I spend more time every day, in one way or another, preparing food than anything else. Whether I’m baking bread or milking the cow or doing the dishes (which I typically do two to three times a day), I’m somewhere in the process of preparing food. Sometimes I get to the end of the day and all the food I spent all day preparing is gone, and I think—what have I done? My work disappeared. There is no record of it. It was here, then it vanished. Poof.
Then I remember.
Memories are made of food. For some reason, whatever it is, human beings are tuned to create memories surrounding food. Rare is the memory from my childhood that doesn’t have a food association, whether at the center of the memory or somewhere in the corner of it.
I will never, in my wildest dreams, ever make a biscuit as good as my mom’s biscuits. There was never a Saturday morning in my childhood that didn’t include biscuits. She used the end of a butter knife to make a hole and she would pour molasses in, until we were old enough to do it ourselves. I think I was an adult before I ever put butter on a biscuit. Biscuits were for molasses, poured into the hole. The molasses came from trips to West Virginia. Molasses was special. It was for Saturday mornings with biscuits.
Christmas was cookies, the ones my mom made every single year, same ones. Thanksgiving was all about the dressing, made from biscuits or Grandmother Bread mixed with cornbread.
Birthdays were special cakes, whatever we requested, and whatever entrée we wanted.
Fried chicken in an iron skillet.
I’ll never forget the cottage cheese with cling peaches. And we had to eat it. (Why, Mom, WHY.)
Baby food jars of chocolate pudding that my mom bought till we were in junior high because we liked it.
Grandmother bread, thick-sliced, with butter, at supper every night.
Martinsburg, West Virginia and the best food ever ever ever. For some time, my dad (who was a Church of Christ minister) was between churches and he took a job preaching for a small, struggling congregation in Martinsburg. We lived in Silver Spring, Maryland, outside D.C. Every weekend meant driving to Martinsburg. Sundays after morning service, the members took turns taking us home. THE FOOD. It was from the gods. They all had gardens. They lived in white clapboard farmhouses where I would explore the grounds after lunch then play with my little Matchbox cars on their sloped walkways. They always had candy jars. Lunch was a spread of mythical proportions with all the garden-fresh produce and incredible pies and cakes.
Popcorn balls at Christmas at my grandmother’s house in Illinois. (My West Virginia grandmother, my Grandmother Bread grandmother, after she left WV.) She was an incredible cook. She always served sherry to the grownups. When I was 12, she and my step-grandfather (Luster) took me to a hotel for Easter brunch and let me have champagne and I’m not sure my parents ever forgave them. When I was little, Luster used to take me out and buy me baby dolls then take me to a pie shop.
Food, food, food. There is food in every memory somewhere.
Baby Weston, happy after finishing a plate of spaghetti.
And then I think– What I do matters, after all. Someday, somebody is going to remember it.