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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Childhood Food Meme-ories

A word of warning to all fellow bloggers: be prepared to be tagged for memes and stuff if you try to be funny and comment smart allecky stuff on other peoples' blogs... I know, it happened to me.

Tagged by Adam at The Amateur Gourmet for another food meme. This one should be fun as I get to dredge up delightful memories of my childhood. Like a few of you out there, I had a rough time as a kid. I was terribly shy and not particularly athletic. In otherwords, I had a very close bond with my breakfast cereal... so let's start there.

Sugary Breakfast Cereal

Saturday morning cartoons and as many bowls of cereal as I could eat before Mom got out of bed. When I was about 6 or 7, Mom & I lived in a 2-room apartment and her bedroom was the livingroom. She slept on one of those pull-out sofa beds (For years. They must have made them more comfortable back then) and if I got up and turned on the TV very quietly, I was allowed to watch hours of cartoons so she could sleep in. Some of my favorites were: Groovie Goolies, Looney Tunes, Grape Ape, Fat Albert, Pink Panther, Hong Kong Phooey and non-animated shows like Land of the Lost (geez I was petrified of the Sleestaks), H.R. Pufnstuf and Dr. Shrinker on the Krofft Supershow.

The last bowl of cereal in the box was always my favorite. Especially with boxes that contained 'marshmallows' (known to collectors and those in the cereal industry as marbits because, as we all know, these aren't really marshmallows). The sweet 'dust' that would filter to the bottom of the box was like eating a few spoonfuls of pure sugar and what kid wouldn't like that? I'll tell you who (whom?)... my cousins. For a time we lived down the street from my cousins (and aunt & uncle) and often we would visit at breakfast time (read ahead as I will be writing about this also) and I would ask my aunt for a bowl of cereal. I would rifle through the multiple boxes of cereal left by my cousins who refused to eat the last bowl of cereal, shaking the boxes to see which were nearly empty and eat the final bowl in those boxes. I'm sure this was also quite a pleasure for my aunt who was then able to empty her cupboard of nearly empty cereal boxes.

Saturday Morning Donuts

Over the years my Saturday morning ritual of cereal with cartoons became donuts with cousins. My aunt would visit the local bakery early Saturday mornings and upon returning home would call our house, allowing the phone to ring one time, which meant it was time for us to be dressed and on our way over to her house for donuts. I can remember her kitchen table covered with those waxy white bags torn lengthwise down the front and opened to reveal chocolate frosted cake donuts, pecan caramel rolls, cream filled eclairs, jelly Bismarks, and coconut long johns. Gee, I miss those coconut long johns. Similar to an eclair, but more like the texture of a Krispy Kreme donut without glaze. I believe it would have been dough folded over onto itself, baked, then the fold filled with super sweet white icing (I would bet it's similar to the 'buttercream' in a bucket that we sometimes use at work) then topped with a bit more of the white icing covered with sweetened coconut (untoasted). The bakery has long since closed but I had heard those same long johns could be found at the grocery store in the town I lived back then (I guess the baker was working at the grocery store bakery).

We would have all those donuts to split between seven or eight of us and my aunt would cut some of the donuts in half or more often, six pieces so we could have a taste of each. We kids would eat a bite of donut and race in to watch cartoons. The adults would leisurely enjoy their donuts with gallons of coffee, and packs and packs of cigarettes... ah, the good old days. *cough cough wheeze*

Trips to the 'Little Store'

Once a week I would get my allowance. I would always dream of saving my money to buy wonderful toys and things I saw on commercials between cartoons. We didn't live near a toy store. We lived near the Little Store. The Little Store (I think that may actually have been its name) was something like a grocery store but tiny tiny tiny. I remember they had cans of vegetables, cigarettes (which I would cleverly buy for my cousin later in life) and lots and lots of penny candy. I could get quite a lot of penny candy for my few dollars. Wax lips (I don't know why I ever bought these as you couldn't eat them),Nik-L-Nip wax bottles (with a Kool-Aid like liquid inside), candy buttons, Turkish taffy. A lot of these old-timey candies have made a comeback but they just don't seem quite as good as when you ride your purple bike with the banana seat a few blocks to get them.

Minnesota State Fair

The ultimate food event of my year as a kid came when it was time for the Minnesota State Fair. (It's breaking my heart to know it's going on right now without me.) I grew up in Wisconsin along the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers which border Minnesota. It was a 40 minute drive to another world for two weeks of the year. I loved seeing the animal barns, the textiles and crafts displays. But the food! Corn dogs, candy apples, freshly pulled salt water taffy, mini donuts with sugar and cinnamon, funnel cake. Yum Yum Yummy. Check it out... Minnesota is so proud of its fair food that you can look up your favorite foods to map your trip to the fair.

Christmas Cookie Day

Christmas cut-out cookies were a huge thing in my family (and still are, but so many of us live far apart now that the tradition is becoming less distinct than when I was a kid). When a girl in our family reached 10 years old she was finally 'mature' enough to be allowed at Cookie Day. I guess it was assumed by age 10 a girl could remember NOT to lick her fingers after each cookie was decorated. Cookie Day typically fell on a Saturday two weeks before Christmas. The women and older girls would get together to roll, cut, bake and decorate literally hundreds of vanilla and molasses cookies in one day. I always enjoyed this time with my family and I was the one elected to make the 'pretty' cookies... the ones so carefully decorated that they could be placed on the special trays... the trays taken with my mother and aunt to their workplaces. It's funny that I have recently been elected to make and decorate the vanilla cut-out cookies at work. I wish I'd had the ability to single-handedly whip out a couple hundred decorated cookies in a few hours back when I was a kid. My mother has asked me if I'm now bored with decorating cookies and the answer (thus far) is no.

For my aunt's benefit (because I know she reads my blog) I will reveal the Cookie story of a year that she might rather forget... but may be able to look back on and laugh about now that it has been over 20 years since the occurance. When I was about 12, it was a very mild December. We had completed our cookie duties and while they set (the icing needs time to dry a bit before the cookies can be put away in tins and then into the freezer) we kids (my two cousins and I) went out to play with the neighbors; then my mother, stepdad, aunt & uncle decided to go out for dinner. I believe it was my cousin who had the idea that while the adults were away, we kids (my cousins, I, and all the neighborhood kids... at least 10 in all) should have a cookie. Hopped-up on cookies and back to playing somewhere in the neighborhood, the adults came home and there was a terrible screeching from inside the house when it was discovered that only a few dozen of the cookies we had labored over all day remained. My mother has brought up this story numerous times over the years, usually in a whisper so as not to upset the ghosts of Christmas past I guess, and she tells me that the adults were all a bit intoxicated when they came back from dinner. With their senses dulled, they were unable to muster enough anger to kill the entire neighborhood full of 'grubby kids' who had eaten all the cookies.

Thanks to Amateur Gourmet for urging me to go through with this trip down calorie lane. If you like this meme, go ahead and run with it.


Mom said...

In hindsight, how sad it is that in the 70s love nearly equalled sugar. And cigarettes were just considered costly for smokers and smelly for nonsmokers.

Oh yeah, the Christmas cookie caper is one of those unforgettables.

mzn said...

I think you stole half my childhood memories--certainly the ones about cereal and fair food (only my fair was in Canada, otherwise same junk).

You have a fun blog!

Grommie said...

These tidbits of correction are from my aunt who prefers to comment via email (which is fine... love that email!) :

Actually there were probably only about a dozen PIECES of cookies left.

PS, the little store's name was June's Superette.

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