Monday, March 3, 2014

Slice of Life - Family Memories

Slice of Life is sponsored on Tuesdays by Two Writing Teachers. For the month of March we are posting a slice each day on our blog. Join in! 

My sister-in-law used to joke about our family dinners. It seems that we can never just have steak and potatoes, for example. It might be steak, but with Grandma’s Party Potatoes, or maybe June’s casserole, and my dad’s favorite Five Egg White Supreme cake for dessert. In our family, stories are important, and many stories are told through food.

Food helps me remember those that have passed on as well. This morning I woke to a bark, as I do most mornings. Bally needed to go out. I took her out and decided that I might as well stay up and read for a bit. I had some tea and put some homemade bread in the toaster to snack on while I read. Glancing at the bread I thought of my grandmother, Mumsie. Each morning she would take what she called a “hard roll” from the freezer and warm it up with some butter for her breakfast.

After about an hour, I paused in my book, and decided to have some hot chocolate. Our house was chilly and quiet – and Bally and I were still the only two awake. Making the hot chocolate brought back memories of my other grandmother. I remember when she taught me to make the hot chocolate recipe, dumping the ingredients in a paper grocery sack and shaking it vigorously to combine. She didn’t want to dirty a dish she’d have to wash.

At lunch I warmed up some mac and cheese and thought of Vel – my grandmother and great-aunt’s good friend. (I wrote about her HERE.) Her mac and cheese recipe is infamous and much requested at family dinners. When she gave me recipe cards at my bridal shower, it was the first card I looked for.

My night ended with a ham loaf for dinner, and my parent’s recipe for risotto. My dad taught me to make it when I finally got interested in cooking – either during college or right after. The ham loaf was a huge find. My great-aunt used to get it in a tiny shop near her town.(I wrote about my great-aunt HERE.)  I don’t travel there often so when I saw it in a local butcher shop – which they had, in fact, purchased from the same spot my aunt did, I snapped it up. Reading her recipe for the glaze that went on top, I smiled.

These ladies – my two grandmothers, my great-aunt, and Vel, were forces in my life. I miss them each and every single day. I’m grateful for a family that names our food after the folks that made it. A family that has stories about fried chicken, homemade Kahlua, a coconut cake that we wish we had the recipe for, and more. I’m grateful for moments like having a glass of hot chocolate by myself in the morning and having the chance to remember my grandma, red-rimmed glasses and all.

I can’t help but realize as I look over the recipes that fill my binder and my box – the ones I know best, the ones that I can make from memory, are the ones with the stories. The ones that I learned from the people I love, standing next to them, telling stories, learning. The recipes from the cookbooks that I read on my own never seem to mean the same thing. Isn’t this true in our classrooms too? It all comes back to the relationship between the teacher and the student – which is something I learned long ago around my family’s dinner table. 


  1. This post really hits home with me. Now I'm thinking about my grandmother and others who made food with stories to tell. I think I may have to write my own post sometime this month. Thanks for the memories.

  2. Adrienne GillespieMarch 3, 2014 at 7:25 AM

    I grew up with a mother who made almost everything from scratch. Homemade clothes, homemade food. I didn't own store bought pants until 6th grade! Everything I make or eat gets compared to how my mom made things. I was once running a youth group where we had monthly diners. I suggested macaroni & cheese, picturing my mother's dish. I brought in a lovely pan full of her recipe. Everyone else brought boxes of Kraft! I was shocked. I think that;s when I realized how lucky i had truly been as a child.

  3. I can relate to your multi-generational food memories--you've captured some lovely moments with a lot of personality, especially the paper bag strategy, red-rimmed glasses, and hard roll from the freezer.

  4. Kathleen ArmstrongMarch 3, 2014 at 9:10 AM

    Wow, I just wrote a comment and it disappeared. What I said but more eloquently was that food is paramount in our family and we have many stories associated with food and its preparation. Coming from a loud and boisterous Italian family, our meals together were always fun and full of laughter. Nana would always try to prepare everyone's favorite dish. We'd take pictures of tables groaning with delicious dishes. Last October we recreated one of those meals for a mini-reunion. We had such fun telling stories and laughing the night away. One of my cousins created a spreadsheet of everyone's meatball recipe. Nana never wrote her's down, so we've all worked on it and have gotten it pretty close. Unfortunately Nan's chemistry was all part of the mix and that is gone. The stories and cooking are part of my heritage and the next generation is carrying on today as well.

  5. Isn't it funny how many different things can conjure up lessons, memories and stories...even recipes!

  6. This so reminds me of my husband's family. Everyone lived near each other and Sunday dinners were a big deal. I, too, have his family's recipe box - and when I make something from it, Scott always has a story, just like you do, Katherine. I love that connection to students at the end of your slice - I guess that our reading rug is the dinner table, and how we talk about life and books will hopefully become their memories in years to come.

  7. Lee Ann SpillaneMarch 3, 2014 at 6:29 PM

    Oh I love how each item brought love back to you... grandmothers and parents and aunts. We have food stories in my family too. I bet your recipe book is chock full of amazing stories. You make me want to host a family recipe story and pot luck night... how fun would that be... thank you for sharing these wonderful memories.

  8. Julieanne HarmatzMarch 3, 2014 at 9:27 PM

    I feel like you have a book here. How love and story is present in food. I can just picture it. Maybe?

  9. I totally agree about each recipe having a separate memory and story. Thanks for sharing your stories today. Your writing always lifts me up and brightens my day.

  10. This made me wish that I had learned some more of my grandmother's recipes before she passed away. Thank you for sharing your stories.


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