Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Food Memories Contest. Be part of the Life in Context Project!

Sue West of Space4U and I teamed up almost two years ago. Sue is a professional organizer and I am an archivist. We are from very different worlds that overlap in the area of organization. Sue takes an "Organize for a Fresh Start" approach that helps you find your way-- to find a balance. I take an organize to document community approach that invites you to explore your role and examine your personal history. Our collaboration is turning out to be the perfect partnership.. Our specializations come together in a holistic way, helping people better understand themselves and the world around them. The Life in Context Project explores ways you can organize your life and your legacy, and tell your important "heirloom" stories to pass on to the next generation.

We are creating the first in a series of workbooks to help you document what is meaningful to you. This series aims to support you while you define the values and traditions you want to pass on to future generations. The workbooks will help you mold your legacy.  Food Memories – our first workbook – examines the role of food in your life. This resource will help you consider the meals, the events, and the heirloom serving pieces tools that define your precious food memories.

We are looking for your food related stories to include in the book.
We will choose our favorites to publish alongside our tips for telling your story, organizing your life, and preserving your heritage. The writers of stories chosen for inclusion will be mailed free copies of the workbook when it is completed later this year. One grand winner will then be randomly chosen from winning entries to attend our upcoming “Life in Context” webinar for free.

Email with your entries in pdf format or with questions.

Here’s what we are seeking:
- Write 2-4 paragraphs about a food related object that is important to you.  Record your memory associated with it.

- Consider if there are people involved with this memory. Why are these people important to this particular memory?

- Do you have related documentation? Can this be put into a cultural context? When did this happen? To what community does this relate?

- See our worksheet for help with organizing and recording your thoughts here:


Sue and I have chosen a couple of our own food memories to write up as samples for you:

Melissa’s Food Memory #1 – Bagels

A heavenly smell would fill the air when my mother brought a bag back from the bagel store in our neighborhood. Such places dotted the retail areas where I grew up on Long Island in New York State. Behind the counters were multiple flavors of cream cheese and lox. Most commonly in my parents’ home, we ate the bread-stuffs with butter and plain cream cheese. On weekends, we would slap cold cuts between a sliced bagel or turn it into a pizza with sauce and cheese.  We used cherry preserves (the kind with the fat red fruit spread throughout the sweet sticky goo) around Passover time when we also ate the treat on our matzo. Once in awhile, mom would excitedly shuffle her three kids off to school and run to the gourmet bagel shop for special flavors to share with her girlfriends over morning tea. I spent the day hoping that some flavors — maybe chocolate, chives or pineapple — would be left for us to sample when we got home.

I remember the bagels, but I can barely remember how they tasted and I cannot eat them anymore. My daughter will readily tell you the story. I have a photo essay I made that I made to hang in my kitchen when I was first diagnosed. I made a collage of four separate pictures of four different off limits breakfasts. My daughter finds this quite funny, in a way that only a small seven year old can find such things funny. “Remember that photo that was in the kitchen that you called ‘Not My Breakfast’ since you can’t eat those things because you have Celiac Disease, Mom?” She smiles at me as if she is proud that she understands this inside joke that tries to convey my loss of bagels to the world. This beautiful girl was impossible for me to conceive ten years ago because of a disease that went undiagnosed for twenty years (even though it is considered the number one case of unexplained infertility.) My daughter does not understand the full irony.

When a person is diagnosed with Celiac – a disorder that makes the body unable to process the gluten protein found in wheat, barley and rye – that person needs to eliminate the offending foods entirely from the diet. At first, it is a difficult thing to do. Some, like me, even get nauseous at the smell of bread for a short time.  I remember walking into a bagel shop during my “recovery” period to get some lunch for my husband. I had to turn around and walk out because of my physical discomfort. It was as if my favorite food had turned on me, until I put a new spin on it and realized it was just warning me away like an old friend looking out for my best interest.

To me, a bagel is one sign in my life that represents a lot. It embodies my Jewish heritage and my New York upbringing. It also stands for what I now cannot eat. It represents the struggle I went through to become a mother and to live a healthy, normal life. My daughter does not hope for me to save her some of my special food when I shuffle her off to school. Instead she anticipates that I will think of her and stop in the local bakery to get her a fancy sugar cookie…New Hampshire bagels are just not the same as New York ones anyway.

Sue’s – Rice Krispy Treats Food Memory

Rice Krispy Treats are back in vogue! At a favorite restaurant & cafĂ© recently, the dessert tray included a childhood favorite, Rice Krispy Treats – only different. The treat had a peanut butter layer, with chocolate frosting.  Like Proust and his Madeleines, I was transported to my childhood.

Aunt Ludy and Aunt Esther, “the girls” as they were called by my mother, always made and brought RKT’s to Christmas, along with homemade fudge. They started their tradition in the days when my grandmother hosted Christmas, which would have begun in the 1950’s. It was a very sad Christmas the years following Esther’s death; Ludy did not join us but sent her gift.

We called them “the girls” because in those days, that’s what you called women of a certain age who had not yet married. Story was, Aunt Esther had turned down a marriage proposal. Aunt Ludy we didn’t know much about, but she never married.

My great aunts lived into their 90’s. Their personalities were very different. Esther had a lively sense of humor. She was the rebel of the two of them.  Ludy took great care of her older sister; her life was more planned and structured and she liked it that way. In their later years, Ludy would become Esther’s caregiver at their childhood home.

They inspired me just because they’d never married. In a time when most women in my family were married, and assumed from a young age that they would find Prince Charming, these two lived together in the house that their father built around 1900.

They were the biggest of Red Sox fans, taking the T into Boston until they were well into their 80’s. They had season tickets as far back as my mother can remember. Season tickets!

For their work, Ludy was high up on the Girl Scouts in New England, working out of their headquarters. Esther worked for the Universalist Association. In the year before I was born (1959), my mother worked across the street from Aunt Esther in Boston. Mom worked for the Unitarian association, for Dana McLean Greeley, who became the first president of the merger of Unitarians and Universalists.
Kellogg’s had created Rice Crispy cereal in 1928 and it was fine as far as cereals go, but in 1939, when Mildred and her friend Malitta needed an idea to help their Campfire Girls raise money, they put their heads together and a new delicious food was invented.  It was Rice Crispy Treats!

The original recipe:
2001: Students are working to make Iowa State’s annual spring celebration a record-breaking – and tasty – event by building the world’s biggest Rice Krispie Treat. (ISU is the alma mater of Mildred Day, who invented the Rice Krispy Treat recipe while working at Kellogg’s.)

No comments:

Post a Comment