Country Kitchen: Record Your Food Memories

Country Kitchen: Record Your Food Memories

By Mary Emma Allen

"You're interviewing me," Mother remarked with a smile.

She was pleased, I realized, that her reporter daughter thought her important enough to write about. Then she continued reminiscing.

As my mom slipped into the haze of Alzheimer's, she enjoyed reminiscing about her life in various stages. Instead of trying to get her to come back to the presence and the frustrations that caused for Mother, I took advantage of her memories of her earlier days.

I'd sit beside her, ask her questions and write down as she reminisced about her childhood, her school years, and teaching at her first school. Her memories of her early days have become important family history facts and stories for our family...information we'd never have known if I hadn't taken time to listen to her.

(Some people find it easier to chat with the tape recorder going and then transcribing later.)

Food Memories

Throughout Mother's life, food played an important role. It was a sign of hospitality whenever anyone visited. Simple meals were made festive with a special dish. Holiday memories were highlighted by the favorite family recipes. Some of these I knew about, but others came to light during Mother's reminiscing.

As the holidays approach, I recall Mother's memories of her childhood and of my younger years when she instituted traditions I'd like to pass along to my daughter and grandchildren.

Too often we think we'll remember the stories and don't bother writing them down. However, this legacy in memories may be lost to future generations unless we take time to record them in journals, family cookbooks, and scrapbooks.

Cooking Traditions

From Mother's and my memories come these traditions:

*Oyster stew for Christmas Eve. This was one of my dad's favorites. Even though we didn't live near the seacoast, he purchased a quart of shucked oysters at a local fish market the day before Christmas and Mother prepared oyster stew.

*Ice Cream after haying season - Ice cream wasn't plentiful in my childhood. We didn't have a refrigerator with freezer for storing it. So it was a treat whenever we had this delicacy. Each summer, on the last day of haying season at our farm, Father bought two quarts of hand-dipped ice cream at the local general store.

One quart was always strawberry, Father's favorite. We sat on the front porch of the farmhouse and Mother spooned ice cream into dishes for Father, the hired man, us four children, and herself. That ice cream was so refreshing and a delicious treat on a hot summer day.

*Applesauce Fruit Cake - Mother enjoyed fruit cake and often Father bought one for her at Christmas time. As I learned to cook, I used my aunt's applesauce cake recipe and added candied fruits, nuts, and raisins to it for Mother. Whether it was the best she'd ever tasted, I don't know, but she assured me it was each time I made it.

What are your favorite food memories? Jot these down for family and future generations. Compile them into a recipe book so they aren't forgotten.

SALMON CASSEROLE - A favorite supper dish Mother often made.

Alternate layers of canned salmon and broken up saltines in buttered casserole dish. Pour in enough milk to barely cover the mixture; dot with butter.

Bake in 350 degree F. oven until the milk is absorbed, the ingredients are cooked through and no longer juicy, and the top has browned slightly. (Some people add frozen peas to the layers of salmon and crackers.)

Article (C) 2004 Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen has been writing cooking columns for 40 years. She and her family compiled a cookbook to preserve their food heritage. She teaches workshops to show others how to do this, along with scrapbooking their family recipes. Visit her web site for more cooking articles. Contact her at

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