In today’s Daily Post, Robyn talked about a recent birthday and went on to suggest five different post ideas based on nostalgia. One of those was to write about a food that reminds you of your youth. She didn’t say it had to be a pleasant memory and the best I can do is sort of a mixed memory, if you follow me.
I wish I could write that the tantalizing scent of steak on the grill brings back memories of an idyllic childhood. I adore steak and would love it if it were tied to my memories in some way. Well, technically I guess it is – as an adult I’ve made lots of good memories around steak! What’s not to love?
One of the few clear memories I have of childhood returns whenever I smell stuffed bell peppers. I don’t remember how old I was the first time this classic dish triggered the memory. What I recall is the punch in the gut that came along with the homey aroma. On the night my grandmother brought us home to live with her the pungent odor of their dinner permeated the house, overshadowing most other impressions.
While I don’t remember what year it was, I know my brother was pre-school age and that made me somewhere between 8 and 10 years old. I’m not surprised I don’t remember how old I was; I blocked out a lot over the years.
After walking down the short front hall I dimly recall entering a warmly lit living room. Straight ahead was the glass door exiting to the backyard. It was pitch black and we wouldn’t see the yard until the next day. The dining room opened off of the main room to the right. It included the standard table and chairs plus a matching sideboard and opened into the kitchen. The furnishings were probably as typical of the mid-1960’s as the floor plan was of the suburban housing development they lived in. In the living area I want to say my grandfather was perched on his recliner like a member of the royal family, but I honestly have no idea whether the recliner was there then or added later. And truthfully, I can’t remember seeing my grandfather at all that night, though I must have.
All of those memories were made before I lost that little girl I used to be. Young Janey was so happy that night! And perhaps a teensy bit scared. She didn’t really know these people. It’s possible they were familiar but that memory eludes me today.
For what seemed like years and years little Janey and her younger brother had lived with a beastly woman, left behind by their own mother. I don’t think I used the word abandoned for what our mother did until I was much older, maybe even an adult. But that’s exactly what she did. I still have no clue how long we actually stayed with our mother’s “friend” before our grandmother found and rescued us. It could have been mere weeks or actual years for all I know.
The clarity of that memory has dulled some over the years, but whenever I smell stuffed bell peppers I remember that night. Sometimes I recognize it as the happy, hopeful time it was then. Other times I cringe, knowing it was the beginning of the end of my innocence. I can’t change what happened there, but I can acknowledge that it wasn’t all bad.
Now (Janey says, rubbing her hands together gleefully) who wants steak!?