I partake in it multiple times a day. It makes me happy, on many levels. I love the taste and the smell. The texture, mouth-feel, temperature. I love preparing foods, purchasing ingredients, chopping and frying and baking. I love buying food, and happily spend hours browsing grocery stores, delis, and markets. I love the act of eating - sharing a meal with friends and family is a wonderful thing, as is enjoying a quiet, solitary meal, with just my crossword and music for company.
I've ALWAYS loved food, despite having a long and weird relationship with it. From an omg-eat-everything baby/toddler, to a super-picky child, to an eight year old vegetarian who didn't like vegetables, to a junk food fiend in my early teens, to a crash diet queen in my late teens, to a health food freak in my university days, to a born-again meat-eater, to....... whatever I am now. Somewhere in between, I think. All of the above and none of the above: I eat pretty much everything.
Except most seafood. Especially prawns. Which look like foetuses and that is not okay by me.
I love the way food can take you back. The memories associated with different dishes. Here are some of my absolute favourites from my childhood - some are pure trash, others are home-cooked classics that bring back the nicest memories of my childhood and my parents.
So, without further ado, I bring you this inevitably crazy-long entry...
[note: when putting this post together, I was originally emailing the owners of the photos for their permission. But then the list of foods got monstrously long and I got lazy. I've attached links to their original owners/locations, and full credit goes to them. If any of you have an objection to your pictures being used, let me know and I'll take them down, stat!]
Image from 123RF
Soft boiled eggs with buttered toast soldiersSometimes I'd manage to convince mum to let me use potato chips or fries instead of toast. Those were good days.
Related story: I once dated a boy who had never heard of 'soldiers'. It was that moment that I knew our relationship was doomed.
Image from Ramblings of a Pacioccona
Cheese on ToastEven in high school, my friends would come over just to eat mum's cheese on toast for afternoon tea. Often accompanied by ...
Image from Aygee
RibenaIt tastes better out of the little individual boxes. Scientific fact.
Image from Food.People.Want
FalafelsWhen I was about 4 or 5 years old, my parents used to often take me to St Kilda on weekends. We'd walk along the beach, feed the seagulls, get ice cream, people-watch the hipsters, go to cafes (and I felt incredibly grown up and sophisticated, as I sipped my Babycino) and - once or twice- go to Luna Park. But my absolute FAVOURITE memory of these outings was the Falafel Man, who stood on a street corner, handing out samples of falafels, just cooked in his little portable deep fryer. They were blisteringly hot - still sizzling - and I loved the contrast of the unbelievably crispy, crunchy, shattering exterior, and soft and tender inside. I've never had better falafels, and my life is a quest to relive the beauty of these babies.
This, my friends, is how you get a vegetable-hating 5 year old to eat vegetables.
Image from 13 Cups
Semolina PorridgeI didn't have this often, but it stands out in my memory as something unique that my mum made. None of my friends at school ever had this for breakfast, and it was such a warm, cosy, squishy, comforting, filling food, yet still somehow light. On my last trip to Melbourne, I had it for breakfast at The Hardware Societe, and it was still as wonderful as I remember.
Image from FeedMe
Fried Potato SlicesFrom ages 8-10, I more or less lived on these. I'd just become a vegetarian, but hated pretty much every vegetable in existence/was the fussiest eater EVER. So I ate fried potatoes for pretty much every meal. Cooked in butter, then eaten between bread and butter, with a shitload of ketchup. Because it's important to include fruits and vegetables in every meal.
Image from YayMicro
Pancakes with lemon juice and sugarAnother classic mum dish. Her pancakes are the best in the world. She never made the big fat fluffy type pancakes (which I still consider GROSSLY INFERIOR)... Instead, ours were thin, eggy and crepe-like. We'd squeeze lemon juice on them, pour on sugar, and roll them up into tubes, then cut them into little slices to be eaten with a knife and fork. I can put away an alarming number of these.
Image from Food Network
Canned chicken noodle soupEvery day after pre-school, I'd go to my best friend Michael's house and eat chicken noodle soup, with bread for dipping. Never got old.
Image from Canadian D-Girl
SmartiesSometimes I crave M&Ms, but mostly my heart belongs to Smarties. When you want Smarties, no other candy-coated-chocolate-disc will do. Their oddly soft, papery, dissolving shell, and colours that always seem somehow muted and pastel, are sacred to me.
Image from ZSZN
McDonald's chicken nuggetsI always went for nuggets when I got McDonald's Happy Meals. I was a foolish child who didn't like pickles and therefore hated the cheeseburgers. These days, I buy them pretty much JUST FOR the pickles. But chicken nuggets still rock my world.
Image from Dinner with the Omnivore
Crumpets... leaking butter and golden syrup everywhere. Sticky fingers and food-stained face = my childhood in a nutshell.
Image from The English Kitchen
Tinned Spaghetti on ToastOften this was baked beans instead, but there is something about the carb-on-carb action that is so dear to my heart.
Image from Life as a Cheese Danish
Porridge with milk, brown sugar and butterThe feeling I get eating hot porridge - drowned in milk to cool it down, with hard crumbly lumps of brown sugar and a biiiiig plop of butter right in the middle - is the closest I can get to explaining how I feel about my mother. Warm and comforting and delicious and sweet and balanced and filling and gooey. Mum-in-a-bowl.
I just wish my real mum had a giant lump of butter right in the centre of her face. That'd be awesome. I'd kiss her way more often.
Image from Adventures at Home
Milly Molly Mandy PotatoesWhen mum first read me this story, I knew I needed to eat these potatoes for real. They were everything I hoped for and more...a little salt, a little pepper, and a LOTTTT of butter :)
Image from Losing Terry
Strawberry Big MsProbably my favourite photos of myself as a little kid is of me sitting on a window-sill, wearing a white dress with bright pink polkadots, which matches the Big M I'm slurping. The frames of my giant, old lady glasses are also pink. My hair is in pigtails and I'm sitting like a truckie with my legs splayed, so the whole world can see my underpants. Once I find this photo, it'll be my Facebook profile pic FOR SURE.
Image from Skywords with El Al
Potato LatkesWe went to a Jewish food fair when I was a little kid, and I still remember my first taste of real bagels and blintzes. But it was the latkes that really got me. I absolutely fell in love. They are a near perfect food, as far as I'm concerned. Wonderful with sour cream, or apple sauce, or powdered sugar, or salt and pepper, or honey, or ketchup, or WHATEVER. I nearly grate my fingers off every time I make them, but it's a small price to pay.
Image from Urban Playground
Apples and CheeseThis is still my go-to snack. Sweet, slightly tart, crisp apple + smooth - but still relative sharp and flavourful! - cheese = the greatest combination in the world.
Image from Kalyn's Kitchen
Celery with Peanut ButterAnother snack classic. And probably the only way you'll ever get me eating celery.
Image from iTV
Fish finger sandwichesI recently ate one again, for the first time in probably 19 years or so. I can honestly say it was still wonderful, and I look forward to making them a regular part of my life again.
Image from Maggi
2 Minute Noodles (beef flavour)I ate so many of these that I really think Child Protection Services should've stepped in. I refused any flavour but beef. OCCASIONALLY, under very desperate conditions, I'd accept chicken... but begrudingly.
My preferred method of consumption: Extract noodles, allow to cool a little until they're beginning to congeal/become hard and clumpy. Drain soup into separate bowl. Eat each separately, using bread and butter to dip into soup AND to put noodles on top of. Further proof of my undying love of carbs-on-carbs.
Image from Cookipedia
Vanilla SlicesMy dad and I share a mutual love for all things 'slice' (see below!). We are complete snobs when it comes to 'snot blocks', and are forever on a mission to find The Ultimate. Country town bakeries across the nation fear us.
Image from Monarch Cakes
Caramel SlicesThe sweeter, the sicklier, THE BETTER. But we do have standards: it's gotta be REAL chocolate. Give me that compound bullshit and I'll glass you in the eye.
Image from Pictures Depot
Milky Way chocolate bars
(the Australian version - check out Wikipedia for the difference).Mum used to sometimes buy these for me 'when I'd been really good' while grocery shopping, because they were relatively small and 'healthier' and less likely to send me on a completely deranged sugar high. I have this really clear memory of walking home from the supermarket one day, and smelling chocolate. "MUM! I CAN SMELL CHOCOLATE!!! WHERE IS IT?!?!?" .... she looked guilty. I noticed a little smear of brown in the corner of her mouth. That sneaky woman had bought herself one, but not one for me. I have never let her forget The Milky Way Incident of 1992.
Image from BBC Good Food
Scalloped Potato BakeThis was a staple at family barbeques, and probably the only reason I enjoyed them. I would regularly ask mum to make POTATOES-WITH-MILK-AND-CREAM-AND-CHEESE!!! She knew what I meant.
Image from Aroma Cookery
Peanut Butter and Honey on ToastJam & PB is good; honey & PB is better.
[for the record... PB and jam AND honey AND Nutella AND maple syrup is the best... but sometimes I try to exhibit SOME self restraint]
Image from handmadewithlove1
Beef Stroganoff with Pasta (and buttloads of sour cream).I've talked a lot about my mum's cooking in this entry, so it's about time dad got some credit. He makes the absolute best stroganoff in the world. There is no contest. Everything else is embarrassingly pitiful in comparison. You shouldn't even try to top it. You will just fail and I will be ashamed of you.
The end. Common themes: potatoes, butter, anything-on-top-of-bread. Yep. Some things never change.
Question time: what are YOUR nostalgia foods?! Was your childhood diet as 'balanced' as mine!!? ;)