Essential Commentary: The Memory of Food Past

Often, life reduces to just “doin~ what ya gotta do.”  Having nothing to do with farm-to-table restaurants, organic or sustainable agri, or grand food adventures, today’s Essential Commentary is “doin~ what ya gotta do.”

I’m certain this week’s Splendid Table episode was a re-broadcast as I remember Lynn Rosetto Kasper’s commentary on having visited Cincinnati to speak, an event which I attended about 18 months ago.  Jane and Michael Stern, who are always on the road for The Splendid Table, chatted on the show’s website about Hathaway’s, a Cincinnati coffee shop, and institution.  The Sterns mentioned Hathaway’s goetta, a fried pork and pinhead oatmeal breakfast accompaniment, my memory of which also emanates from my grandmother’s German kitchen.

The thought of  Hathaway’s reinvigorates memories of other neighborhood coffee shops and hangouts I frequented as a kid, and individual food memories are attached to those visits, as well.  I remember my first taste of lime sherbet at a Rexall drug store coffee shop in Clinton, Tennessee on my way to Florida with my grandparents (can I say, before the interstate highway system existed).  I remember my first nectar phosphate at Graeter’s in Cincinnati.  Did you know there was such a thing as a nectar phosphate?  There were gallon jugs of orange drink at the A&W Root Beer stand, great handmade burgers at Grady’s in Terrace Park, fish and chips at The Cricket downtown, and the most special turkey on rye sandwich at Shillito’s Tea Room.  My grandmother and I took the Green Line electric bus downtown to shop and lunch at Shillito’s.  It was a celebratory turkey sandwich, the memory of which is permanently etched.

Our food culture has marched down paths that vary widely from those simple, unsophisticated days, and an argument can be made for the gain and the loss of that simple, homey food.  Today, as a culture, we have the luxury of access to phenomenal ingredients and an understanding of great technique, the end product of which is an amazing culinary life.  It’s an evolution, though, that’s actually a circle back, a remembrance really, to a simpler time.

What memories of simple food do you have, and who did they involve?

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