I watched "Ratatouille" over the weekend -- I love that movie!
Jeremy was a good son and went to see it on opening day with me back in 2007. I don't usually bother going to movies. Sitting and staring at the screen just puts me to sleep, whether in a theatre or at home; and very little that's produced anymore is worth the extortionist prices. But that one featured both food and France ... what more could I ask for???
So, anyway, I watched the movie yet again a few days ago. And -- as happened not only when I saw it for the first time, but also with each subsequent viewing -- I was struck by the scene in which feared food critic Anton Ego first tastes the ratatouille that has been prepared especially for him after he dares Gusteau's restaurant to hit him with their best shot. It is so poignant and so beautiful, and every single one of us can relate to it!
Now, for those who either haven't seen the movie or who would like a refresher, I offer two options for watching the scene: a shorter, silent version or a longer one that sounds beautiful in Italian. (A third variation -- being able to hear it in English -- is currently not available ... oy!)
Now, each of us has some memory of food -- a dinner made by our mother or grandmother or the mother of a best friend whose house we used to hang out at, the meal we'd order at a favorite restaurant on extra special occasions, the soup or Jell-o salad we'd get if we were home sick, something -- that prompts this reaction. We taste this special item in the present and we are instantly transported back to the past, though sometimes we long for a dish we haven't eaten in decades that we simply cannot recreate.
The latest issue of Edible Brooklyn tells the story of Ebinger's famous Blackout Cake, an intensely rich chocolate reverie comprised of dark chocolate cake layers, filled with chocolate pudding and coated in chocolate cake crumbs. It is a legend unto itself -- unavailable in its original form since the bakery closed in 1972 -- but a recipe for it was featured in Molly O'Neill's New York Cookbook.
"Former New York Times food critic and revered writer Molly O’Neill, while researching for her 1992 New York Cookbook, tested 15 different recipes at four different bake-offs attended by 'Ebinger blackout cake savants' and remembers the fights that erupted over which was most true to form. 'One of the recipes I got I’m sure was from a bakery because it was in huge commercial quantities, but none of the Ebinger maniacs liked it so well.'”
And the problem, of course, was that each person had his or her own taste memory, affected by time, by physical changes, by distance, by equipment, by many factors. Even if one could use the identical recipe in the same kitchen with the same oven, after nearly 40 years you'd likely still not get people to agree that this was the magical cake!
My paternal grandmother never wrote down recipes, or even notes about recipes, and simply cooked instinctively. (My maternal grandmother at least scribbled ingredient lists onto a few index cards.) My father's favorite dish of hers was Bread Pudding, made simply with milk, eggs, sugar, and some jam shmeared onto white bread; she baked it in a loaf pan.
I've spent decades trying to recreate it, and have been unable to; but I know, too, that even if I'd actually inherited a prized handwritten copy of the precise instructions, the passage of time combined with variations in ingredients and the modernization of equipment -- not to mention the different hands and heart engaged in this labor of love -- would still make the precious bread pudding elusive. It is gone forever, though my father remembers it with devotion each time he tries an inferior substitute.
So tell me -- what food do you remember most fondly from your childhood? What dish can't you get anymore or can't you replicate? And what prompts you to remember it -- an occasion, or a season, or a date, or a similar item?
Pour a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine, depending upon the time of day you're visiting!) and come take a trip down Memory Lane with me. As the now-defunct band Elefant sings in the song "Misfit": "... tell me your story, 'cause I'm into it." (This, of course, you can hear ... and in English!!!)
By the way, if you'd like to nominate your very favorite food blog (hint, hint!) as a candidate for Saveur's 2011 Best Food Blog Awards, please click on this link to Saveur.com. Blogging is admittedly an act of narcissism, and I'm looking for a little extra attention ... well, apparently I'm outright begging, how's that??? Many thanks for any love you might throw my way ... :)
Ghosts of Postings Past and Present
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- ► 2012 (229)
- White Chocolate Cherry Scones
- Share Your Breakfast and Feed a Hungry Child
- Feast + Easter = Feaster!
- Squash from Squares
- Elvis Doughnut Sandwiches
- Savory Salmon Pancakes
- Vegetable Cheese Mina
- Custard with Strawberry Sauce and Macaroons
- Chocolate Caramel Matzah
- The 5th Question
- Lenten Friday: A Simple Salmon Salad
- Triple Onion Salsa
- Chorizo and Couscous Stuffed Peppers
- The Complete Idiot's Guide to Wine Tasting for Dum...
- Yam 'n' Cheese Sandwich
- Lenten Friday: Vegetarian Sloppy Joes
- Taste Memory
- Salsa Fried Rice
- Corned Beef, Piled High
- Peeping Into the Art Exhibit
- Lenten Friday: Asparagus Bread Pudding with Mushro...
- ▼ April (21)