when those dishes came out, they rarely made it to the table. We attacked those platters asap. Homemade crack, basically. Salty, greasy, crispy perfection.

Later, he introduced us to his dad’s fish frys. I didn’t know his dad; grandpa Hobart died from cancer before I was born. I always loved hearing stories about him and being around his brother Joe so that I could get an idea of what he might have been like.

Through the fish frys, I could hear about my grandfather. How he battered the fish, what equipment he used to fry back in the day, and where the fish came from. Through the fish frys, I could eat the same food that my grandfather cooked and feel like I was a little more connected to him than I was before.

Here is an interview I conducted with my dad, who was kind enough to answer some questions via email. For several years, we used our turkey fryer the day after Thanksgiving to conduct the fish fry. Oh yes, honey, yes we did! Have I mentioned how much we love to eat?! 🙂

Interview with Dad, aka Phil Kinney, aka P Swizzle (not really, I just made that up):

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1. What do you remember about the fish frys you attended as a kid? What time of year, or was it throughout the year?

I remember them being only in the summer. Back then, no grilling, or outside frying, was done in cold weather. Dad usually fried oysters, shrimp and fish. They would have several couples, with their kids, over and it would be a festive atmosphere. My Uncle Guy would have a fish fry at their house after going fishing at a big lake in Alabama.

2. What is the basic recipe for the fish and onion rings? What did you guys eat with it growing up? Did you catch your own fish, or just buy it?

Dad always used cracker meal for the batter. He would either crush saltines, or just buy the box of cracker meal at the store and spice it up with a little seasoning. Then, you dip the fish (catfish or tilapia are best for frying) in an egg wash, roll it in the seasoned cracker meal and put in the hot oil for a few minutes until golden brown. There are a lot of great pre-made batters available now, but for sentimental reasons, I still use Dad’s. I prefer using a turkey fryer because you can control the temperature (350 degrees) and oil depth better.

Onion rings – Soak a generous portion of Vidalia onion rings in a bowl of cold water in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Pour flour into a paper bag and season with salt and pepper. Then put the crisp, moist onion rings into the paper bag, shake until coated and place evenly into the fryer. When they become golden brown, they are ready to put onto a platter with paper towels to help absorb some of the oil that is so bad [but so good]  for us.

Trimmings – Most of the time there would be hushpuppies (or loaf bread), onion rings (or French fries), and slaw.

Fish source – As mentioned before, my Uncle Guy and some of his friends would go fishing and bring back fish and give it to Dad to fry. Sometimes, they would even bring back fish they caught at the beach. Dad’s real specialty was oysters and shrimp, however. He was never a fisherman or hunter. [Your grandmother] Teal also bought fish and oysters at the store.

3. Describe the contraption that Hobart used to fry the fish.

Dad used a little Craftsman charcoal stove to do his frying outside. This little stove had a grill and a skillet (fancy for the fifty’s, huh?) Obviously, he used the skillet accessory for his frying. You have to give him credit for being more skilled with his outside frying than me since he didn’t have a thermometer or a way to control the charcoal heat.

4. What advice do you have for those who might want to host their own fish fry?

I would recommend using a turkey fryer and doing it outside because it can be pretty messy. My best results have been with catfish and tilapia. Other fish certainly would be fine. There are so many batters available now, you might want to try some of those, but I’ll always go with Hobart’s. It’s a fun thing to do with friends and family. Who knows, when the kids are 64 years old they might remember their father, or grandfather, frying fish and carry on the tradition.

5. What do you enjoy most about having a fish fry?

Well, the fish and trimmings taste pretty good and people seem to like it. Most importantly, I enjoy the festive atmosphere of the occasion and the fascination that friends and family seem to have about this old tradition. I feel that Hobart is there with me. It’s kinda neat to be able to carry on a tradition that he started.

Love you Dad! Thanks for cooking such goodness for us and carrying on the fish fry tradition!

Be well. Take care of yourselves and each other,

Yellow Daisy Chick

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Guest Blog! My Polish Christmas by Magda Warthen (Food Memory Series: 4th Post)

Today’s post is a guest blog by my lovely friend and neighbor Magda Warthen. She is originally from Poland, but has been in the US for so long, I tend to forget that she did not grow up here. She’s a fun one to have a glass of wine with by the pool and we’ve known each other for years. I look forward to her Christmas parties every year and she is one of the warmest, most welcoming hostesses you’ll ever find. Last week, she shared a post on Facebook about Polish holiday food and I enjoyed it so much, I asked her to share her beautiful food memories with you guys:

 

My Polish Christmas

by Magda Warthen

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I have lived most of my life in the United States, and have spent countless Christmases here. However, as much as I love cooking turkey, watching “The Christmas Story,” and seeing kids anxious to open presents first thing in the morning, I’ll never forget that Christmas in Poland.

Christmas Eve was always the time we celebrated, and on that day my memories go back to the country I was born and raised in. All day we’d decorate the tree, freshly delivered and just cut. It was up usually until late January, and even then we were hesitant on pulling it down. My mother and grandmother cooked for hours, making various foods. It took almost the whole month of December to prepare those delicious meals for that special day.

The whole family came over because of the wonderful meals that my grandmother had made from scratch. I don’t think she had a single recipe written down, which seemed to make her food even better. We only ate once the first star was spotted in the night sky (that was mainly the kids’ job.) Once they found it, everyone knew that it was the time you could actually start celebrating. Before we ate, we shared a Christmas Wafer with everyone around the table, wishing them a Merry Christmas.

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photo by npr.org

 

One important tradition of ours was to put an extra setting at the table, in case someone lost, homeless, or without a family needed something to eat. I still do it at my home, even if there isn’t much room left around the table.

Another big Polish tradition is to have twelve meatless dishes served on Christmas Eve. It was developed through several pagan and religious customs, introduced by the Catholic Church. In our family, this meal always included several different delicious foods, including red borsch with tiny raviolis. We also had carp, which was cooked in several different ways. In communism, we didn’t have an opportunity to transport fresh fish from the sea, so we used local lakes to get the carp. It may not be the best kind of fish, but after my grandmother prepared it, it was as smooth as butter and as delicious as a newly baked pie. The carp was delivered very fresh, always a day before Christmas Eve. While at home, it was alive and in my bath tub…I never wanted to take a bath until at least a week after the event. My friends loved it, but they weren’t the ones who had a smelly bathroom for weeks!

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Christmas Borsch (photo by Pinterest)

Besides borsch and carp we also had herrings and pierogis filled with different kinds of stuffings. Braised sauerkraut and cabbage rolls. Kutia was a dish no-one knew in my neighborhood. I grew up in the western part of Poland, which use to be Germany before Second World War. My grandmother came from Ukraine. Now Russia, then Poland. She brought the Kutia recipe with her. It was a combination of nuts and honey. Really healthy treat. For dessert we also had to have ginger bread and poppy seed cake served with the dry fruit compote.The feast took hours and the ER was waiting for those who overate. 🙂

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Kutia (photo by wikipedia.org)
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Polish Gingerbread (photo by magdascauldron.com)

 

Magda still prepares borsch with raviolis and pierogies on Christmas Eve for her family, and then has traditional American fare on Christmas Day. Thanks again to Magda for sharing her delicious food memories with YellowDaisyChickChat! If you have any food memories you’d like to share, please comment below or contact me at yellowdaisychick@gmail.com.

Be well. Take care of yourselves and each other,

 

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Food Memory: A Series (3rd Post)

And… it’s food memory time again! [stadium roars with cheers!]

I feel like it’s so southern of me to blog about food memory. And yet, it’s a universal tie to one’s culture, so if you replaced my southern food items with other cultural foods, it could be anyone. So in actuality, it’s just human to talk about food memory. I initially felt that way because many southerners, including myself, believe we have the BEST foods:  fried chicken, cornbread, chopped pork barbecue, fried okra, peach cobbler, summer-homegrown-sliced tomatoes! The list goes on and on, but I imagine we could all argue that our childhood food, no matter where it came from, was the best.

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Paschal’s Fried Chicken (photo by AJC)

I have noticed a strong similarity between Italians and southern Americans in their love of good food and a love of sitting around a table with food and family. That extremely unscientific observation comes from many hours of watching The Food Network, as I don’t actually know any Italians. I do have a friend who is half Italian/half southern and I’ve told him many times that his family reunion spread must be amazeballs. Truth is, it’s not just Italians and southerners. Food provides us all with a connection to our culture, our past, our present, and to one another.

I had an Indian friend in middle school. His name was Ashish Chaudhari and everyone loved him. I remember working on a group project at his house and his mom made chicken tandoori. It was spicy and delicious and different, and super exotic for a teenaged girl growing up in South Carolina. Later, when I had Indian food as an adult, I remembered his sweet mama making that dish and what a cool guy and friend he was. I’ve lost touch with him but it’s a food memory that connects us, even though we are from different backgrounds and have moved on to other towns and lives.

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Chicken Tandoori (photo by Zyka.com)

Now that I’m a mom, I wonder what his mother was thinking when a bunch of knuckle headed teenagers came over and she served us food from her homeland. Were we polite? Surely we were, we were southerners!! 🙂 I hope so. Were we grateful? We did not see that interaction as an adult would see it. And, it was the 80s and there was no Food Network, no internet, no organic section in the grocery store. No Nikki Haley. India may as well have been another planet. As an adult, I know now that food is an awesome way to introduce someone to another culture. So kudos to Mrs. Chaudhari! And may we all learn by her example.

What would you serve guests from another country or culture to introduce them to your culture? I’m not sure. Would I go fancy or more rustic? As an American, so many of our dishes come from other cultures already: pasta, tacos, pad thai. As a southerner, well, there are so many options! Although… I don’t even fry my own chicken…I buy it. [gasp!] We usually grill it or roast it now, anyway, but fried chicken reigns supreme, taste-wise. I do make my own cornbread and it is real and it is bomb. It’s my grandmother’s recipe and it’s made in an iron skillet, so yeah, I would definitely serve that. I also make my own fried okra — my other grandmother’s recipe — so I’d serve that, although I oven fry it now. Fresh vegetables are super southern, so I’d do that; maybe green beans and a squash casserole? Definitely summer-homegrown-sliced tomatoes! For dessert: either a caramel cake, or a lemon pie, or peach something, or pound cake. Or maybe all of the above, it’s a culture exchange for goodness sake! And to wash it all down, a big ass pitcher of not-too-sweet tea. With lemon and mint.

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I hope my hypothetical guests would enjoy it and would feel welcome. I hope they would fill their bellies and souls with the goodness that I’ve been fortunate enough to have since birth. I hope we would laugh and tell stories around a table, and learn from one another. And afterward, I hope that they would invite me to their home for a meal.

To close, I love this food memory poem by Nikki Giovanni:

Knoxville, Tennessee

I always like summer
Best
you can eat fresh corn
From daddy’s garden
And okra
And greens
And cabbage
And lots of
Barbeque
And buttermilk
And homemade ice-cream
At the church picnic
And listen to
Gospel music
Outside
At the church
Homecoming
And go to the mountains with
Your grandmother
And go barefooted
And be warm
All the time
Not only when you go to bed
And sleep

-www.poemhunter.com

Be well. Take care of yourselves and each other,

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p.s. I totally forgot about mac and cheese. Sigh.

I ❤️ ATH

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Food Memory: A Series (2nd Post)

Happy December! It’s a great time of year to post about food and food memory. However, it is hard to even begin a post about food memories when you’re 44 years old.

I try to think back to see if I can come up with my earliest food memory. I can oddly remember a church preschool lunchroom and cornbread. It was sweet and cake-y, not at all like what we had at home, but I loved it. There were also grilled cheese sandwiches that were of course on white bread, and good and greasy and american cheesey. Whenever I have cafeteria-style cornbread or grilled cheese sandwiches, I can remember being in that preschool lunchroom.

I remember lunches lovingly packed by my sweet mother: tomato soup in a thermos, salad with French dressing, sandwiches with Land o’ Lakes lunch meat, and if I was lucky, a Little Debbie. I always ate cafeteria food on pizza day…those little rectangles of pizza with pepperoni chunks were the greatest hit of the lunch room. I think they were usually served with a side of french fries and maybe some canned corn. We had a strip of little paper tickets that the lunch lady tore off each day. In high school, my friends and I called it the “Mist Room” where you deposited your lunch tray. You had to hold your breath as you walked through the warm, humid, wet-food-smelly room where they washed the dishes. It was truly gag-worthy. My brilliant friends Michael and Russ categorized all high school lunchroom food into: 1. Chunks O’ Stuff or 2. Bun Substance. I still use those terms with my own kids!

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Sloppy Joes…Sloppy, Sloppy Joes

Birthday food memories at my house mainly revolved around pie instead of cake. To this day, I am still more of a pie girl than a cake girl. We had homemade chocolate or butterscotch pie; I always chose the creamy butterscotch. I don’t know how or where that tradition started, but I’m not complaining. It was such a treat!

Beach vacations always had dinners out (fried shrimp!) but we also cooked at the house. Always boiled shrimp, baked potatoes, salad, and garlic bread. Divine! Later, it became Frogmore Stew, aka low country boil, since we lived in South Carolina. That also became our go-to dinner for parties. I adored it. Now, sadly, shrimp makes me itchy. No idea where that came from. Last night, I dreamed about eating the most delicious shrimp ever. I miss it terribly.

Tailgates were loaded with food memories. Growing up going to UGA games in Athens, we feasted on Popeye’s spicy fried chicken, mom’s “rancho beans” (baked beans with ground beef), ham biscuits with the mustard/butter spread and swiss cheese, and pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting. My mother would work her tail off and transport all of those dishes from South Carolina to Georgia for our picnic. Once I was in college there, she would still bring it all for my friends and honey, they would all show up! The beans and ham biscuits would still be warm! She seemed to love doing it and I was always so proud to show off her good cooking.

 

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Love that chicken from Popeye’s! (Who knew Dr. John sang the commercial?!)

My grandmothers were also amazing cooks. So were my great aunts. Two of them became caterers, and they made my wedding cake and my groom’s cake. That generation of women in my family introduced us all to good food. Our family reunions were to die for. We should’ve sold tickets! Fried chicken and fried okra, macaroni and cheese, green beans flavored with pork, squash casseroles, congealed salads, homemade rolls, chocolate pound cake, coffee punch…I could go on and on but suffice it to say, they went all out and we loved them for doing so.

I truly believe the good attendance had a lot to do with the quality of the  food offerings; the company was good, too, but the good food put everyone in a good mood and made us all a little more fun to be around. The booze did too, I’m sure, but I was too young to notice. One year, a mangy stray dog on its last leg wandered onto the farm and my Aunt Lou went to the closet and grabbed a shotgun and asked my date (surprisingly now my husband) if he would go put it out of its misery. He was fortunately saved by a cousin who hunts…but hey, that’s one way to introduce your family to your new boyfriend and seal the deal! If he sticks around after that, you know he’s a keeper. And I have a feeling that good food helped motivate him to come back around, too.

I’m looking forward to highlighting some other family members’ food memories in posts to come. I’m interested in seeing how food has changed over the generations and how it has stayed the same. I’m interested in seeing how our relationship to food has changed and stayed the same. And I’m interested in seeing things I wasn’t even looking for. Thanks so much for joining me on this little journey.

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Take care of yourselves and each other,

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