Saturday, December 27, 2014

The emotional side of food

I have always been amazed at how our senses can overwhelm our emotions. I  have been blessed with the senses of smell, taste, touch, sight and hearing and have found that there are multiple triggers that bring me back to childhood and often resulting in time spent reliving specific memories. A perfect example is the smell of diesel exhaust from a big rig brings me back to days spent on the road with my father but this is a blog about food so who wants to think about truck exhaust. With that said let me give you a better example about a more appealing form of sensory recall which I experienced tonight.

Earlier in the day Rebecca and I spent time at the grocery store picking up a few items. Every time I go into a grocery store I always take a moment to check out the mark down produce rack and it seems like I always find something worth getting and often times makes its way into our dinner plans. 

Today as I was browsing through the multiple racks I found two bags of artichokes. Most people don't get excited about artichokes but for me they were a childhood staple and I often dream of the day that Rebecca and I finally make the trip to Chiusure, Italy for the Artichoke Festival! When we were dating artichokes were one of the foods that I introduced Rebecca to and have since passed the love of onto our children who refer to them as "natural beauties." I was amazed when I looked at the price and realized I was getting five beautiful buds for less than $1.50! I knew immediately what I was going to do with them but I had no idea how many emotions would come along with the meal.

Growing up my Grandmother Angelina Aquilino would make me the most amazing lunches each week when I would go over to mow the lawn and one of my favorite treats was her stuffed artichokes. I can remember watching her prepare them and while I always loved them fresh out of the oven there were occasions when she made them the day before and I always thought the flavors were even better after chilling in the refrigerator overnight.

When we got home I took the half loaf of bread I was saving and used it to make homemade bread crumbs which I seasoned with olive oil, diced garlic and shallots (which I lightly sauteed) as well as some dried oregano and thyme which was from our summer herb garden. As I began prepping the artichokes I couldn't help but think of my grandmother and the many summer afternoons we spent together sitting at the little table eating lunch together. I carefully stuffed each bud pulling back the trimmed leaves making sure there would be a little stuffing in each and every bite. I placed them in my favorite pan and added some boiling water and a sliced lemon which was one of the ingredients my grandmother always seemed to have in her kitchen whether it was for cooking or taking the rind and squeezing it onto her wrist as a natural fresh citrus perfume.

I covered the pan and moved it to the oven and it didn't take long for the amazing aromas to start filling our house which awoke the families senses resulting in each of them making their way into the kitchen to inquire about what smelled so good and how long would it be till we could eat it! 

While patience is required when making stuffed artichokes it seemed like only a brief moment before my nose told me it was time to uncover the pan to allow the stuffing to get a nice toasty coating as the finishing touch of the cooking process.

I made each of us a plate and as soon as I took that first bite I was transported back to my childhood. It was in this moment that remarked to Rebecca how much I missed my Grandmother. It didn't take long before my sense of taste resulted in an emotional response. I found my eyes welling up with tears and I had to excuse myself from the table to compose myself.

Who would have ever imagined something as simple as an artichoke could invoke so many emotions. I was blessed to have an Italian Grandmother and Mother who took the time to teach me how to cook, they didn't just teach me how to cook for myself they instilled a love of cooking in my heart which I am grateful for each and every time I find myself preparing a meal. I was blessed to have had the chance to bond with my Grandmother as a child and while their time with her was short in comparison to mine I am thankful that my wife and both my kids had a chance to get to know her. Although they never had the chance to have her cook for them like she did for me; I take great comfort in the ability to give them a glimpse of my childhood by doing my best recreating some of the meals she prepared for me. 

1 comment:

Sebbie said...

Your Grandma did get to cook for me Charley, and I will never forget how wonderful her foods were. She is the one who taught me that simplicity is best. I started to eat white clam sauce after she showed me what to use and how to make it. <3