Tuesday, March 22, 2011

my top eight most nostalgic foods

so last night on top chef, they had the contestants cook something that represented their ancestry. they had genealogist come on and give them their family background, and then their actual family come on and talk about things they used to eat at family dinners and whatever.

so, i'm obviously never going to be on top chef but like always i started to panic thinking, holy crap, what could i possibly make for this challenge? what i was fed growing up was basically a combination of down on ye olde nova scotia farm and haute suburban freezer gastronomie which, the more i thought about it, is kind of awesome. i mean, imagine padma sitting down to a plate of jello-mayonnaise salad, trying not to gag when i started telling her all about how my great grandparents used to basically squirt milk straight from the cow onto their oatmeal.

don't throw up, padma. embrace your revulsion. it's part of the experience.
  1. jello-mayonnaise salad - i had to get this one out of the way first, as i'm sure you all still have the image clearly embedded in your head (and maybe you always will. who knows). sorry mom, but everyone thinks this is GROSS. and for the record, i didn't think it was gross, when i was growing up--i just thought it was what everyone ate, cause i was a kid and I DIDN'T KNOW ANY BETTER. i mean, individually, all the ingredients were good. you've got your little iceberg lettuce leaf on the bottom, as a holder. fine. then you have a layer of jello, preferably strawberry--also fine, if not a little weird on a salad. then a healthy spoonful of cottage cheese, cause WE'RE TRYING TO BE HEALTHY HERE. and, on top of the cottage cheese, the crowning glory of this dish: a huge, wet, sloppy dollop of mayonnaise.
  2. catalina dressing - when i was a kid, i thought catalina WAS dressing. you know, the way salt is salt or butter is butter. there were no different kinds of these things, they just were (although now my supermarket sells, like, twenty seven different kinds of salt, so maybe i was wrong about that, too). not only that, but there was also only one kind of green salad. it was iceberg lettuce, topped with tomatoes, celery, cucumber and maybe radishes. it was in a big wooden bowl with a big wooden fork and a big wooden spoon and you put it in a smaller wooden bowl, never on your plate. that was just how it went. and then one day we went out for dinner at hogie's (HOGIE'S? RIGHT, HALIFAX?) and instead of having chicken nuggets and fries or whatever i would usually have, i had a steak. and it came with a salad. and that salad came with MANDARINS ON THE SIDE. also, the waiter asked me what kind of dressing i wanted and i just kind of stared at him blankly. sort of like if i went to a restaurant now and they asked me what kind of salt i wanted. which might happen someday, you never know.
  3. bologna - at our family meal table, a slice of bologna totally counted as the protein part of our meal. my favourite part of fried bologna, though, was how they turned into little hats in the frying pan. my second favourite part of fried bologna is that it TASTES TOTALLY GREAT! EXCELLENT!

    another taste of my childhood!

    i seriously can't tell you how excited i am to finally get to post this commercial on listophelia. now to just come up with a "top ten skin care products from my childhood" so i can post that oil of olay one with bugsy brown.
  4. hodge podge - okay, this one is kind of cheating because when i was a kid, i HATED hodge podge. i mean, it was VEGETABLES, EW. but now, i love it, and i make it all the time, all the time being the five minutes of the year that i can get all the required baby veggies fresh from cory's dad's garden. that's because the secret of hodge podge (other than the butter and the cream, obviously) is that the veggies have to be either a) from your garden or b) someone else's garden. which means little baby carrots from the farm market are okay; little baby carrots in a bag from the grocery store are not. i also enjoy making hodge podge because if someone's like "what the hell's hodge podge?" i can say "don't worry, it's a maritime thing, you wouldn't understand." sort of like blueberry grunt or greco pizza or bruce frisko's hair.
  5. mussels - so you might be saying to yourself "whatever, amy, mussels aren't unusual or gross in any way, what's the deal, anyway" and to that i say "haha, you don't know my family. we can make even the most normal things weird." example: have you ever heard of something called red tide? it's an algae that can cause something called paralytic shellfish poisoning, and was the reason that the shellfish harvest was closed from june to september in st. margaret's bay. BUT WHAT DID WE CARE ABOUT PARALYTIC SHELLFISH POISONING, YOU GUYS? we happily ate mussels harvested from our beach all summer long. we cooked them in a giant pot, spread out newspapers over everything, and drowned them with butter, and us kids would try to see who could collect the most pearls (mostly by cajoling the adults who broke their teeth on them to give them to us). maybe we were too busy with those to notice the "numbness or tingling in lips and tongue, which spreads to the fingers and toes, followed by a loss of muscular co-ordination and the inability to breathe" which the dfo tells me we may have experienced. PFFT.
  6. mom's spaghetti - everyone loves their mom's spaghetti, even when they're, like, vomiting it up before big rap battles or whatever. but you guys, you have not tried my mom's spaghetti. the first three ingredients in her sauce are KETCHUP, BROWN SUGAR AND WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE. if you think this sounds more like barbecue sauce, you are right. it tastes exactly like barbecue sauce, with green peppers and mushrooms in it. slop it over some white spaghetti with a few meatballs and parmesan cheese (the kraft kind in the plastic jar, or "shakey cheese" as we called it) and you have my favourite childhood meal. IMAGINE MY SURPRISE the first time i had spaghetti at a friend's house. i thought i was on another planet.
  7. swansen's tv dinners - when i was little, my mom was in and out of the hospital a lot (or maybe it was just once, but i remember it so well it was like it happened all the time). and i LOVED it when she would go. this might sound morbid and also evil, but it's not, you guys, because a) i didn't understand that the hospital was a bad place and b) my dad would look after us and he would feed us TV DINNERS! oh, you guys. i can still taste that soggy fried chicken, that weirdly smooth little triangle of fake potato with the little yellow streak of butter in it, the apple cobbler thing in the middle that we ALWAYS saved til the end, even though it was sitting in front of us the whole time.

    mmm, whipped potato

    they had foil on the top of them and you had to eat them in front of the tv on one of those little folding tables. it's funny--i don't remember my dad ever eating them with us. that's cause he probably would put us to bed and then go out for a steak.
  8. angel cookies - so when i think of my nana, i think of a couple of things: a) her costume jewellery b) her awesome hats c) how she basically hated everyone, equally, except me and a couple of other people. oh, and d) angel cookies, which in my mind she made for me every day after school but really was probably just once and the rest was just at christmas or something. i don't even know if they really were angel cookies. i'm sure that's what she called them, even though the internet seems to think they're something different (mostly cookies shaped like angels, which let me tell you, these were not). they were pale and chewy and thin, so the edges would crisp up and be delicious, and she always put one chocolate chip right in the middle and they were so good and HOLY CRAP I NEED TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO MAKE THESE RIGHT NOW. i'm sorry, this is going to have to be a top eight list, you guys. it's basically a matter of life and death.


  1. Fried bologna (or newfie steak as my dad would call it) was a delicacy as kids. We thought since their was no animal called the Bologna that it was special meat. We thought fried spam was the same.

    Oh I LOVED Swanson TV diners. The chicken was awesome but those potatoes with butter would be the one food I would chose for my last meal.

  2. Awesome. Our family used to eat something I named "glucker soup." I think this perfectly describes where I came from.

  3. From your list, bologna it is my favourite food. Anyway all are good, but this one i like the most.