For the Love of Food and Nostalgia


“Eat. Write. Travel. Cook.”

Sounds awesome to me–add in “read” and it’s practically perfect.

Those are the four words Top Chef judge Gail Simmons wrote down when asked what she wanted to do with her life once she graduated college.


 Talking with my Mouth Full details her quest to create a successful career out of those four words.


As I read her food stories from childhood up to her hosting Top Chef: Just Desserts, I couldn’t help but get caught up in my own food nostalgia.

One of the earliest and most vivid food memories I have is of a glass bakery case filled with sprinkle cookies and pastel frosted cupcakes–all of which were right at my eye level.  I was maybe three or four.

I wonder how many hand prints and nose smudges had to be cleaned from that glass front everyday?

All I remember is the excitement.

Because there can be a lot of emotion tucked away inside of our food memories.

Like the laughter at family birthday parties, especially as my sister and I dipped forkfuls of cake into our tea cups.   The comforting ritual of a bowl of cereal as I watched Saturday morning cartoons.  Or the fun and freedom of walking to the tiny convenience store on the military housing base I lived on in Michigan to buy sweet chewy rice candy (I loved how the rice wrapper just melted in my mouth).

There’s the surprise I felt when I realized how much I liked the cherry beer I drank in Brugge five years ago.  Along with the wonder of the many chocolate shops that lined the cobbled streets, all filled with pretty little candies lined up in perfect rows–inside glass cases of course (I think glass cases trigger a Pavlovian-like longing in me now–it happens now even at Starbucks).

I won’t forget how curious I felt eating crawdads on a picnic table outside our neighbor’s house when we lived in New Orleans, partly because it was so different and partly because I couldn’t quite figure out if I liked eating those little critters or not.

And of course there’s the food we remember simply because we are with those we love.

 baby food face nostalgia _opt


“It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one.”

~ M.F.K. Fisher (The Art of Eating)


What is your favorite food memory?


37 thoughts on “For the Love of Food and Nostalgia

  1. My favorite food memory is of the time my dad made two of my favorite things for dinner: fried clams and chocolate chip cookies. I was six years old and I felt so special. It was made for me!


  2. Use to sit on my dad’s lap on Saturday mornings & he would spend minutes preparing the hard boiled egg that sat before us. He’d butter it, mix it up, then salt it & mix it up, mix it up some more (all while I was on his lap). It seemed like forever! Then he & I use to share that egg, he’d give a spoonful to me, then he had a spoonful. It was heavenly


  3. When I was little, maybe 6 or 7, my step-dad would make me coffee. He’d put enough milk and sugar in it to hide most of the bitterness and it started a life-long love affair with coffee. It kills me that my body rejects coffee now, but thankfully I love tea and so far that seems to be tolerated by my aging innards. 😉

    Love that baby picture!


  4. When my husband and I began dating, we lived in different cities. We had so much fun exploring local restaurants. “Would you like anything else?” was a phrase we heard a few times at the end of our evening as we lingered to talk.


  5. They taste awful to me now, but Little Debbie snack cakes were a favorite. Also Chef Boyardee Ravioli was a big treat when we were on vacation. That was heaven as a kid. As an adult, I wouldn’t touch the stuff! Yuk!


  6. As a young child when staying at my grandparents house, I can remember the breakfast that was often served. They would prepare for me very well-done scrambled eggs with some toast. The eggs could NOT be runny in any way or it “grossed me out” 🙂 Of course I had to sit there and watch them eat soft-boiled eggs straight out of the shell that sat in those small little colored egg cups. Today I still have trouble with runny yolks! 🙂


  7. I’ll give you two. One is of my mother making dinner, as she did every night, while I would cozy up on the couch watching “Welcome Back Kotter.” The sun would be setting, and the glow would fill the room along with the smell of food from Mom’s cooking. I would inevitably fall asleep during that time. Those were the best naps! Another memory is of my father making us kids breakfast in bed on the weekends. He is a morning person, and we used to joke that he didn’t like being up alone because he would bring us this huge breakfast on a tray that included the smallest amount of juice possible. We had to get up if we wanted more to drink. Parents are tricky.


  8. I wasn’t sure where you were going with this post, Colleen.
    But I liked where you went … and I went the whole way with you!
    Favorite food memory from my childhood: popcorn and root beer floats while we watched the Friday night movie as a family. My dad made the old-fashioned kind of popcorn with oil and butter and salt in a pot over the burner on the stove.
    Favorite making a food memory now: My husband making pancakes/waffles for dinner for our kiddos on Sunday nights. Great family time.


  9. Loved this post, Coleen. It really got me thinking – and remembering. My favorite food memory is of grocery shopping with my mother. There was a little cafe area in the store and before we did the weekly shopping, we would stop in there for a plain donut and a cola, and it felt so special.


  10. Whenever my mom was sick when I was growing up, my dad used to fix Campbell’s tomato soup (with milk) and grilled cheese for me and my brother. So when I have that meal now (not very often), it always makes me think of my dad, and how he made do, not knowing how to cook many things. Aside from my mom being sick, it’s a good memory. 🙂


  11. My mom has never enjoyed cooking, but she used to bake a luscious chocolate layer cake flavored with mint extract and topped with her signature chocolate icing which included coffee among its secret ingredients. I took that cake to my first Girl Scout overnight when I was eight or so, and the other kids loved my mom’s cake as much as I did. My memory’s flavored with the pride I felt that day in being my mother’s daughter.


  12. I love this post, Coleen! Taste and smell are connected to a very old section of the brain that circumvents the logic sections, so our response is usually emotional. And food is such a primal thing and has so many connections to family and history. My mother’s stuffed cabbage always meant a holiday or company. And my sister used to try out new cakes on weekends. And of course foods eaten while traveling out of the country or visiting friends will bring back memories so quickly. Mmmm . . .


  13. What a wonderful post — food makes us all melt. Loved the baby picture. Since my mother passed in the last few years, it is interesting how those kinds of memories emerge. My mother was an excellent cook. But, I think helping her pick the rhubarb our of the garden, washing it, cutting it up to make my absolute favorite desert in the world — Strawberry Rhubab pie– for my birthday each May. Thanks for the memory!


  14. Love this post…and it made me hungry! I have so many food memeories with family–from my grandpa’s fried eggs on Saturday mornings, to my grandma’s macaroni and tuna salad for lunch, and oh! I can’t forget my other grandma’s boiled cabbage and potatoes with ham..and my dad’s chicken and dumpling recipe (a secret from his aunt which he has passed on to my sister and I!) And my mom’s enchiladas! Oh man…all this food! All these memories! I feel some blog posts about some of my favorite recipes (well some of them!) coming on! Thanks for the inspiration and the trip down memory lane it made me take!


  15. My favorite food memory would be the time my girlfriend and I went out to lunch with our boys after seeing Santa. My son was SO stressed after seeing Santa, he had cried so, that when his food arrived he promptly feel asleep in it face first. 😀


  16. Exactly. And since I make food tours of every vacation spot I hit, that’s all the more true. I have so many great food memories I can’t even lit them.

    They range from the super chi-chi, like when my father brought the family to my first ridiculously classy dinner in Paris to the comfortingly familiar, like the fun times I’ve gone to Souplantation with my boyfriend or best friend.


  17. Food memories. Hmm. Well as a child I don’t really have any positive food memories to share. I remember getting sick on spagetti once. Not good. But as adult, I have fond memories of the delicious meals that my husband and I shared in Europe. The amazing salmon in Ireland, or lamb in Paris, or the most awesome bean soup in Italy or kaiser rolls in Germany and Austria. We’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel and to have tasted some of the best food. And see, you did help me bring back memories. Now I feel reminisent. It’s all your fault Coleen. I blame you for this. I hadn’t thought about those places for a long time. Dang, I wish we could go back. But the experience just wouldn’t be the same. Ah the memories! 🙂


  18. My dad would go to the southern part of the province and buy hundreds of cobs of corn. Then my mom would blanche them and freeze them for the winter. we ate basically nothing else for those few days. Helping mom, packaging food for the winter and eating hot fresh corn on the cob, dripping with butter. yummmy


  19. My favorite food memory is from the time my grandpa took me along with him to the family’s beach house. While he did some heavy work on the garden, I play on the sand. Later, he made us the world’s best steak and eggs on an iron grying pan. I was seven at the time, but because of our lunch, I’ll remember that great day forever.
    Thanks for giving me an excuse to revisit that day.


  20. Oh crap…you’ve just made me all warm and fuzzy inside with food memories! I have the same ones as you in regards to the cereal with Saturday cartoons (although for me I practically lived on cereal). It’s still a huge comfort food for me!! I also am with you on the glass cases. I swoon at the sight of one knowing there’s goodness within. Sometimes, I even get an inkling of that at the deli…the artisan cheeses, the gourmet meats…..oh….oh…oh…..damn, I’m hungry!


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