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Our Best Food Memories
By Ariel Goltche, Marketing & Communications Associate
September 6, 2019
They say that sense of smell can trigger the strongest memories. In honor of Grandparents Day this year, Citymeals staff reminisced on the special dishes, memorable meals and treasured recipes they have shared with their grandparents. On Sunday, we’ll be thinking of our beloved grandmothers and grandfathers – many of whom are no longer with us – and the 18,414 homebound elderly New Yorkers Citymeals serves, many of whom will spend the day alone.
I was lucky enough to know my grandmother Stella for the first 13 years of my life. Her kitchen was a place of great warmth and comfort. My fondest memories are of watching her make custard cake. It was a wonder. Handfuls of flour and sugar being tossed about with precise abandon. Her liquid measuring cups – mismatched empty Jewish Yahrzeit ceremonial candle holders – overflowed with milk. And when the cake was in the oven, gleefully, my brother and I would lick the custard bowl.
Until much later in life, I didn’t know the way that I ate Cream of Wheat wasn’t the way that everyone else did. My great grandmother, Maria Coppola, always made it with milk, not water. Once in the bowl, she made a moat of cream around the edges, crumbled brown sugar and sprinkled rainbow nonpareils in the middle. Then, topped it off with a maraschino cherry. Every now and then she’d add a dollop of marshmallow fluff. Someone else’s regular breakfast was a dessert, for me!
I grew up in New England and my grandmother – whom I’m named after – used to make the most incredible fish chowder. I treasure the times we sat together at the kitchen table with big, shallow bowls of steaming soup between us. I still have her hand-written recipe card. I flake the haddock, burn the onions, boil the potatoes and add the pork salt exactly as she noted, but nothing matches her own pot of chowder. Gone with her are the secrets of this incredible meal. But I feel so lucky to have shared that time, and those flavors, with my grandmother.
My maternal grandmother, Phyllis – “Nana” to pretty much everyone – was a true Irish woman of her generation. She overcooked every piece of meat I ever had, and I grew up thinking meat was supposed to be tough. But her chocolate chip cookies and famous peanut butter balls were absolutely delicious! When she got older and couldn’t cook as much, she finally gave me the recipes for her sweets on the condition I come over and make a batch of each so she could “supervise” and make sure I did everything right. It’s one of my fondest memories of my time with her.
My grandmother, Isadora McIntosh, was an excellent cook. Her favorite dish was seasoned rice with pumpkin and salted cod fish. She served it with lemonade, made with fresh lemons and brown sugar. It was DELICIOUS!
On the coldest winter days, I’d rush home from school, knowing my poppy Joe would have a pot of beef stew on the stove. It was only when I grew older and started cooking alongside him that he revealed the secret ingredient to the incredible stew – maple syrup. Served on top of buttered egg noodles, there was nothing more comforting in the world. On occasion, I try to recreate pop’s beef stew. My version is certainly tasty, but not quite like his!
My grandma Rose passed away eighteen years ago, but to this day, I can still smell the sweet scent of the meatballs she used to make. I’d always watch her prepare them in the kitchen. My grandma always had frozen strawberries in her freezer, as well, which is something I associate with her memory.