“In our tidy suburban world, mommies stayed home and took care of the house, the pets, the children, the husbands. This was a few years before The Feminine Mystique, and nobody seemed to chafe at their roles or talked about careers.”
Eat My Memoir is an ongoing series about family and food. It first appeared on the Vasari21.com website in July 2020, but in fact I’ve been writing these vignettes for some time. It gives me great pleasure to remember and then try to recreate the family’s favorite dishes. Along with the recipes are layers of memory that I’d almost forgotten. In part, the desire to recall my small immediate family in all its particulars (and in pictures) may stem from my brother’s death in December 2019. We were estranged, for reasons I will never understand, and piecing together the family history seems to lead me closer to answers.
These are hugely stressful times.
I often wake up around three in the morning, panicked and ravenous. And hungry, curiously, for specific foods: a slice of cold meat loaf slathered with mayonnaise, a generous smear of foie gras on Melba toast, gooey tuna-fish salad with celery and capers. Alas, most of these things are usually not in my fridge.
And so I scarf down what comfort I can from a slice of cheese or half a banana, and go back to bed with a cup of hot herbal tea. Then I often start cruising for recipes, a respite from my day job as editor of a website for artists. I was looking for a good way to make Swiss steak in a slow cooker, remembering that this was one of my grandmother’s specialties—and a host of memories came tumbling back: her dedication to Christian Science, the hens and roosters my grandparents kept on their ramshackle “farm” north of Detroit, the summers my brother and I visited.
And I wondered what it would be like to write about food and memory, since for me so many specific foods conjure up different stages in my life (my favorite seduction dinner when I was a graduate student, for instance).
Thus was born a kind of autobiography in recipes called, Eat My Memoir. Selfishly I’ve loved resuscitating a past that includes long-dead loved ones. I find it a source of comfort and am flooded with gratitude for those who raised me and loved me, and whom I have loved in return. The excavation of a past through food has summoned some drop-dead funny moments, as well. Those are the best. Especially now, when laughter can feel like a ray of sunshine in the dark.