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Friday, September 07, 2012

Favorite Food

I can’t remember how old we were but we were young enough to speak with puppy-eyed honesty, watch the adults laugh at our innocence, and continue on with our minuscule lives with blinders on, oblivious as to what just happened.

We sat in dolls chairs around our Lilliputian worktables coloring, eating paste and cutting our hair as the teacher drifted around the room with note pad in hand, interviewing each child how they would prepare their favorite food. The result was a collection of recipes for our darling mothers to cherish forever, the May-time school prize for keeping our noses clean and our pants dry. Art Linkletter would have been proud to see how our submissions were printed exactly as they were spoken. Each contribution mimeographed, trimmed and glued onto a sheet of construction paper, the cover hand-decorated with a half-chewed crayon in an expression of love, causing our mothers to keen and coo all the way home.
Now, if you don’t know what a mimeograph machine is, imagine a container larger than a coffee can turned on its side and filled with ink. A stencil made of the original document was placed on the drum. As the copier turned a hand-crank with purpled fingers, the drum spun on its side printing the image of the document onto individual sheets of paper (these most often crinkled and folded than passed flat between the drum and roller). The result was a rank berry-juice colored spoltchment often passing as a copy of the original document. The smell is difficult to forget. Perhaps this is the problem for those of us who grew up before copy machines became more widely used. Every time the teacher passed out a document, we pressed the paper against our faces and inhaled deeply. Ahhhh, the smell of mimeographed paper in the morning . . .

Our collection included maybe five entries of Grilled Cheese or Peanut Butter and Jelly Sammiches, Sqwambod Eggs, Omblettes, Bhasketti and Meatballs and the like. My entry was for the best dish ever made across all time. Ever. This was not a dish prepared by my mother, but by my grandmother and to my recollection, when she made it prepared not one bowl, but two: one for me and one for everyone else. That big old green glass bowl was the right size to hug, to sit on the floor with the bowl between my legs, spoon in hand, and have not a care in the world.
Banilla Pudding.

Sometime early in marriage I received a delivery of some of my grandmother’s things (she died before we were married). You should not have to be told how among the pots, pans, Tupperware and goodness-knows-what-else, there was that green glass bowl. Seeing the bowl sent one sole thought rocketing through my stomach: my grandmother loved me.

Banilla Pudding still remains my favorite food and I wish the lady in cafeteria or the chef at Ryans would spell the placard right (it‘s a national chain, for crying out loud)! I could not tell you what I said on that particular day in Kindergarten on how to prepare it, but I am confident there should be at least one apron-full of love.

Then some clown had to discover how to make an ice-cream version. You know, I’ve thought long and hard about how I would react if I ever meet this person face to face. I would take him (or her) quietly aside and tell him (or her) about the secret ingredient. I might even lick their hand.

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