I think this picture was taken at a family vacation with my Irish grandparents on a Wisconsin lake not too far from Kenosha. We slept in a cabin with lots of screened windows. The beach was very rocky, but we splashed in regardless. I’m not too clear on the details, but I do remember some of the food we ate in the summer. My mom and grandparents were magicians; making picnics special occasions with simple food. Simple? Maybe not with five kids screaming and running all over the place. Memorial Day comes with a flood of childhood memories. I’m sure they are a blend of summer events; Fourth of July picnics, or other vacations took when we weren’t in school.
They say that memories are stronger when associated with smell and taste. Fresh cut grass or charcoal grills usually release the floodgate of memories.
Meal planning based on childhood memories takes research. Family recipes, ancient cook books, internet, crowd sourcing. This may not be a complete memory; but it’s what comes to mind when I’m planning a Memorial Day meal for my family.
Burgers with basics. Condiments were ketchup and mustard. If it was a fancy picnic, there would be iceberg lettuce leaves, tomato slices and some onions that I don’t think anyone ate. If there was cheese, it was processed and sliced.
Salads. German Potato salad that wouldn’t spoil if left out more than an hour in the sun like the mayonnaise version. Or the mayonnaise version was offered, and put back in the fridge? I remember both. Three bean salad; definitely three bean salad. With canned beans. Or maybe the green and yellow wax beans came from the garden and the kidney beans came from cans. And a garden salad with iceberg lettuce, tomato, radish and peeled cucumbers.
Deviled eggs. Dusted with paprika for super fancy backyard picnics.
When I start researching, I’ll refer to this Twitter feed or Tumblr blog – because I know if my mom saw this in a magazine she would roll her eyes at it. The effort vs the appreciation from her family would not have made any of these recipes worth the effort. She had a sister in-law who was a Julia Child devote anyway – you know, the person who was making real food in the 70s.
What I remember most fondly is the chocolate Texas cake. My grandma would put chopped walnuts on top. I think I remember cherries in it once. I make it plain; just chocolate. I found a recipe online that tastes like I remember it. There are other versions on this site; but this one is my favorite. It was my old cat Porsche’s favorite, too.
The other thing I remember is watermelon seed spitting contests. And bing cherry eating contests where the winner was the person who stuffed the most cherries into their mouth. They only counted when you spit out each stone. Choking hazard much?
What are your favorite childhood food memories?
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