I’ve been missing family lately – well, I miss them all the time but especially lately. Maybe it was Easter, another holiday away from them, or maybe it is more loneliness without my husband here. It could be that I know how far away they are, whereas I could always see my family in the states if I really needed to. Anyways, whenever I find myself really missing family, I am drawn to the things I would normally do with them or things from my childhood. For example, I suggest calling them more often to the girls. We might make a favorite food or meal that one of our relatives makes. I think I’ve made my grandma’s hamburger and noodles recipe more in Italy than I have ever made it! We read some of my favorite books from childhood, like The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear. We might color some pictures to send them or talk about our favorite memories of our family. It sometimes helps us, and sometimes it just makes us miss them more – you take your chances. 🙂
Today, we were at the commissary buying groceries – and I found myself picking out items for meals that screamed of my childhood. Tuna and egg noodles for tuna casserole, tortilla chips for microwave nachos, warm buttery croissants from the bakery, pudding mix and graham crackers for pudding pies, chocolate chips for my long-perfected chocolate chip cookies. None of these things were really on our list, and I was putting them in our cart without even thinking about it. I came home and made mini-pies and cookies while reminiscing. I remembered how my sisters and I thought we were so gourmet when we made pudding and graham cracker crusts, adding extra sugar or chocolate chips as our “secret ingredient.” Those were my days where I would pretend to be a chef on TV – yep, I was a little nerdy, but that’s where my love for cooking and baking started. I thought of how my youngest brother loved to make cookies with me; when I moved away from home and would visit, he would always ask to make spaghetti and chocolate chip cookies with me before I left. When I was growing up, I wanted to learn more about food and explore different tastes and histories. Despite all the knowledge and flair I have for my own cooking as well as the food I have experienced, I still find myself drawn to the food I grew up with, especially when I am lonely. I swear that a good batch of tuna casserole can make me feel like I am a kid again.
This whole post is making me sound like a fat kid, with all my memories tied to food (no offense to anyone). And not all of my memories and connections to my family are with food, obviously. But as I whisked the chocolate pudding over and over again, because that is the best way to do it, I couldn’t help but remember some of those moments. I am glad I have the memories of a happy, somewhat funny, childhood to think about when I am feeling so far away from family and home (because let’s face it, Iowa is always going to feel a little like home to me). I really hope my kids grow up with moments like I had, and I’m trying to make sure they do. Then again, most of my best memories are the simple ones, so I should remember that just spending time together can often be the best memory itself.
But for now, I’m going to treat myself to a mini chocolate pudding pie and to remember my special “Chef Rachel” moments….