Friday, September 16, 2011

It Always Comes Back to Food

I'm currently reading "A Homemade Life" by Molly Wizenburg (and I'm loving it).  It's a lovely collection of stories about Molly, her family & friends and food - including recipes.  One of the joys I'm finding in reading this particular book is the discovery that mine is not the only family who's family memories revolve around food!  Whenever we talk about get togethers, vacations, etc., food is always involved. 

For instance, I can remember a trip I took with my parents to California to visit my Aunt & Uncle and my then baby cousin.  It's the first road trip I really took with them without my sister and brother along.  The funny thing is, the majority of my memories of this trip revolve around food - I can remember 3 different restaurants (although, sadly, not their names) & what I ate at each one! 

We always seemed to land in Redding, CA our first night on any road trip to California and this trip was no exception. That first morning heading out of Redding, we decided to hit the road and grab breakfast somewhere along the way.  We ended up on this funky dirt road (that I think was supposed to be a short cut) which eventually lead us to a very small town whose name I cannot even remember.  We discovered a steak house that looked popular & happened to serve breakfast so we pulled in.  It had a Red Baron theme, including drawings of bi-planes on the paper placemats.  Although I no longer remember what Mom or Dad ordered, I still have full recollection of the fantastic strawberry pancakes that I ordered.  They were as big as my plate, smothered in beautiful, fresh strawberries and topped with my all-time favorite, whipped cream!  The pancakes were a perfect, golden brown on the outside and moist and fluffy on the inside.  YUM!

We moved on and ended up in Fort Bragg, California (that same night, I think).  We stayed at a motel with a view of the ocean and I'm sure we must have spent a bit of time on the beach, but again, it's the meal we had there that I remember most.  Mom & Dad chose a lovely seafood restaurant overlooking the ocean.  I've always liked steamed clams (my aunt & uncle who live on Whidbey Island used to have amazing clambakes at their place) and this restaurant had clams steamed in a champagne and herb sauce.  They were wonderful, tender morsels of clams served with melted butter, of course, and lovely, crusty sourdough bread.  I think of that dinner every time I watch "Pretty Woman" - you know the scene where Vivian is having dinner in a fancy restaurant with Edward and his business associates and she sends an escargot flying?  - well, I was attempting to remove a particularly stubborn clam from it's shell and fling went my fork, zing went the clam to land somewhere on the floor near my chair!  I was mortified!  Of course, my first instinct was to chase it, pick it up and discard it, but my mother said "Don't even think about it!" and assured me it must happen with some regularity and suggested that we just let the wait staff know upon our departure.  Which we did - and all was well.

My final food-related memory of that trip was of my first taste of Red Snapper.  Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, we've always eaten plenty of fish.  I think at this point in my life (I must've been 13 or so at the time) I had eaten salmon, halibut, the aforementioned clams, oysters, crab, shrimp, trout, steelhead and who knows what else, but I had never tasted Red Snapper.  On the way home, we stayed at a lovely place at Lake Shasta - I remember wishing we could stay one more day to enjoy the resort-setting, but we had a pretty tight timeline on the trip back.  We had dinner in the restaurant that was part of the resort where we stayed.  I ordered the Red Snapper - I don't remember anything, really, about the specific preparation, but I do remember enjoying it thoroughly!  Red Snapper became a favorite of mine for awhile after that and I would often order it when I had the opportunity.

It seems every family gathering involves dinner or lunch, potluck or BBQ.  Of course we need fuel to live, and we all know it's not healthy to "live to eat", but wouldn't life be so much more mundane without those wonderful surprises like a perfectly steamed bucket of clams, a light & fluffy pancake or that first taste of something new?  Our family has been talking about a get-together in October to celebrate all the fall birthdays and, yep, you guessed it, we've already talked about what to fix for dinner!  It's true, it really does always come back to food!

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