So, Freya mentioned to me earlier in the week that the Kitchen Wench is hosting a food nostalgia event. She said this sort of thing is right up my alley and to start thinking of childhood foods to cook and write about. Every evening after work I have asked if I should make the nostalgic meal and every evening I have been told I couldn’t because there was something else on the agenda. Well, you can imagine my frustration when this morning Freya said, “The post about food nostalgia has to be submitted today to be eligible.”
Fortunately I’ve had the menu planned for a while. The food was easy and quick to prepare and it satisfied the requirement for nostalgia. Just thinking about the menu reminded me of the days when kids flew box kites and a crazy new horseless carriage was all the rage. That’s right, it reminded me of watching the Waltons in the 1970’s.
There was so much more to the 70’s than anachronistic melodrama though. One mustn’t forget the significance of lick and stick tattoos in boxes of Cracker Jack, putting playing cards in bike spokes to make a motorcycle sound, really big GI Joe guys, Star Wars (obviously), and that beautiful man, President Jimmy Carter.
For me a big part of the 1970’s was directed by my interest in street gangs. This was before the days of the Disciples, Bloods, and Crips. Back then children like me formed opinions about gangs from TV shows like Happy Days, films like The Warriors, books like Run Baby Run by Nicky Cruz, or, in my case, West Side Story.
The West Side Story soundtrack was my favourite album in my dads record collection (My second favourite was a collection of Henry Mancini works, but that doesn’t relate to this post.) and I listened to it constantly! I read the gatefold sleeve over and over, studying every picture. I memorised all the lyrics. I knew I wanted to be in a gang. I didn’t think there was any stigma attached to this sort of ambition. After all, who could object to a group of guys singing and dancing?
Every May during the last half of that decade, I would hold a recruitment drive. There was very little in the way of requirements. A kid only had to live in my neighbourhood, have a cool bike, and memorise the Jets theme song. It didn’t matter that I never had a gang called “The Jets” because the disparity was somewhat irrelevant to a seven year old. My gang was called The Bobcat Brothers! The name was chosen after very publicly dropping out of Cub Scouts due to my acute awareness of that organisations social inequities (yep, I’ve always been wracked with political ire). I was left only with my Bobcat rank patch. This became the symbol of my new posse.I wish there were still kids like that around today. We must have been really funny to watch because anybody who thinks they’re cool generally comes off as comical, and man, did I think I was cool. The gang all wore 50’s style white T-shirts with candy cigarette packs rolled up in the sleeves, riding our Schwinns ¾ of a mile from home just so we could meet up behind the bobcat cage at the Myrick Park Zoo. I would find old bottles around the house, the kind that looked more like something from the 1850’s than the 1950’s and fill them with instant Liptons iced tea because I thought it looked like foamy beer. Paradoxically, when the Bobcat Brothers found a whole unopened can of beer outside a grocery store, we only thought to ride over it on our bikes until it blew up.
And that is how the summers passed by. Every day we’d imagine Officer Krupke was chasing us and every evening we would return to our homes and have our dinner before going out again to spend the remaining daylight hours staring through a chain-link fence at the high school kids wishing we were older so they would let us play baseball with them.
For some reason, I remember having every summertime evening meal outside at the picnic table. The food was by no means standard barbeque or picnic fare though. This was probably the result of my parents habit of reserving a room upstairs for international lodgers (a tradition that continues to this day (Hello Fernando!)).
If you’ve read the comments on Freyas Sologa post, you’ll recall mention of one family favourite passed down by Hashem, an Iranian lodger. This was just boiled rice with a raw egg yolk on top and as a kid I absolutely loved it! At these meals we tried every kind of hamburger going, but my personal favourite has always been my moms teriyaki burgers. Salty, sweet, and spicy all at the same time, these burgers are still a hit when I make them for people. A previous post also briefly, ahem, mentions an abundance of green beans in my childhood. I discovered quite accidentally that green beans and ketchup go great together and still remain a gastronomically guilty pleasure for me.
It’s been a long time coming, but what follows is my menu for an instantly nostalgic meal.
- BUTTERED RICE WITH EGG YOLK
- GREEN BEANS AND KETCHUP
- TERIYAKI BURGERS
- The beans are self explanatory. Cook them al dente and serve with Heinz ketchup.
- The rice is simple. One cup basmati rice boiled in two cups water with a knob of butter and a teaspoon of seasalt. Serve one portion with one organic egg yolk.
- The burgers are a bit more involved. This is my version of my moms recipe:
2 Tablespoons sugar
5 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Small onion coarsely chopped
1/4 Teaspoon ground mace
Mix all ingredients together and fry in a pan or, preferably, cook on a grill. Serve naked (The burger that is!).