Remembering with Food on Memorial DayBy Mary Clifton, MD
This Memorial Day, I’d like to suggest a new twist on remembering your loved ones – and it’s all about celebrating their memory through food traditions. I’d like to share something personal with you about my own food memories, and I hope it inspires you to think about your own – and I invite you to share them with us!
So, for me, this subject brings up memories of my sweet grandmother (pictured above, in one of her classic silly moments), who passed on about a year and a half ago. She was someone who truly got me excited about food as a child. Many of my memories with her are in the kitchen, but other memories involve berry picking (U-picks are huge in the midwest), and her backyard garden resplendent with raspberry bushes, snap peas, and lots of tomatoes. We used to have a tradition for years – every Saturday, we’d go to the farmer’s market and have breakfast at the diner counter. Then, we’d pick out sweet corn, fresh produce, and a treat. For me, grandma was food love.
I still remember making pies with her – rhubarb, cherry, blueberry, and apple were her go-to varieties. She’d always use the leftover crust to make little cinnamon treats in the oven. She’d just roll out strips of pastry dough and sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar. That was her favorite. She also loved salads and anything fresh. Even after I went vegan in 1991, to my pleasant surprise, it didn’t hinder us one bit from our love of cooking and eating together. She was always happy to eat an all-vegan meal, and used to say, “If you cooked for me all the time, I’d go vegan!”
For many years, we had “Pasta Night” every Thursday. I’d come over to her house after work, and we’d cook up a great pasta meal together. After I lost weight (I was obese for most of my 20’s), those meals got a little healthier, and I didn’t eat multiple servings, past the point of satisfying my hunger. However, the tradition remained, and we enjoyed our slightly lighter pasta with whole-grain garlic bread, a gorgeous salad, and a healthy dessert (eaten while watching our favorite show “Golden Girls” together).
NOTE: I’m having a moment here. Should I keep rambling on? Are you still interested in hearing about my food memories? As I’m writing, I’m remembering more and more. This makes me feel happy, and it makes me want the same for you. One of the best ways to honor our passed-on loved ones is to remember them. I encourage you to write your stories, whether or not you share them. It’s cathartic! And in the hopes that you’re still interested in hearing more, onwards I write…
In her later years, my grandma developed dementia. She eventually had to be transferred to assisted living. One of the most difficult aspects of seeing her there was that she no longer had access to fresh, healthy food. Even as someone who had always eaten an omnivorous diet, she was always a great vegetable and fruit lover. To see her deprived of fresh foods was heart-breaking. I remember one time I brought a juicer into her room and made her fresh carrot-celery-lemon juice. She enjoyed every last drop. And mangoes. She so loved the mangoes I brought.
How I missed those dinners we’d make at her home. Even after I moved away from the midwest (to Colorado), I’d visit her every summer and we’d resume our tradition of visiting the farmer’s market. We’d bring back bags of fresh sweet corn, potatoes, and tomatoes. Those simplest of dinners were the best – we’d sit at her table just savoring a dinner of local and organic baked potatoes, sliced tomatoes with salt, and sweet corn. To this day, that’s one of my favorite comfort meals.
Whenever she had leftover baked potatoes in the fridge, she’d slice them up and pan-fry them in olive oil. She’d just eat a big plate of them, and that would be her dinner. Sometimes, I do that for my daughter. We also regularly make this apple crisp, which is modified from the version my grandma always made us. We’d top the hot, crunchy apple crisp with milk and enjoy it by the fire. The epitome of cozy!
We were also big popcorn people. Nothing beat making up a big batch of popcorn, some fresh lemonade, and watching a movie (or episodes of “Golden Girls”) together.
Thanks for being part of my Memorial Day – it was heart-warming for me to share these very precious memories with you. I hope it inspires you to do the same, and to make something delicious this Memorial Day in remembrance of your special loved one(s).
Tess Challis is the co-founder of Get Waisted and will be making popcorn, apple crisp, and a beautiful salad this Memorial Day in remembrance of her dear gram.
Posted on by Mary Clifton, MD