Wednesday, February 27, 2013

imperfect prose on thursday -- the flavors of my childhood

flavor |ˈflāvər|
1 the distinctive quality of a particular food or drink as perceived by the taste buds and the sense of smell.

Memory is triggered by so many things -- sound, sight, smell, and flavor. How many of our memories are enhanced by flavor? My husband always photographs our meals on vacation, and it is remarkable how quickly the memories come back as we relive the food we consumed.

My childhood is alive with flavors. I grew up in the south where food ranks only second to religion. Sundays were defined by flannel boards in Sunday school; my daddy preaching from the pulpit; hymns, and maybe a baptism. But the highlight of the day was food. Were we eating at home? Was there a church covered dish dinner? Were we eating at a church member's home? Or maybe with my grandparents?

The flavors of my childhood are replete with fried chicken, biscuits, buttered corn, and green beans cooked with fatback until they are falling apart amid the swirls of fat. The salty crunch of the fried chicken leg as I bit into. The memory of it can still send me into paroxysms of ecstasy. Fluffy, lard based biscuits slathered with butter and homemade preserves. I could eat my weight in my great grandmother's biscuits.

On my mother's side of the family, it was always thin sliced ham that my great aunt had prepared. And Nana rolls. Tiny little yeast rolls ladened with butter. I think one holiday I ate 18 in one sitting!

Covered dish dinners were a pantheon of options! More fried chicken to be sure, but barbecue and macaroni and cheese (which is a vegetable in the South, thank you very much) as well. Desserts that would make your jaw hurt just to look at them. Chess pie! My favorite. The way the sugar and butter have blended together and been layered into that flaky, light pastry. It was a thing a of beauty as it dissolved into my mouth with hints of every flavor available on my tongue for just a moment before it slid down my throat leaving my mouth begging for more.

It's funny now, but we never went out to eat back then. I know some of it was money, but I think it was more about people and food. The two went hand in hand. I have often heard it said that sharing a meal is the most intimate of experiences. I think of the film Babette's Feast, and the scene in Chocolat where they all gather for Armande's birthday dinner. I think of Christ's last supper with His disciples and the memorial of communion we observe today. 

I had a therapist tell me once that he had clients who could only talk to him if they all ate together. What is it about eating and food and flavor that ties us together?

What I wouldn't give to taste a Nana roll again.

linking up with imperfect prose on thursday

(this post was originally posted on 6/29/12)


  1. and yet were not the flannel boards food of a different sort :-)

  2. i have this too, this thing of sense memory in regards to food. i remember my mom's barley casserole, and now i sit at the table, nine years old again.

    i think i'll call her tomorrow and ask her to make it again.

  3. I spent a few weeks back home, and my mom made for me the traditional pot roast which used to simmer on the stove for each Sunday supper. It truly seemed like a foretaste of heaven.

    And those movies? Yes! Such favorites. Such pictures of bounty and blessing, beauty and goodness. One day we'll share in it all together. Might there be fried chicken and Nana rolls as well?

  4. Food is so closely tied with family and good conversation that often times when I visited my parents we'd end up sitting around the kitchen table talking (even without food), because that's were all the good talking happened. Thanks for sharing this. I think I've eaten more food today than normal due to this IP prompt. :)

  5. Yum! Southern food is the BEST (except for Maryland Blue Crabs). :)


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