Sunday, April 1, 2007

Dreaming of Food

I floated in and out of sleep last night with the Food Network chefs whisking in the background. At 2 am, I saw Rachel Ray whip up crab and corn chowder, served along a side of New England-style hot dogs with Napa slaw. Another chef, famous for using the ingredients in his freezer, created succulent quesadillas with frozen chicken thighs, the ubiquitous onions and garlic, cumin, canned Italian tomatoes and chillis.

Bobby Flay, by comparison, was too complicated and the high power gas stove and grill that he flaunts left me cold. But I like Sandra Lee, the queen of semi-homemade cooking, because she epitomizes the lazy but semi-stylish flair I like to emulate.

It's 8 am and the energetic Rachel Ray is back on with a recipe for Crouque Madame, a French ham and cheese sandwich (Crouque Monsieur) topped with an egg. Cindy and I had our first Croque Monsieur nine years ago after we Chunneled together from London to Paris for a three-day jaunt. Cindy was a notioriously picky eater, but she fell hard and fast for French breads (baguettes and croissants) and Croque Monsiuers.

Years later, the Croque Monsieur became a secret weapon. During her troubled teen years, it took serious bribing to get her to spend time with me. I knew I had used the last of my arsenal when she refused a lunch of a Croque Monsieur at the Le Petit Beaujais in Eagle Rock during those turbulent times.

Today as a young lady of 18, I no longer need to ply her with her favorite foods. Miraculously (and those who know our story realize that I don't use that word lightly), she looks for excuses to spend time with me. As a matter of fact, she is now slumbering in the cot beside my City of Hope hospital bed.

Room service has just called to take my order, but there are no Croque Monsieurs or Madames on the menu. Instead, I'll have herb tea, wheat toast with peanut butter and an orange while I replay the memory of a sunny French cafe with Cindy scarfing down Croque Monsieurs thick with rich bechamel sauce.

But I have a feeling that the memory of toast and a sleeping teen will be etched just as permanently on my mind.

Please share some more of your favorite food memories with me in the comments section.

22 comments:

Emmy said...

Good Morning Susan!! Anything Cheese IS my favorite food.

Janet Aird said...

Toast and the teen - unbeatable. Especially the teen.

Karen C said...

Mothers Day dinner, 12 years ago celebrated at the Hula Grill in Maui. We feasted on Swordfish and Salmon with coconut rice and watched the sunset.

JN said...

I, too, was introduced to Croque Monsieur as a teen in Paris, by my beloved almost-aunt Ruth, who has been an expatriate there these 40 years or more. Ruth was the kind of generous person who spontaneously gave me her red leather ghillies when I was 10, just because I admired them. (You shoe fetishists know who you are!)

JN said...

Now I'm reminded of my mother's fabulous cube steak in wine sauce, my favorite dinner during my teen years. I have her recipe, and make it every once in a while, but it never quite tastes as good and when she does it. Whaddup with that?

Piper Robert said...

1. Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma's. At the top of the list is her oyster dressing with turkey gravy. All the other dinner items were good, but something about hot, moist dressing with the perfect amount of oysters, smothered with Grandma's own turkey gravy......WOW. Of course, her gravy is the benchmark. After a great meal and the adults were in the kitchen cleaning dishes, it was always a joy to settle into one of Grandma's rocking chairs and watch your semi-annual slugfest with James.

2. Sushi at Sushi Gen with you, George, Emily, and Cindy. Great time and love that monkfish liver. Unagi is still my favorite. A close second is Hamachi.

3. You may not remember this. Mom was in the hospital after giving birth to James. Dad took you and I to the Eastside hotdog stand. Remember, this is 1958. We sat in a booth, drank Coke out of a bottle (first experience), ate hotdogs with sauce, mustard and onions. I remember it like it was yesterday, we were both excited....we were going out to eat!!! A small black and white television was in the corner and we watched "They Died With Their Boots On", with Errol Flynn. Any of this ring a bell?

Tara said...

While I was still suffering from brain damage that hadn't settled out, Travis had his motorcycle accident and had 4 broken bones, all on the left side/arm region. A friend of his from work, Karl, sent us this expensive steak that Travis grilled one handed ( he could walk by then, so must have been around May 2006). That steak was the BEST steak I ever had in my life. And growing up in the Midwest, I'd had a lot of steak in my early years.

But what we didn't realize is Travis wouldn't physically be able to cut the steak because he had only one functioning arm. We have a fun picture that we have yet to send Karl of Travis eating the steak with just his right hand and gnawing on it. It brought laughter to our table that hadn't been there in a while. Our kids got a kick out of daddy "eating like a Viking." haha

Tara said...

Also, Mom's cooking is the best. Memories of her homemade lasagna and the Thanksgiving spread when the Epling side got together make my mouth water even as I type!

Paula Johnson said...

I grew up with a big old O'Keefe & Merritt stove with the center griddle.

The recipe for "potatoes on the stove" was simple: get the griddle hot, toss on several big pinches of coarse salt, and then cook sliced potatoes until done. They weren't really potato chips, but just as addictive. No serving platter was needed because we ate them AT the stove. Yeah, we were a classy family.

As soon as I was able, I hunted down O'Keefe & Merritt stove for my own. Susan, I think you have one of these oldies but goodies as well.

Susan Carrier said...

Thank you for the great memories, one and all.

And Robert, no, I'm shocked to say that I don't remember the hot dog and Coke outing with Daddy. Are you sure I was there? I only remember Jamsie being brought home in a bundle and feeling proud because I believed I had named him.

Piper Robert said...
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Piper Robert said...

Yes, most definitely you were there. We were most pleased we got to "eat out" and not have Campbell's tomato soup and cheese sandwiches again. Let me describe the Eastside: wooden screen door with a big round Coca-cola emblem, nice old wooden door that opened with a jingle to a brightly lit interior. Counter on the right with round stools that when you picked up your feet, you could spin round and round. Booths (natural wood)on the left and kitchen all the way in the back. Of course, the requisite worn wooden floors. The building is still there. Best hot dogs I ever had. I remember having my first Swanson frozen tv dinner that week. Chicken, mashed potatoes, and peas. Thankfully, these were banned during the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

skye moorhead said...
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Susan Carrier said...

The things you learn!

skye moorhead said...

growing up in maine
venison was a surprise
that sometimes ran in front of our truck
in that part of the country
a shot gun is survival rather than a weapon

apparently, as a 5 year old girl , I could out eat
and out last everyone at the table for this meal

preferring purpled pickeled eggs to dessert

being a vegetarian during my teen years,
I consdidered this family hearsay

Having reunited with my carnivorous self
the tale is most likey true

and I have found a purple pickeled egg
to rivial my childhood memories
at Phillipes, a los angeles landmark
on alameda and ord
across the street from union station
if you go, take me with you!

skye moorhead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca said...

Speaking of Bobby Flay... One of my favorite food memories was going to his Mesa Grill in NYC with the kids a few years back. My picky eater, Sam, actually ordered Rabbit (mostly to annoy his sister... he told the wait staff, "I'll have the bunny, please"). All four of us had memorable meals. Flay's chile relleno is so tasty it'll make you weep. Wicked awesome desserts... A fun family night in a big city...

Lilli said...

What a beautiful story. I love how you can take something so ordinary and turn it into a beautiful memory.

I think food is one of the most evocative tools for a writer, or maybe it's just that I love to eat so that's my excuse. Here's to many more memorable meals.

Idelle Davidson said...

I can't think of my mother's matzo ball soup without associating it with almost every holiday I can remember. My mother is 90 years old, still beautiful, and still going strong.

denise said...

Ooooooh, the oo-long (sp?) sea bass at PF Chang's - Yummy. Also my grandma's cheese blintzes, and only my grandma's. Never met another blintz I like.

Home tomorrow - talk to you very soon, but always thinking of you!

xoxo

Emily M. said...

I am weeping after reading this post. It makes me so happy to hear about Cindy.

I think one of my favorite food memories is one I shared with you and George when I was 9 years old! My first time eating sushi and I fell in love with Unagi.

Another is eating at Bob Evans with my Dad and Bobby. I would order biscuits and gravy and Bobby would order french toast with strawberries and whipped cream.

I think Bobby always requested Grandma Opal's chicken and dumplings when we went to visit. I always looked forward to a big meal at Grandma and Grandpa Strother's. I remember when Grandma made pizza and I thought to myself, "she even makes the best pizza?!" The best part was going to the playground after dinner, though!

Ps. my favorite food network star is Ina Garten-Barefoot Contessa. I love her food style; simple and elegant. I just made her recipes for chicken stew with biscuits and lemon bars-out of this world! As a matter of fact, I made them twice in two weeks :)

Suzy Keleher said...

Dear Susan, this too, is one of my favorite writings of yours! I love the connection you have with your Cindy. I witnessed such devotion she has for you when we visited not too long ago. So beautiful...both of you! Well, now to food! I did not get to write on this one before, so I am doing it now! That sandwich sounds great! My mom made a sandwich the size of the round loaf and stuffed it full of chopped olives and many other things...mufaleta? Very delicious. She is also the queen of crab louis but we like shrimp louis. My Okeefe and Merrit is also a treasure...all the way down to the origial salt and pepper shakers! My great grandma cooked roast duck with apple cinnamon stuffing. grandma Way made a prune cake at Christmas with a butter sauce topping. unbelievable. My Mom's cookbook is the one I treasure and use most...she collected all our families' recipes. All filled with Love! I love you, Susan! Love, Suzy