The Things Memories are Made of

by Lisa Rosen on June 29, 2010

I was in Charlotte recently, stopped at a traffic light, when I saw this building, catacorner across the street.  I pulled a vaguely illegal little maneuver into a parking lot, and hopped out to take this photo, which is hereby dedicated to my mother.

She grew up here in North Carolina, but moved away to follow my dad from one Air Force base to another when I was a child.  When they came back to NC, my mother set about rediscovering all her favorite foods from childhood, one of which was something she called, reverently, Neese’s Liver Pudding.

This was not something I had known as a child.  Not. At. All.  I guess you could call it the southern poor man’s version of foie gras, maybe?  I never had the nerve to read the label, so I’m not entirely sure what’s in it.  But my mother loved it when I was in high school; I have clear memories of her microwaving little slabs of the stuff to snack on.  I always got the feeling it had sort of mythical status in her compendium of childhood memories.

This, on the other hand, is one of my favorite food memories–it’s the sloppy joe from my favorite vegetarian restaurant, The Laughing Seed, up in the mountains.  Lee and I have been eating at The Laughing Seed for as long as I can remember.  For the longest time, it was the only restaurant in Asheville that we loved, and for longer than that it was the only vegetarian game in town.  Since I was a vegetarian for a long while, I really loved knowing about a restaurant where I knew I’d love anything on the menu.  But I especially loved that sloppy joe.

It’s sweet and tangy and a little spicy.  I know that your average confirmed carnivore is probably a little freaked-out by the idea of a meat substitute (and frankly, I’m not usually a big fan, either), but for some reason, this sloppy joe used to be nirvana to me.

Times have changed, Asheville has grown, the food scene here is booming, and my tastes have evolved.  But that Laughing Seed sloppy joe will always have a special place in my heart.

We all have food memories like that–touchstones, dishes that we associate with a special person, or a particularly happy memory.  Perhaps one of the reasons I love that sloppy joe so much is that we’re always on vacation when I eat it, and more often than not, we’re a big, laughing, happy group of revelers taking up a large table.  If there were a Laughing Seed down the block from our house, would it seem so special?  Probably not.

What are your nostalgia foods, the dishes that take you back, that you’ll always go back to even after you discover other loves?

(ps–I’m going to take a few days off from posting here on the blog, but will still be reading and responding to comments.  I’ll recharge my mental batteries and resume posting sometime next week.)

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Frances Hill June 29, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Remember that potted chicken spread Mother used to make for me? She’d add a little Miracle Whip and some pickle juice. Man that was good. It sounds completely disgusting, but I loved it.
I don’t eat potted meat. Ever. For very many reasons, but I’ll bet a host of memories would come flooding back if I were to make myself one of those sandwiches.

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Lisa Rosen June 30, 2010 at 11:47 am

Oh! Yes. Underwood deviled chicken, I think it was called. The little cans were wrapped in paper. I remember that stuff vividly–it was in my 1976 Bicentennial lunchbox more often than not, if I recall correctly. 🙂

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Bobbi Janay July 7, 2010 at 12:12 am

I would have to think long and hard to decide on just one food of childhood that brings on that nirvana feeling.

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Lisa Rosen July 8, 2010 at 10:10 am

Hi Bobbi–
Yes, my list of food memories is long. It’s fun to think about–which foods you associate with which people, or which places or special events.
I guess I’ve just always loved to eat!

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