Just Hungry 4th anniversary book giveaway: Hungry Planet

[Update: The book winner has already been determined, but I’ve opened up the comments again in case anyone else would like the share their own food memories.]

Thursday the 29th of November will mark the 4th anniversary of Just Hungry. 4 years - I can’t believe it’s been going that long. It’s all because of you, the people who come here to read and comment, and give me and the people who help me out on this site (thank you, my elves) so much encouragement.

Thank you!

To commemorate this anniversary, we’re giving away a copy of one of my favorite books related to food of all time - Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Alusio.

hungryplanet400.jpg

I reviewed this in depth 2 years ago, and it’s still one of my favorite books of all time. It would make a perfect Christmas present, for a loved one or for yourself!

In the spirit of the book as well as of Just Hungry, if you’d like a chance to get your own copy, leave a comment to this post with your favorite food-related memory. If you have a blog and would rather write it there, please post the link to the blog post in the comments (you can’t do trackback pings I’m afraid, since that’s become the tool of spammers).

So here are the rules…

  • Your story must be posted or linked to here by 23:59 Central European Time on Friday, November 30th. Please leave your email in the appropriate field (don’t worry, all email addresses are spam-proofed) so we can contact you.
  • The book will be shipped to you directly from an Amazon store near you, so please make sure you live in a country where Amazon ships. (I don’t know of many countries where they don’t, but you never know.)

Incidentally, the book has been translated into German and Japanese, and if you prefer your copy in one of those languages, that’s fine too. Just Hungry is an international site!

The elves and I will pick our favorite food related story and announce the winner next Monday, December 5th.

I can’t wait to read your stories!

Don't miss any more recipes and articles! Subscribe to Just Hungry via your newsreader or by email (more about subscriptions).
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Cherries!

I have SO MANY food-related memories, because I come from a huge extended Taiwanese family that values meals together over pretty much anything else, so it’s truly hard to decide which one is my favorite. The one that stands out right now goes back roughly 15 or 16 years. My maternal grandfather (Ye-Ye) was a phenomenal cook and an even more phenomenal grandfather. He doted on each of us from the moment we were born, and one of his favorite ways to spoil his grandkids was to buy and prepare foods that they loved.

My favorite fruit when I was a child (and still to this day) are dark, sweet bing cherries. I looked forward to cherry season every year, and this year was no exception. We happened to be in Taiwan visiting my family when cherries were in season, and my grandfather casually asked what I would like to eat while I was there visiting. I told him that I wanted cherries. I was young, and I didn’t know that cherries in Taiwan were all imported and as such RIDICULOUSLY expensive.

The next thing I knew, he had returned with literally a 5 kg box of cherries. I was delighted, but my mother was not pleased that he had spent so much money to buy them for me. She chided me for telling him about my love for cherries then tried to chide him for trying to spoil me. But he brushed her off, and proceeded to wash them for me to eat. As I recall, they were perfectly sweet and wonderful, and although they were as much for everyone else in the family to eat as they were for me, I knew that Ye-Ye had bought them for me.

I think the reason this story stands out so much to me is that it really emblematizes the way my family works. Food is always lovingly purchased and prepared, and when we eat together, it’s an outward sign of our love for each other. Food and love and joy are all intricately woven together for us.

Sorry this was so sappy and long, but this is a really warm memory for me. :)

-Deneese

Deneese | 26 November, 2007 - 23:09

A Really Good Sandwich

My favorite food related memory (and I have many to choose from) was biting into a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich that a friend of mine made and realizing it was the flavor I had craved all my life and hadn’t tasted until that moment. When I think about it now, I can see and hear a huge choir singing the Hallelujah Chorus as I happily eat.

Fran | 26 November, 2007 - 23:41

One of my greatest food

One of my greatest food memories isn’t so much centered around the food, but around the company that always accompanied it (though obviously it involves the food, otherwise this wouldn’t be a food memory, now would it). When I was a child, we always had Sunday lunch at my grandmother’s house and she went all out on her cooking every week. Any sort of breakfast and lunch food you might desire, but for all of her grandchildren, there was only one thing that was really looked forward to was the raw biscuit dough she always set out for us. Her cooked biscuits were delicious as well, but everyone always tried to get there early enough to be able to snatch up one of those deliciously gooey uncooked biscuits.

Even if my grandmother had the energy to do that now, there’s no way I would be able to participate in that, which became a competition in many ways. I’m a vegetarian now and she uses bacon drippings in her dough. So in two ways, it’s something I can never access again because of choices and the passing of time.

Katie | 26 November, 2007 - 23:55

My favorite food memory?

My favorite food memory? When I was little and my mother was a little more vigilant about Chinese customs, we’d always make a particular soup around Christmas time. I don’t know why we did it or what it was called but it was a basic savory soup with smallish chewy white dough balls (sticky enough to stick to your teeth). My second oldest sister and I were always wanting to help make it - taking the sticky dough in our hands and vigorously shaping them into balls - we liked making it more than we liked eating them! Every year, we’d bug my mom about making it until she’d finally give in and shuffle us all into the kitchen. I think she knew that we were more after the process than the results.

Now that everyone in my family is much older, we’ve dropped a a lot of old traditions either out of laziness or disinterest. But it’s a nice memory to have - sitting around a table with family and floured hands.

Teri | 27 November, 2007 - 01:39

English Beef Stew

I had to stay with my grandparents in Italy (where we’re from) for about a year when I was transitioning from first to second grade, because my parents were in the process of moving us to Mexico. My parents went ahead to settle a little before I came over, giving me a chance to stay in school in my city for one more year.

My grandma wasn’t ever a great cook, but I always liked what she made for us because she made it. My (English) grandpa had been in the army and wasn’t shy around the kitchen. The best part was just eating with my grandma and grandpa, instead of moving to a far away country.

It was only when my grandpa made his special English Beef Stew recipe, that she would get a little huffy, and her feelings a little tender. On one of these occasions, my grandpa and I went shopping for the ingredients… leaving my grandma at home sulking just a little, just like she asked we do.
Once we came back we found out my grandma had made peach pudding (similar to flan or creme caramel but with peach flavor). My, was this going to be a great yummy! My grandpa started making the stew, and to my surprise it took such a long time to cook that we didn’t eat until the night-time. With only a pickled herring sandwhich (yet another British treat that my grandma made for me, and so well!) to tie us over until dinner, I just couldn’t wait anymore!
Finally, the stew was ready, and was spooned onto our fondine (bowls) which had been passed down from my grandmother’s mother (they had helped feed at least three generations!). Some delicious and bakery-fresh crunchy focaccia was sliced and served on a plate in the middle of the table. We had two helpings and then followed up by having each our very own individual serving of peach pudding, in glass ramekins.

It was so tasty and nice to gather around the table, turn off the tv nearby, and just enjoy some delicious, home-made, and family passed-down recipes with my grandfather and grandmother.

I treasure memories like these from that time I was with my grandparents, because after I left my grandfather passed away from lung cancer. Those were truly special bowls of stew, and truly fun times that I will cherish forever.

Jessica D | 27 November, 2007 - 02:27

chocolate soft serve ice cream cone

When I was about 6, my mom took my big sister and I to a department store. It was about this time of the year, Christmas shopping. I saw a magic set that I really, rally wanted, but my mother said it was for older kids. I had a 6 year old hissy fit , dragging on the ground, acting like a brat. I wanted that magic set so much!

Later, I snuck away from mom and sis to go back to look at the magic kit. I still remember staring at it… Then I realized I was lost and I panicked. It was the most scared I’ve ever been in my life. And yup, I started crying. One of the store ladies took me to the store security office (I think that was it anyway, the guys there were wearing uniforms like policemen). One of the police-security guys got me a chocolate soft ice cream cone. It was my favorite. I managed to lick the chocolate, getting it all over my face, while still crying my head off. That’s how my mom and sister found me…sitting in the security office with chocolate ice cream and tears all over my face.

My sister and I are both in our 30s now with kids of our own, and she still brings up that story, in front of the kids of course, every year around this time.

I still love soft serve chocolate ice cream too.

maz | 27 November, 2007 - 10:34

Quality Street

My father’s youngest brother was 15 years younger than he was. When I was 5 he was 15 I think. I loved my uncle, because he was always ready to play with me. I must have bothered him a lot but he never seemed to care. Looking back he was really just a big kid.
He used to have a hidden stash of sweeties, in a big biscuit tin, all the stuff that mother and gran wouldn’t let me have. He’d let me dip into his stash. He never had to tell me to keep mum about it. It was our secret. My favourites were Quality Street which were a special Christmas treat at our house, but uncle M had it all year round. I loved the toffees because they would glue my teeth together. I wonder now if he gave them to me to shut me up! Sadly uncle M died some years later, he was depressed after his girlfriend left and he killed himself. My family had split up by then and mother had taken us to live in America with my stepdad. (I returned to the UK later on in life). My mother didn’t tell us about his death even until some time later because she thought it would upset us too much. When I see all the Quality Street boxes and tins in the shops at this time of year I remember my uncle.

GloriaG | 27 November, 2007 - 10:47

wow

I’m loving these stories…they’re making me tear up too.

Keep em coming!

maki | 27 November, 2007 - 10:58

instant noodles = instant pleasure

Now that I’m out of the instant tom yum noodles that I brought from San Francisco, my students snicker when they see me pulling out the instant tom yum noodles I buy at the local Polish supermarket. “Chinese noodles from Poland,” they always say.

But see, I figure that since there’s a huge Vietnamese population in Warsaw, and Vietnam’s pretty close to Thailand, the noodles can’t be all that…inauthentic, even if they’re not as strong and spicy as the stuff I can get back home. And anyway, it’s a thousand times better than instant barszt with noodles.

In dire situations, one makes do. Living in the middle of the forest in Poland is not easy, and at times, I simply must drown my sorrows and stress in a steaming mug of instant noodles. My entire family is addicted to the stuff; I don’t know if it’s a Taiwanese thing, or a Laotian thing, or a Chinese thing, or an immigrant thing, or what. Whatever. I like mine sour and spicy.

When I was little, my father used to let my mom off the hook on Sunday mornings and cook up a bachelor’s breakfast for me and my brother. He’d wake us up by way of asking, “How many do you want?” If I was feeling ambitious, I’d go for three packs of noodles, but generally I could only eat two. I’d lay in bed, trying to delay getting out from under the covers for as long as possible, but then the smell of noodles would drift into my room, and I would worry about them getting too soggy to be delicious.

My dad would cook the noodles separately from the soup, and he’d cook two kinds of noodles together: the maru-chan ramen noodles, which had a thicker noodle but boring soup, and the tom yum noodles with the thinner noodles and the yummy soup. He’d crack an egg into the soup and serve us the noodles in bowls the size of my head, topped with tomato wedges, sliced iceberg lettuce, and julienned deli ham. I never got tired of it.

I’m a little less ritualistic about my noodles here. They’re a late night craving, and I simply crunch up the noodles in the bag, dump them in a mug, pour boiling water over them, stack a plate on top, and carry the thing back up to my bedroom. I’m late night noodle girl. I can never figure out if my cravings are due to an actual addiction, or simply a nostalgia for home.

lauren | 27 November, 2007 - 12:57

My Favorite Food Memory

Hi M,

When I’d speak to my parents over the phone, specially my dad, he’d say; “Have I eaten yet?” Though I was far away and he could not really tell if I was telling the truth or not, I’d always say yes I had. I guess that was a good enough answer for awhile until he started to ask; “What was it I ate?”

Anytime time I called my parents my dad would always ask me that first. And I’d be sure to remember what my last meals was before I spoke to my dad, so that I could tell him the details.

As I’ve gotten older and now in my late 20’s I sometimes miss those words from my dad; “Have I eaten?” In a way, it was his way of telling me how much he loved me.

Food has always played a big role between my dad and I. He did not cook as often as my mother did, but when he did cook, I knew it was always for me. Even though I have two other siblings, my dad would always want to know what I wanted to eat.

So, I guess that is one of the greatest reasons I love to share food. It’s my way of saying I care about that person. To answer your question, everyday should be a favorite food day we only live but once. Why don’t we ate happily. Even if its just green tea and rolled oatmeal in the morning.

Ciao from South America

O

p.s. Congrats on your 4th!!!

ode | 27 November, 2007 - 14:41

Curry Chicken

One of my favorite childhood foods was curried chicken that my mom made. Very comfort food. I recently updated it by adding in vegetables (carrots & spinach) and tofu for extra nutrition but it still had the same look & feel, and we loved it.

Sharon | 27 November, 2007 - 18:18

Christmas Cookies

Every year just before Christmas, my Grandma, mom, sisters and I get together to make Christmas sugar cookies. Grandmother always brings the pre-made dough, for her recipe is a secret. We break out the Christmas cookie cutters, roll, cut and bake, then decorate with a basic milk/confenctioners sugar icing, dyed every color we can think of (and some that likely haven’t been invented yet!) We have the most wonderful time painting green trees with red tinsel, putting red noses on the reindeer, and layering colors on the stars with sprinkles and other decorations. Once we finish, we pack up a bunch to send to Grandma’s twin sister, who has her own secret cookie recipe. Hers come in the mail in a tin, no icing necessary. They are paper thin, and taste of almost pure butter.
Of course, all of these cookies are eaten up right away once the whole family comes over to enjoy them with hot cups of coffee! To me, these cookies are the taste of Christmas, and no Christmas would be complete without them.
This tradition has been going on for 27 years, and I hope that we will continue it far into the future.

Nico | 27 November, 2007 - 18:54

favorite food story

That’s a tough question - food is as much a social thing as it is a necessity. So it’s a bit like asking what is your favorite outing, lol!

I think i will go with when my flatmates and I had just found this really quaint vegetable shop. It was AMAZING!!!!! There were tons of fresh vegetables, many of which i’d never seen before and tons of local produce.
With all these new and interesting veg i decided to buy a load that i knew and make something.
I bought fresh ginger and some hot chillies and decided to try and make some sort of thai meal. Combining a couple of recipies i marinated a load of chicken in soya sauce, fish sauce, chilli and the ginger and then stuck it in the fridge so the chicken wouldn’t go bad. When my flatmates got win of this they all thought i’d gone mad as they’d never seen marinade like this.

This made me VERY worryied that I’d just blown a load of money on a half though out plan (which i have done before). But i kept to my guns and when it was all cooked and served the meat was so tender it litterally fell apart!

drool!

just read your review, sounds like a heck of an interesting book !! Congratulations on your 4 year anniversary and your recipies are still as interesting and tastey!

Gail_Blitzy | 28 November, 2007 - 16:15

Yams

When I was in the 1st grade my family lived around 4 blocks around away from my elementary school. Our mom had just recently allowed my sister and me to walk home from school by ourselves and we were thrilled because it meant we could stop for candy at the liquor store, something our mother never allowed. We would dillydally on the way home, stopping to make ringlets out of flowers and playing games with friends. Everyday my sister and I were at least 1/2 an hour late going home and our mom would be exasperated because our lunch would be cold by then.

That winter it rained and rained it did, with torrents of icy cold wind. My sister and I wasted no time getting home, not even stopping to jump in puddles because we knew what was waiting for us at home. On those cold winter afternoons our mom roasted yams in the oven, the aroma of which we could sniff out from even outside the house. We would peel off our rain boots and shed our wrappings as we ran into the kitchen, the table covered with newspapers in anticipation of the feast.

Our mom would hand us each a steaming hot yam that would blister our hands and drip honey down our fingers. As we ate those yams our mom would dry our wet hair and put clean socks on our feet and we would slowly regain warmth as we shared our day’s activities. As we talked our mom would listen and push more yams into our hands, splitting the flesh in two and injecting the air with that honeyed steam. Finally when we had our fill our mom would clear the table and admonish us to wash our hands but we just licked the sweet stickiness off our fingers and the errant streams down our arms. With our bellies full and bodies warm we sat there and listened to the rain in the cozy kitchen, not wanting to break that feeling of contentment.

I still love coming home to yams in the oven, even though I am now a young adult and taciturn in nature. However as my mother and I sit at our kitchen table eating yams I suddenly become talkative and willing to indulge more than I would have imagined. Soul food indeed.

Jinney | 27 November, 2007 - 19:33

Grandmother's Food

I grew up on a small farm in Montana. We had no electricity and all food was cooked on a cookstove. Every morning, my grandmother would get up at 4 a.m. She’d make 4 loaves of bread and there they’d be, ready for us when we got up to do our chores. Grandmother made everything with love and from scratch. The butter was churned by her, the jams and jellies canned from her prized garden, all vegetables were grown by Grandmother. She made her own noodles and even made - gasp- chocolate covered grasshoppers! She had read about them in a magazine and decided that she could make them herself. Hungry for a nice chicken dinner? Grandmother would stroll outside, behead a chicken and have it plucked and ready to eat in no time! Nothing has ever tasted as good to me as the food my grandmother made for our family. She worked hard, made everything from scratch and made it look easy! She did everything with grace and a loving hand. I think that was what made everything she cooked so extra special and delicious. I often tell my children stories about my life on the farm and they love the stories about my grandmother most of all. She was an anazing woman and I am so thankful for the wonderful memories I have of her.

marie | 27 November, 2007 - 19:36

Yams

When I was in the 1st grade my family lived around 4 blocks around away from my elementary school. Our mom had just recently allowed my sister and me to walk home from school by ourselves and we were thrilled because it meant we could stop for candy at the liquor store, something our mother never allowed. We would dillydally on the way home, stopping to make ringlets out of flowers and playing games with friends. Everyday my sister and I were at least 1/2 an hour late going home and our mom would be exasperated because our lunch would be cold by then.

That winter it rained and rained it did, with torrents of icy cold wind. My sister and I wasted no time getting home, not even stopping to jump in puddles because we knew what was waiting for us at home. On those cold winter afternoons our mom roasted yams in the oven, the aroma of which we could sniff out from even outside the house. We would peel off our rain boots and shed our wrappings as we ran into the kitchen, the table covered with newspapers in anticipation of the feast.

Our mom would hand us each a steaming hot yam that would blister our hands and drip honey down our fingers. As we ate those yams our mom would dry our wet hair and put clean socks on our feet and we would slowly regain warmth as we shared our day’s activities. As we talked our mom would listen and push more yams into our hands, splitting the flesh in two and injecting the air with that honeyed steam. Finally when we had our fill our mom would clear the table and admonish us to wash our hands but we just licked the sweet stickiness off our fingers and the errant streams down our arms. With our bellies full and bodies warm we sat there and listened to the rain in the cozy kitchen, not wanting to break that feeling of contentment.

I still love coming home to yams in the oven, even though I am now a young adult and taciturn in nature. However as my mother and I sit at our kitchen table eating yams I suddenly become talkative and willing to indulge more than I would have imagined. Soul food indeed.

Jinney | 27 November, 2007 - 19:36

personal pies

I’m fairly new to your sites, but have been enjoying them thoroughly.

One of my favorite food memories occurs around the holidays, although the memories are many and interspersed through the years. As a child, I didn’t hang out in the kitchen with my mother much. I always wanted to be outside playing with my brothers. My mother really tried to get me interested in cooking and the meals. I don’t know if it because of the woman-based roles she was brought up with or if she knew that these were good lessons that I’ll need to feed myself (and my family).

One of her “tricks” that would work to keep me in the kitchen was to make me mini personal pies. Everytime she would make a full-sized pie, she would make a mini pie just for me. I would “help” her pour the filling into a special custard cup and sometimes top it with small scraps of crust. And then we’d wait for it to bake. She’d often get me to perform small tasks while it baked, like peeling vegetables or washing lettuce.

Of course, I have come to realize that these mini pies started out from necessity: too much pie filling, not enough crust. But it worked for us. Now that I have my own family and making my own pies (on occasion), I feel drawn to make a personal pie even though I don’t have anyone to make that pie for (yet). I am eager for the day when I can share cooking and mini pies for a child of my own.

Nanc | 27 November, 2007 - 19:48

Cafeteria

My favorite food memory occurred a few years ago when I spent a semester studying in Oviedo, Spain. Until that semester, I was a classic, type A person. I got A’s, volunteered at the hospital and worked part time all with the goal of being a doctor one day, because doctors were important and admired. Food was just to fuel me through the day, I didn’t have time to socialize and romance was off the radar. I mostly went abroad to perfect my Spanish and round out my applications.

One week night, a month in, I found myself sitting in a coffee shop, or cafeteria, laughing my head off with some new friends. There was an excellent bottle of red on the table, french fries with a spicy sauce, and a plate of local cheeses. I was happy, I was relaxed, there was a cute boy trying to flirt with me, and the girl sitting next to me who just wanted to be a stay at home mom (at that time, a horrifying idea to me) was enjoying that food and experience no more or less than I was.

Food could taste good. Not studying could feel fantastic. A guy could be intriguing. If I went to med school, I might have more than enough money to have all this, but I wouldn’t have the time; not for years.

I’ve spent the past few years working 9-5, and not making a whole lot of money. But that boy and I spend our free time cooking up fabulous dishes, and socking money away so we can continue to travel the world and taste all life has to offer.

mbbored | 27 November, 2007 - 21:58

I ate love

My parents were divorced when I was 2 years old. My maternal grandparents were military and lived in Idaho, my paternal grandparents were Japanese and were born here, grandpa from the big island of Hawaii and my grandma from Maui. I was raised by them here in Honolulu.

As far as I can remember I joined my grandmother in the kitchen where she spent a lot of time. I hugged her lots and I remember her scent, which always included what was on the stove. She would show me how to cut the carrots in traditional Japanese shapes, how to tie the konbu for the nishime. “You must always cut them in this shape…” she would tell me. As a child, I didn’t really understand why. I recall her telling me that she never tasted celery until she was into her 20’s and married to my grandfather here in Honolulu. I dunno, I always remember that as I love celery in a local-style beef stew.

Whenever she would serve dinner at the table she would always dish-out for me the best part of the dish, the meatiest pieces, the tenderest slices, and she would watch me eat saying thing s like “eat plenty so you can grow up big and strong”. There were things however, that she would not allow me to eat. One of these items I simply adored when she wasn’t looking. It was a simple green stringy seaweed, seasoned with sesame chili and some soy sauce. It was heaven over rice.

It was only years later that I talked about this seaweed with her. She admitted to me that when she was a child she grew up without a lot of money and she ate that seaweed when there wasn’t much more to eat, she told me that she did not want to see me consume “poverty” and always saw that I was well-fed. I explained to her that we now eat those things because we want to, not because we have to. We cried together and I was that child hugging her again.

As I grew older I would always bring her gifts of food, exquisite things that I know she relished but never had the opportunity to eat when she was younger. She died many years ago but I remember her constantly, especially when I prepare those dishes she would lovingly make for me… especially the seaweed. When I eat these dishes, I consume her love, not poverty, the love that she dished-out for me all those years. It has taken me many hours to write this. I took breaks to recompose myself and wipe away the tears-happy tears of of food, of love, of grandma.

Mitch | 28 November, 2007 - 00:51

funny food memory

I must have been in high school at the time, and my dad had to get dentures. We aren’t exactly, uh, sympathetic in my family, so we thought it was hilarious (especially since he was only about 40). I remember that he couldn’t eat solid foods because they had pulled out all of his real teeth, and for some reason my mom had ordered a pizza (which was rare in itself, so perhaps it was because he couldn’t eat it? I’m wondering if he said something to her earlier that day or something, there must be more to this story than I know…).

Anyhow, he was dying for a piece of pizza. So we put a piece of it in the blender. It turned into this awful mush. And he ate it, even though he said it was “terrible.”

shan | 28 November, 2007 - 03:03

Food Memories

Every Sunday, for as long as I’ve been alive, (and that would be a LONG time!) I have Sunday dinner with my family. I remember that my Mom told me that she was in charge of the Sunday dinner soon after she married my father, though she didn’t really care for the responsibility.
Now that my parents are quite elderly, things are much simpler. But, my mother still gets the same pleasure out of planning and executing the meal.
When I was a very little girl, I remember having lamb and mint jelly at Easter (eew!). And all the relatives would come over. I remember hating having to stay in our Sunday clothes and the way the old people smelled.
Each and every Sunday, I walk into my parents’ home and smell the dinner cooking. I get to see my brother, my sister, and my kids.
We all sit at the table together and enjoy the meal. I guess this isn’t really a memory, since it’s still happening. But I think the connection between food, family, and conversation has shaped the way I feel about food. Like my mother, I get a great deal of pleasure out of planning a meal. When I raised my kids, we ate dinner together. Even now, my husband and I enjoy planning our meal and eating together.
So, my memory with food is the connection you share with your family and friends through food.

Sue | 28 November, 2007 - 06:40

Fried PB&J

Okay, you may find this a bit laughable but, my most vivid memory of food goes all the way back to when I was in preschool. The food was fried peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. They were, and still are, one of the most divine comfort foods to ever hug my belly.

I was not a fan of preschool. I remember crying the majority of the time, and counting the seconds until my mom would pick me up. One glorious day, my mom took off work and volunteered to make lunch for our preschool class. As you may have guessed, she made us fried PB&J sandwiches.

I remember my elation at her just being there with me. I happily drew and made my crafts for the day while she smeared chunky peanut butter and homemade strawberry jelly on slices of Wonder Bread. I felt pride well in me as I watched her turn on the burner and unabashedly throw large chunks of real butter into the pan. Then, there was the smell. Oh, the heavenly smell of the butter browning the bread, and of the peanut butter and jelly melting into one another.

As I sunk my baby teeth into the sandwich she’d handed me, I knew food would never taste as good as it did right at that moment.

Meghan | 28 November, 2007 - 07:12

Wedding Cakes and Prosperity

When my husband, Chris, and I got married in 2003, we had a beautiful three-layered butter-walnut cake with fondant icing. As expected, part of the reception ceremony included the customary slicing and sharing of the cake. As I was slicing Chris’s piece of the cake, my matron-of-honor, who was hosting the event, told everyone that it’s been said that the wedding cake actually symbolizes prosperity: the fact that there’s so much food at a wedding and a lot of cake to share is a good way to start a new life together. She also added that the larger the slice eaten, the more prosperous this new wedded life would be. As with any bride, I was too excited to pay attention to what was being said or whether my matron-of-honor actually knew what she was talking about. All I know is that I heard “large slice” and “prosperity” which led me to cut a huge slice for Chris to eat. I speared the slice with a fork and held it up for all our guests to see. Since the slice was huge, people laughed and Chris’s eyes bulged out of his head and he looked at me as if to say, “There’s no way that piece is going to fit in my mouth!” At that moment, our photographer (my matron-of-honor’s husband) shouted, “You better eat that, Chris! That’s moneeeeyyyy!!! And luck!!!!” Chris then took a deep breath and opened his mouth as widely as he could and I shoved the piece in. He managed to eat it all, although he had quite a bit of icing around his mouth after.

Now, I don’t know if the wedding cake is indeed a symbol of prosperity. I don’t even know whether eating a huge slice of cake has anything to do with money or luck. All I know is that we’ve been married a few years now and married life has exceeded all our expectations. There’s so much happiness to be shared and food is always part of any celebration. We’re happy for the daily meals we share as well as the special ones: as we much as we toast drinks like wine together, we toast forks before we eat homemade pasta, we toast pizza slices, when we have dinners of pizza delivery, we toast chopsticks in special Oriental restaurants, we toast cups of tea when we’re ending the day, and we toast glasses of clear water.

People throughout the world eat in many different ways but I think we all celebrate life using food. When I think about how wedding celebrations throughout the world include lots of good food, I realize how similar we all are. That, through food (and the company that we enjoy food with), we share all our hopes, dreams, and joys.

Prixie | 28 November, 2007 - 08:27

CURRY!!

My mother is Korean and the curry she always made was delicious and something i still prepare today on occasion.

A few years ago i took an opportunity to travel to India for a study abroad course. When we got there we were greeted with a gorgeous meal of dal, naan, samosas and half a dozen other Indian delights. When i first tried the curry i thought maybe it was wrong, it tasted good but nothing like my mother had made. Over the next three weeks i got to try a variety of different curries, each with it’s own flair and each for the most part delicious.

a year after i got back i started working at a restaurant where one of the dishes has the exact flavor of the first curries i had over in india… i almost cried. It brought me back to all those wonderful memories of the people, the culture, seeing “Taj” for the first time and hearing it’s story, old friends and great times had by all.
Needless to say I’m still at the restaurant (2 years in Feb) Still love curry and still miss India like crazy!

Tom | 28 November, 2007 - 08:41

Food Poisoning!

My favorite food story actually involves me getting quite sick. How could this be, you ask? Well, about 14 years ago I was traveling through Romania with some friends and our translator, who I might add, I had a massive crush on. One night we all stopped into a Turkish restaurant for baklava. Unfortunately, mine must have had bad nuts in it because I was up all night long with - ahem - issues. I was so sick I thought I’d die, but regardless of my lack of sleep, I had an all-day adventure planned out for me and the Romanian translator, just the two of us. So I put on extra makeup to hide the dark circles and the pallid green of my face, and went out for the day. I somehow managed to avoid eating the entire day; the thought of food made my stomach do back flips. But by evening, my date wanted to buy me a pizza, so I figured what the heck. Big, big mistake. My stomach remembered why it needed a break, and I felt the big quease come on. I sat on a dirty street curb and waited while the oh-so-cute and concerned translator got a cab. He rushed me to his apartment where he made me a strange herbal tea (which really helped!). He was so concerned and sweet, and he didn’t seem to mind that I had to disappear to the bathroom for long stretches of time. This guy was better than I thought! I still think so - we’ve been married 10 years and have one darling boy. A happy ending, but I still won’t eat baklava.

Diane | 28 November, 2007 - 16:10

Food memory

One of my most distinct memories is my first trip overseas. I was newly married and we were in Turkey. We sat in a little restaurant near the Hagia Sophia and I ate my first REAL kabob. Since that time I am in love with all foreign foods and have gone to Nicaragua, China and Thailand in search for culinary fun.

Bebemiqui | 28 November, 2007 - 21:42

I have 2, is that ok?

The first memory that came to mind was meals at my aunt’s house- especially breakfast. She never made anything extravagant but there was always plenty and it was always good. Platters of fried eggs, piles of bacon or sausage and stacks of buttered toast were staples. I was used to cold cereal for breakfast nearly every day so waking up to sizzling bacon was a treat. She was always up before everyone else to brew the coffee and get everything ready for when the rest of us lazy slugs decided to roll out of bed. If you were unlucky enough to get stuck on one of the couches in the den adjacent to the kitchen, you were up, too! We ate(too much), we talked and laughed like families do and just enjoyed each other’s company. Those days are long gone but I remember them like they were yesterday.

My most recent favorite food memory is that of my honeymoon in Mexico this past April. Neither of us had been there before and I was totally excited about the food. We chose an all-inclusive resort and the food was mediocre at best. But the local fare? Ooooh….we ate at a restaurant in a nearby shopping complex one night- shrimp and steak that rivaled anything in a swanky restaurant in the states. Two other days we went on excursions and sampled more great, locally prepared foods. We had flan at one meal, and the gentleman across from me was perplexed about the brown liquid-y substance in his cup. I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying “It’s CARAMEL you moron!” Someone else said it in a much more polite fashion so I was off the hook. The food, the gorgeous scenery and the joy of a new marriage made the entire trip unforgettable.

auntjone | 28 November, 2007 - 23:19

Grandma's applesauce

Grandma used to live in the house Grandpa built. It was a small house, two floors, with big, grinning windows that looked into the garden. The back part of the yard was where he had planted three gravenstein apple trees. This was long before I was born.

I remember when I was six, I eagerly helped my mom collect the windfalls and put them in a bucket. I remember running down the hill with the empty bucket, tripping over roots and dirtying my hands. In the house, Grandma would be fixing a pot for us to cook the apples in. She covered the countertops with last week’s newspaper.

My mom carried the bucket up the hill and upstairs to the kitchen. I would be handed the vegetable peeler, my mom and grandma wielded paring knives. I remember seeing - for the first time - an apple be peeled in one stroke, the spiraling skin held up like a snake by it’s head. I was amazed.

After the apples were peeled, we cooked them. My favorite part was whirling the green handle of the food mill around and around and around. It was magic, squishing soft bits under the steel blades, until sauce peeked out the bottom into a large mixing bowl. It was nearly impossible to keep your figures out of it. The kitchen swirled with sweet smells of applesauce, cinnamon, and sugar. The kitchen windows stayed fogged up long after the cooking was through.

Karen | 29 November, 2007 - 04:36

Food Memory

I still remember going to Kay’s Ice Cream in Bristol, TN with my Dad. Each Friday, him, Mom, and myself would go out to eat and we would stop in there for an ice cream cone. I was always ordering funky ice cream like Superman, Blueberry Swirl, and my fave Rocky Road.

blogged ya: http://laurawilliamsmusings.blogspot.com/2007/11/wednesday-edition-of-co...

Laura @ Laura Williams' Musings | 29 November, 2007 - 09:12

my first christmas dinner

my parents were sort of self styled free thinkers and hippies who never changed since the 60s and did not believe in celebrating christmas, so i never had a christmas until i was in my 20s. my boyfriend took me to his parents house, in a big house in the chicago suburbs. it was like something out of a movie…everyone was dressed up, his mother wore pearls, and everyone was laughing and drinking wine. i was also a vegetarian…my parents influence again…and there was a huge turkey, a ham, and a prime rib too if i remember right. i didnt think it was polite to say no to anything and soon my boyfriend’s mother had piled my plate up high with the turkey and the beef and ham and stuffing and gravy. it was the most scary plate of food ive ever faced. i was literally shaking. my boyfriend could see i was shaking and took me outside to calm down. when i got back, my plate of meat had been replaced by a plate of vegetables and things, and no one mentioned anything. that’s when i fell in love with his family. that was more than 20 years ago, and my boyfriend is my husband, and my kind mother in law is one of my best friends. i even eat a little meat now but my christmas dinner will only have one kind of meat and plentty of vegetables!

lesliem | 29 November, 2007 - 10:53

Chicken soup? Think again.

I came from a small town in East M’sia and went to a secondary school in a city that’s 3 hrs away from my hometown. As a teenager living away from home, I don’t exactly get to eat much homecook meals(dunno much about cooking then). So whenever my parents come to visit, they’ll bring as much food as possible for me to store in my fridge.

My mom loves to cook chicken soup with chinese herbs to boost my energy (I was quite weak in high school, lots of stress in a highly competitive environment). There was this one time that my mom kept asking if I had finish the herbal soup and whether I think it’s tasty or not. And she made sure that I ate all the “chicken” in the soup.

I was puzzled because I’ve been drinking the soup since little and it has always taste the same. I later found out that the soup was cooked with snake meat instead of the usual chicken. My mom, with her loving and sweet tone, said that it would be good for my health. But I could somehow picture her with an evil grin at the other end of the phone. I was grossed out but laugh so hard w/ her. We still talk about it now that I’m a grown woman and cook the soup for myself. Love my parents so much! They’ll cook “anything” for me that they “THINK” it’s absolutely good for my health!!! I sometimes wonder what other “meat” have I eaten during my childhood years living at home………..:p

flo | 30 November, 2007 - 07:16

The taste of realization

Some friends and I were staying with various, wonderful families in rural Guatemala to do basic health care and compassion ministry to locals. The first lady to keep us on her patio was Carmen. Before meeting Carmen I was adamantly anti-coffee, and had never been deeply hugged by strangers aside from obscure Honduran or Southern relatives. I’m honestly not sure how many kids Carmen had, but I do know that she’d left her alcoholic husband long ago and was managing to support at least 6 growing little ones all by herself. My luck was that she grew her own coffee for a living. Somehow,during the first evening we spent with her I drank 4 cups of coffee, and my friends had to take a picture of the empty mug to prove it to my family. The first quarter cup could be explained to obligation, as I grew up with a clear understanding of the joy and cost that many Centroamericanos (and countless others) experience as they strive to give to guests. But I had never tasted a drink that was so rich, sweet, strong, and complex before, and best of all, it best of all, it didn’t taste remotely like any of the ‘joe’ I’d sipped before. Of course, Carmen was far from content with just serving us coffee. We were treated with a true Guatemalan feast. A steaming mountain of tortillas freshly through the corn grinder, perfect vegetables from town, frijoles negros seasoned just right, and two (!) chickens for the 9 of us. Not only were we served before Carmen and her family ate, but we were served double portions of the very chickens that Carmen had been raising for feeding her family. As one of the girls was quietly gawking at the skin and bones still on the sectioned birds, I realized two things. Two very simple notions that made it one of the best meals I’ve ever shared.

First, this was truly an amazing woman who could smile so joyously while serving incredible food and being so self-sacrificing. Carmen was far past going out of her way for us. And secondly, that so many of the meals I’ve shared at home with my own family over my 19 years had sprung from them being in Carmen’s shoes. Both of my parents grew up in different cultures but similar poverty. I was raised hearing stories about how my mother would eat the meat on her plate first, to keep it from being served to extended-family and guests, and how she swore to her mother that when she had a family that they would never have to eat beans and tortillas to make more of a meal. My father no longer enjoys fish, because of the years of having to catch, skin, and gut catfish for dinner and as a full time job. But they had only been stories to me, part of a rich history behind my family, but only listened to, and considered as little more than neat tidbits. That evening in Guatemala, I ate tortillas with a pinch of salt, seated on the patio’s mud ledge, one after another, until I was unable to even sip Carmen’s coffee. Not only was I seeing the pain and frustration behind those stories first-hand, but I was seeing how I had never had to experience anything like that. By no means did I grow up rich, but there was always enough food to feed another complete family at dinner. My parents were both in the military and were always busy, yet there were few meals that we did not all sit together and take pleasure from having simple rice and beans, corn bread and black-eyed peas, or stacks of tortillas, instead of sorrow that we couldn’t afford more. We lived very simply, but ate like royalty, precisely because my parents had more than just stories, my parents had stark and painful memories of ‘not enough.’ Memories strong enough to endure the rigors of being dual-active, geographically separated, constant moving, and so much more so that I would have different memories.

And looking back, I have many fond, favorite memories. Even if some include having frijoles, aguacate, y queso in a tortilla for dinner, or taking our fresh catch to the fish-fry.

PS, like everybody that seems to read it, I really like your blog, and the justbento too. I lived for 4 years in Okinawa and 3 in Yokosuka, so many of the recipes and foods you describe coincide with other treasured thoughts.

JahTeo | 30 November, 2007 - 12:07

Thanksgiving

When I was about 10 or 11 years old, we had Thanksgiving dinner at our next door neighbor’s house. My parents told my brother and I that we could each choose a dish to make (with some help, of course). My choice was a braided bread with three types of bread (white, whole wheat and dark rye, if I remember correctly). My dad and I mixed up the doughs and set them on top of the refrigerator to rise.

After the requisite amount of rising time, we took the bowls of dough from the top of the refrigerator. The white and whole wheat looked great, but the rye hadn’t risen nearly enough. Turns out that while Dad was reading the recipe to me, he told me to add a tablespoon of salt when in fact it should have been a teaspoon. (He tells the story differently, of course, saying that I used the wrong spoon, but I know the truth.) After much freaking out and worrying on my part, my parents reassured me that it would be fine, we could still salvage the rye bread. We baked them into loaves instead of a braid and brought our food over to the neighbors’ house.

Sure, the bread was a bit salty and dense, but it tasted fine (especially covered in gravy). We stuffed ourselves silly and enjoyed each other’s company - our neighbors’ future son-in-law entertained us with stories of nasolaryngoscopy (he was a medical supply salesman). After dinner we played a wild game of hearts that lasted well into the wee hours.

I learned two lessons about food that day. One: it is not vitally important that everything goes to plan when cooking. Two: food is best enjoyed in the company of people you care about.

Dina | 30 November, 2007 - 14:13

Fried aloo pakoras and steaming jalebi

My favorite food memory is from growing up in India, just when the first monsoon rains started. In the months before the monsoon, temperatures climbed higher and higher, until you only had energy to lie around and fan yourself. The whole world seemed to be still and slow, waiting …. for the monsoons! Then the first storm clouds, the first rumbles of thunder started, and everybody waited with increasing expectation for rain. When it finally came, all of us kids would run around screaming with happiness in the rain, getting soaking wet, and there was this lovely wet earth smell which I miss so much.

The other smell which I miss equally also accompanied this, and it was the smell of frying! When we’d finally come in shivering from the rain, Amma (our mother) would be hard at work on something to take the chill off: aloo pakoras. Slices of potatoes dipped into a spicy gram flour batter, fried to perfection and dipped in a tart and spicy tamarind chutney. The potatoes would be just cooked, and there was always a fight for the leftover bits of crisp batter, with much family disagreement about whether this was actually better than the aloo pakoras themselves. A hot cup of tea on the side. And for dessert, jalebis: a saffron and rose flavored (the rose flavoring was our family speciality) sugar syrup squeezed out into rounds into hot oil, so that it was crisp, crunchy and juicy. With the background of the much-awaited rain hammering down, it was wonderful to be nice and cosy inside with this feast before us.

Now that I live in rainy England, I really miss looking forward to rain - and the accompanying repast!

surya | 30 November, 2007 - 16:10

I think my food memories

I think my food memories have two opposing trajectories: home (as in home made, as in mother’s cooking) and nostalgia (memories of time and place away from home).

I think for home, I would have to say my mother's lamb curry. It's a rich, savoury dish that requires most of the day to prepare (no ready made curry powder, ever!), from grinding to spices to cutting up the lamb, to properly frying the onions and spices. The payoff would always be around 4 PM, when the scent of spicy lamb would start wafting through the house. But it also meant spending the entire day, more or less, with my mom, chatting about what was going on, relatives a nd her family - I think it's the way that I really got to know my family tree, since my relatives were 3000 miles away.

As for the lamb: it’s an amazing dish, over rice or couscous. The taste is so incredibly complex: cinnamon, cardamom, jeerae (something like black pepper), cumin, particular types of chile peppers, onions - the kind of dish that you know required an investment of time when you taste it. It’s something I could ever attempt cooking my first year of college (or even in my dorm now), so it’s very specific to home…I don’t think anything made me more homesick than that.

As far as place/time food goes: whenever I go to Calcutta, my relatives spoil us silly. Inevitably, there’s the street food: all kinds of tasty snacks, put into a paper cone, for eating while strolling around. My favorite is something called pani puri: delicate puff pastries, of which you crack the top open, and fill to your taste with a mixture of potatos, peas, fried noodles, spice mixes (most impt of which is amchur, dried mango powder), and top with tamarind sauce and cilantro water. It’s close to my heart because it’s the first memory I have of “cooking something” and such a unique way of being individual yet communal at the same time: everyone makes their pani puri to their own taste, but it’s the sort of thing done while chatting, laughing, etc - a group activity. I remember so many of those get-togethers and walks with relatives (many of whom are now gone), all of holding our paper cones and strolling along the quiet parts of the city on warm, sunny evenings.

Daine | 30 November, 2007 - 21:04

Food Memories

Two things I love: travel and eating. I have eaten everything from horse and whale sashimi in Japan to the incomparable Hyderabad biryani in India to delectably spicy tom yum in the mountains of Northern Thailand. As a lover of cooking, my fondest memories of food, have less to do with the actual meal, and more with the experiences of community and family while preparing and sharing a meal.

When working in India for six months, I spent many nights with co-workers sandwiched in my small studio apartment cooking intricate Indian feasts over a two-burner electric hotplate. Everyone wanted to teach me something from their region of the vast nation and I ended up learning many staples of Indian cuisine – dahl, aloo gobi, egg curry, and several variations of chicken and fish curry.

The shopping and preparation of the food was the most memorable part of the experience, for by the time we would finally get done cooking, it would be near midnight and with empty stomachs, everything tasted wonderful. Roaming the aisles of the grocery store and selecting live chickens at the market and watching them being cut into pieces was an integral part of the eating experience that could not be found in any restaurant or ready-made meal.

This same love of the preparation of food continues now when I prepare a meal at home for my family. I cook a wide range of cuisine on a regular basis – Thai, Indian, Japanese, being the most prominent – and no matter whether I am adding cumin, holy basil, chilis, or soy, I am sharing a little piece of me and the places I have been with my family and friends. Food is a binding fiber that can bridge cultural gaps, build friendships with no words spoken, and take you to a different world in your mind with just a scent.

Katherine | 30 November, 2007 - 21:36

First Thanksgiving

A fond food memory is the first time I cooked Thanskgiving all by myself. I was in college and a wannabe foodie. I had a subscription to Gourmet magazine and decided to make cornish hens in my tiny outdated college apartment kitchen. We had a good time, but the food took forever too make, the cornish hens were still undercooked and it was super hot in my apartment (thanks to my cooking).

Thien-Kim | 30 November, 2007 - 22:27

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