Memories of Food, Glorious Food.

Are you someone who eats to live, or someone who lives to eat? I am most definitely someone who lives to eat. Both Hubby and I are. Thank goodness. We both think that food, glorious food is, well, glorious. Especially in the fall and winter.

On chilly fall evenings when the sun sets early and Hubby lights a fire in our living room woodstove, I long for savory beef stew with a glass of full-bodied red wine. Followed by my mum’s homemade mincemeat pie. Or roast chicken with tarragon and garlic, baked squash, and mashed potatoes. Followed by warm apple crisp with vanilla ice cream. Or hot scones right from the oven, strawberry jam, and a cup of strong tea. Sigh. My obsession with food has been ongoing for years. Decades, even.

Janet Dugan's watercolour of food, glorious food
Painting by my friend Janet Duggan.

I’ve always cared, often way too much, about what I’m going to eat. I don’t think I was a picky eater as a kid. But I abhorred certain foods. Like tomato sandwiches. Blah! I hated tomatoes in general for years. The thought of eating them made me ill. And the drama that could ensue when I was forced to do so is still a bit embarrassing to remember.

I recall with a shudder the day in grade three when my mum mixed up my school lunch with my older sister Connie’s. At noon hour, I opened my lunch bucket, unwrapped my sandwich, and took a bite without noticing that this was NOT peanut butter and jam. Oh my god, my nemesis was in my lunchbox. I swallowed the offending bite, picked up the sandwich and waxed paper, and scuttled over to the “big kids” side of the school. I was desperate or else I would not have dared enter this forbidden territory. My sister, in grade eight, conscious of her social status no doubt, and mortified by the sight of a blubbing younger sister demanding her peanut butter and jam sandwich back and proffering a half-eaten tomato sandwich in crumpled wax paper in exchange, snapped, “I ate it. Now go away.”

How I made do with only my cookie and apple until I got home, I don’t know. I do remember thinking I might starve before the bus dumped me off at the end of our driveway. Ha. I’m chuckling as I think about the reception I probably received from Mum, coming home after a long day at work to three teenagers and one eight year-old yanging on about tomato sandwiches. Poor Mum.

When we moved to the farm after Mum married my step-father the potential for culinary delights in our house expanded tenfold. Mum no longer worked full-time. She no longer had to be at the curb for her drive to work at 7:30 in the morning, and then lug grocery shopping purchased on her lunch hour home on the bus at night. She had more energy and more time to cook. And better resources. The farm provided all kinds of possibilities.

I still remember the first time she made raspberry jam from our own raspberries. This was heaven. And when my step-brother tried to eat his share of jam with peanut butter, I protested. “But Mum, he’s ruining it. Make him use “boughten” jam with his peanut butter.” We used the word “boughten” to refer to anything NOT homemade. When Mum started making her own bread, we all thought we’d died and gone to heaven. No more boughten bread for us.

Seriously though, my mum was a gifted cook. But she was known especially for her baking. Her rhubarb custard pie was divine. People in the neighbourhood would offer to pay her if she’d make an extra Christmas fruitcake for them when she made ours in the fall. Most of my friends remember the vast array of small cookies and cakes that were on offer to visitors at Christmas. Mum could roll out batches of cookies… tiny melt in your mouth shortbread, whoopie pies, ginger snaps, or almond fingers… without turning a hair. But my favourite thing for years was her chocolate chip cake. Every visit home, when Mum asked what I would like cooked, I requested chocolate chip cake. The chocolate-drizzled butter frosting alone would make me swoon.

After my step-brother and I had left home, some of the younger kids in the neighbourhood helped my step-father hay in the summer. One boy in particular I remember. A big, good-natured, slow-talking boy. He seemed to worship my step-father. And he loved nothing better than working with Lloyd all day and coming in from the hayfield with him for supper. Especially on those days when mum made her special white layer cake with sliced bananas and whip cream. Mum’s white cake was the best. Dense and moist and lovely. Mum and I still chuckle over the memory of her asking this boy if he wanted seconds. And his saying, “Well now Dorena, I wouldn’t say no to another sliver of that cake.” Gad he sounded fifty instead of fifteen. Ha. And I will say that Mum didn’t do slivers, much to his delight.

My talented friend Janet who painted the watercolour of the pumpkins and gourds, above, is also a wonderful cook. I remember one time she served our book club an appetiser of tiny cooked baby potatoes with some sort of stuffing in them and a perfect little dollop of caviar on top. Oh my, they were yummy. And delicious stuffed fresh figs one time too. A Janet says she’s fascinated by all the wonderful shapes and colours of autumn and can’t resist painting them. Since she finished that painting, she’s bought more autumn delights and says “her kitchen counter is one big still life.”

Millers Farm pumpkin field.

A love of food, glorious food, was one of the first things Hubby and I realized we shared when we met. Which is a good thing, I think. Wouldn’t it be a disaster to be someone who loves food, almost any kind of food, and be married to someone who doesn’t?

And now that Hubby loves to cook as much as he loves to eat, I am truly blessed. Ha.

I know that I’m extremely lucky to have a husband and friends who love food as much as me. And who can whip up a glorious meal, or two. To share. But I do wish that Hubby would get over his dislike of pumpkin pie. Or anything pumpkin. Especially in the fall. I swear, it’s almost painful to drive by the humongous fields of pumpkins and not have pie when I get home.

Still, mustn’t grumble.

Pumpkin pie isn’t the only glorious food available this time of year. Hubby came home from golf the other day with a bag of russet apples. I love russet apples, and they are difficult to find except at Smyth’s Orchard in Dundela, Ontario. Dundela is the home of the McIntosh apple, don’t you know. A variety of apple known and loved by most Canadians.

And probably the kind of apple in my lunch bucket on that fateful day in grade three.

How about you my friends? Do you live to eat, like me and Hubby? Any savoury food memories that bubble to the surface for you this time of year?


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40 thoughts on “Memories of Food, Glorious Food.”

  1. Definitely live to eat at our house. Pumpkin pie! I first made it when we lived in Ottawa and the recipe was given to me by a Canadian friend. We don’t have it now unfortunately as I would have to eat most of it and that would not be good for me. I do miss that lovely texture and spicy flavour and one day when the grandchildren are around I will make it again.

  2. My husband bakes saffron pistachio bread that is sinfully good, and a mean winter veggie chili with beans, squash, cauliflower and carrots. Too good. And when we’re lucky enough in central California to have chanterelle mushrooms in the fall, I live for savory mushroom pie. This year, we’ll be lean in that department due to the fires, so I’ll have to savor the memory. Don’t get me started on fresh baked scones. Needless to say, I live to eat too. Can you tell? Wishing everyone good food, good books, great blogs like this one, and much hope for better times ahead.

    1. That winter veggie chili sounds so good. I’m not usually a fan of vegetarian chili. I’ve made it in the past but it never tasted savory or rich enough.

  3. I live to eat as does my whole family. No family gathering is complete without lots of wonderful food, usually a mix of new recipes and old favourites. Although I live alone I still enjoy cooking for myself.

  4. Mr Green dislikes pumpkin as well. Whereas I am a fan. One of the things I really liked about him when we met was that he was an excellent cook and, fortunately, he enjoys the whole process. Finds it relaxing. Both of our children are wonderful cooks too and I think this is probably down to a generalised love of eating. First question from me if they call in the evening: what are you having for tea? We still talk about family holidays from the point of view of the restaurant table and one of the books I would grab if the house was on fire is Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries. My mum’s fried haddock, mashed potatoes, peas and parsley sauce – unbeatable.

    1. I must look for that book, Annie. I listened to a wonderful podcast on food and cooking memories in Slightly Foxed the other day. Made me want to read food memoirs.

  5. When I was about 6 years old, I had dinner at a friend’s house. On my plate was large, thick, and slimy tomato slice. I hated tomatoes. Those dreadful neighbors insisted I eat that tomato—I resisted. They made me stay at the table for hours, so it seemed to me, then called my mother to come and take me home. My poor recently widowed mother was so upset with me and them. I am 75 years old and I vividly remember that dinner. I did not touch a tomato until I was 40. P.S. my husband also hates pumpkin pie.

    1. It’s bad enough when parents do that to their own children, but who would do it to a guest? What awful people! I would have had the same reaction at that age – only grew to love tomatoes as an adult – and now they disagree with me, so they have their revenge!

  6. My youngest brother, who is infamous for his healthy appetite, walked in similar shoes to yours by forgetting his lunch altogether. I was called on the PA system to help with blubbering Henry. Unfortunately my sandwich was already “down the hatch” but my friend offered half of her very fine looking sandwich. He wailed, “Noooo, I only want my Mom’s sandwich!” He starved until after school as well. We tell this family legend story often…part of a series of Henry stories. 😂

  7. My Husband Loves Pumpkin Pie! So much so that I do not eat any…otherwise there would be one less slice for him! Yes, I live to eat, everything you wrote about in your blog sounds fabulous right about now, including the tomato sandwich! I wanted to make a coconut cream pie yesterday…did not have graham crackers in the house for the crust, miss the old days when you could just run down to the store. Grocery shopping now is so different. Can’t wait until coronavirus is under control, until then, make do. Maybe today I’ll bake a cake.

    1. Oh… I love coconut cream pie, and banana cream pie too. Our local bistro serves a mean coconut cream pie which gives me my fix and means I don’t have to make my own. 🙂

  8. Golly, Sue – I think I gained 5 pounds reading this! I think only those who truly love and appreciate food can write about it well. To me, the ultimate luxury is dishes that take TIME to make – like braised chicken thighs two hours in the oven, or my steak & Guiness pie, or anything that needs reducing on the stovetop or a long simmer. In cold weather, I spend Sunday afternoons cooking and doing meal prep for the week. Sunday night dinner in front of the fire with Masterpiece Theater on TV is my treat of the week. Thanks for this mid-week indulgence!

  9. We would have gotten along famously as children…you could have eaten all my peanut butter/jam sandwiches and I would have gladly eaten any tomato ones…still to this day I love any tomato based food. Spaghetti, lasagna and toasted tomato sandwiches are a necessity! My husband does not cook but will clean up any mess (and there are many) that I create in the kitchen so we are a happy team. Food is a respected commodity in our household and is savoured slowly…most delightfully in front of a lit fireplace and with a glass of delectable red wine in hand. Not being able to share a wonderful meal with friends and extended family has been a difficult aspect of the pandemic…food is the thread that weaves through social events. I enjoy your posts…thanks for sharing!

  10. We live to eat! My first husband was a very picky eater and that was a disappointment to me, as I like most everything and am willing to try just about anything. I got very lucky in many ways) with my “now” husband – he is like me and very appreciative of anything I concoct.
    Your mentioning rhubarb custard pie brought back memories of my Mom. That is one of my very favorites – I would first eat all the rhubarb pieces and then settle into the delicious custard part. So good!
    One quick story…. My daughter had a brother and sister as friends when she was young. I invited them to stay for lunch one day and made tuna fish sandwiches. They were out at the picnic table and I came out with some chips and the boy was trying hard not to gag. His little sister looked up at me with her big brown eyes and said, “Paul hates tuna”. I felt horrible and grabbed the sandwich away and made him a peanut butter and jam sandwich. Poor kid!!

  11. A mouth-watering post, Sue, and your friend’s watercolour is gorgeous! Plus you’ve got me reminiscing about school lunches and food anecdotes from my own childhood, how personalities were clearly expressed through food preferences and eating mannerisms way back when . . . (oh, and I’m also married to a good cook who inexplicably does not like pumpkin pie! What’s that about?! 😉

    1. I’ve been reminiscing about school lunches as well. Lunchbox lunches… or lunch buckets as we used to call them. There’s a particular smell associated with wrapped sandwiches and tea in a thermos that takes me back to grade school. Back then I would NOT drink milk, and my mum packed milky tea in my thermos.

  12. My childhood food memories are not great . Once I realised where meat came from I couldn’t bear to eat it . Britain in the 1950s did not understand vegetarians & neither did my mum . School dinners were a nightmare with the teachers insisting I ate my meat . I got to taking a handkerchief with me every day to wrap my meat in for the family dog . She enjoyed it . All changed in the 1960s when foreign food arrived – Italian , Chinese & Indian . Wonderful food that didn’t depend on meat . The veggie movement is rolling along in the uk . My nieces & nephews tell me I’m rather cool & ask for recipes . So I’m no longer a freak 😁 Even Hubbie joined me 30 years ago & I didn’t have to twist his arm . The only vegetable we don’t like is …. squash but they’re very pretty .

    1. I remember your telling me the meat in the hankie story. I could have traded my tomato sandwiches for your school dinner meat and we would have become fast friends. 🙂
      P.S. If you and Max are ever in Bath go to the Acorn restaurant. Divine veggie food.

  13. Sue, I am curious how you don’t pick up too much weight as a food lover. I have to pay attention to this because I do love food and can pick up quite easily.

  14. My mission this fall is to persuade my husband that he likes winter squash. He’s had this idea in his head forever that they’re watery and bland (not sure what he was eating!), but up until this year, he did the lion’s share of the cooking (freelance writer with a flexible schedule while I worked 45 hours a week a the day job an hour’s commute away). Since I’ve retired I’ve taken on more of the cooking, as I enjoy it immensely. Last week I roasted delicata squash tossed in olive oil and a little maple syrup, lightly mashed that with onions caramelized in apple cider vinegar and maple syrup, and served the mixture as a tartine, on good bread spread with goat cheese. Heavenly good, and he can’t wait for me to make it again. Mission accomplished. Now what to try next, so as to convince him this wasn’t a fluke?

  15. I definitely live to eat! I love fall foods too, especially squash! I was so happy my garden produced so much squash this year as it can be awfully expensive in the grocery store.

  16. Sue, how brilliant is this post. I have enjoyed every word from all the comments. I’m also married to a man that loves to cook and experiment, but the best part is that he really enjoys baking. Bread is baked every week. Friends request baked goods when we are invited to dinner. I’m not a great lover of desserts, I love a few tastes. If he feels the need to make a dessert, a neighbour will get a gift.

  17. We’re all keen on food here! And my husband has been doing half the cooking since he stopped working full-time a few years ago. I did most of it when our daughter was small as I was home more than he was. Happily, he likes to cook and I love not having to prepare dinner every day. I’m currently trying to put aside my cooler weather favourites and remember the dinners I like to cook in the warmer months. Sounds weird I know but I get into a groove and it can be hard to shift 😉

  18. I am living what you have described as a disaster. I enjoy food and am married to a vegetarian who eats the same meal every night ( we call it his gruel and he makes it), and there is no going out during Covid. Even if we went to restaurants, we’re always limited to Italian, Mexican and Middle Eastern food for the most part. No one at better restaurants puts any effort into offering good vegetarian food on the menu. They think a vegetarian will love Alfredo sauce and anything made with cream, or a platter of boring grilled veggies or worse, ratatouille.
    On the plus side, he comes from a farm family and brings home all sorts of squash, sweet white corn, tomatoes, beans, and more. And he grows a nice vegetable garden, so it is not all bad. I get my fine dining fix with the girls or my daughter, so I have survived the disaster thus far. I recently retired from an event planning career and have enjoyed a million great meals in the course of work and travel with my job, so there’s that. I’m doing more cooking in retirement which I love. Finally, I would LOVE to know how to make a decent white cake from scratch. It intimidates me. Your mother’s sounds divine!

    1. It’s hard when good vegetarian dishes aren’t offered. Although good vegetarian cooking can be so good. I am not a vegetarian… I love meat and fish. And when I was in Bath in the UK a few years ago my friend and I tried a veggie restaurant near our B&B and it was soooo wonderful we ate there every night but one that we were in Bath. It’s called The Acorn and if you are ever in Bath, your Hubby would love it!
      P.S. I can’t make a good white cake either!

  19. Beautiful post,picture and comments!Yummy! I love to eat almost everything,and cooking as well
    I think about dinners (or lunches-better prices!) ,especially when traveling,in good/best restaurants as treats,sublime experiences,as well as a culinary education,to try at home,for family or friends!

    1. Thanks, Dottoressa. Stu and I still laugh at how much he ate of that pasta starter at your house. He had two huge portions. It was delicious and he didn’t realize there was another course coming. Remember when he said to tell you that he might be a bit late meeting us for lunch the next day because he would have to walk slowly? He thought he might have gained ten ponds from having eaten so much the night before. Ha. That was a lovely day, by the way. Shopping with you, then a lovely lunch, and then Stu and I strolling around Zagreb. Then making dinner back at our apartment with some of your dessert for afters. Then having our tea on the terrace of our apartment. So wonderful.

      1. Thanks, it was a lovely weekend(was it weekend? ) and I’ve enjoyed your company indeed.

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