Monday, November 17, 2014
School Days Food Memories
(I published these two posts dated November 17th in the wrong order, I guess. I thought this longer one would follow the introduction, but no. Please excuse the "newbie" mistake.)
About two weeks ago A HALF BAKED LIFE had a delightful post about food memories entitled "The Breakfast Treats". It was a wonderful post and it immediately brought to mind childhood food memories of my own. With many thanks to A HALF BAKED LIFE for the inspiration, I have posted my own special childhood food memory,
It was the 1956-57 school year. My cousin J and I walked home for lunch everyday from our respective schools. J from the 9th grade at the Junior High School (as it was called back then) and me from the 6th grade at the Elementary School. Neither of us actually went "home". We went to our maternal grandmother's house. Our good fortune was that Grandma S lived one city block from J's school and 4 blocks (in the other direction) from mine.
Every school day around 12:10 I would come bounding up the two flights of stairs eager to see if Grandma was serving our favorite lunch. J would already be there and would be tuning the big table radio to her favorite Rock and Roll station. There was always a chance we could hear Elvis (sigh) or one of our favorite songs.
What was for lunch? Sometimes it was just a Tuna Salad Sandwich and some Campbell's (was there any other kind?) Chicken Gumbo Soup. But about every 2 or 3 weeks we would find our absolute favorite menu waiting for us:
Lynden's Chicken Tamale
This was a product that Grandma should have purchased in bulk! It was easy to cook, just remove the paper label, heat the can in a pot of boiling water for about 3 minutes, remove the pot from the stove and cool it under running water in the sink. When it was cool enough to be handled, the can was set upright on a plate and opened, with a hand can opener. Then the can was turned upside down and the other end was opened and the tamale was ready to slide out of the can. Getting the tamale out of the can all in one piece was almost as satisfying as eating it! J and I each received half. And it was always sliced length wise because the shredded chicken was at the bottom.
Sometime in the 60s or 70s Lynden Chicken Tamales disappeared from store shelves. Lunch would never be the same again.
Home Grown Raspberries
These Raspberries came from vines in Grandma's backyard (and hand picked by us during the summer). So many of those succulent berries never made it to the basket. The berries that did make the cut were home canned by Grandma and whichever little helper she could roundup at canning time. As a result, there were jars and jars on shelves in the cellar. Besides the Raspberries, there were Pears, and two different kinds of Cherries all from trees in the backyard. We were in charge of the picking which also included the wild Blackberries that grew on the sides of the lane behind the garage. They were good for when the Raspberries were depleted. :)
No meal was complete without the "required" glass of milk. This was milk that came from dairy to doorstep and was delivered in glass bottles with heavy cream on top. So good.
At that time, almost everyone had a Milkman. Grandma's brought milk, cottage cheese, butter and eggs. I don't remember the name of the dairy, but I do remember that the cottage cheese came in metal bowls that were in bright primary colors with a metallic tint to them. We saved those bowls for years, they moved everywhere with us, and we used them throughout the 60s and 70s in such far-flung places as Alaska and California. (Those bowls were indestructible!)
In addition to the Milkman, Grandma S had a Breadman. Cinnamon Swirl was my favorite. Yum!
My mother, her daughter, bought our bread from the Commissary on Post. It just wasn't the same, as I often and loudly complained. My pleas fell on deaf ears.
Homemade Oatmeal Raisin and/or Peanut Butter cookies. The cookies were stored in a very large cookie jar made in the likeness of Friar Tuck, you know, from Robin Hood. This cookie jar had been in the same spot, according to my mother, since she was a child. It never held "store bought" cookies. No "cardboard" cookies (as Grandpa S called them) for us. We were so sheltered.
Looking back now, I understand that this was a "Golden Interlude" in our lives. We didn't know, but change was coming. Nothing would ever be quite the same. Never again would our families live in the same city (at the same time) as our grandparents. When J and I talk these days and the conversation goes back to our childhood (as it often does) we talk about those lunches, Grandma and Grandpa S and the house on 31st Avenue. We've both said that if we could choose our "last meal" it would be the Lynden Chicken Tamale, the glass of milk (from the glass bottle), the dish of Grandma's home canned Raspberries and the homemade cookies (Peanut Butter for me - Oatmeal Raisin for J) and, of course, they would be waiting for us in the Friar Tuck cookie jar. And somewhere, Elvis would still be singing in the background.