My favorite meal growing up as a kid was probably mushroom soup. Not chicken fingers, not hot dogs or hamburgers, and not even pizza.
Just a hot bowl of cream of mushroom soup, often paired with a peanut butter and jam sandwich.
I would get quizzical looks from my family whenever I ate these two things together, but what can I say? It’s what I liked back then, and even to this day, whenever the soup of the day in some diner somewhere happens to be cream of mushroom, I think back to enjoying it when I was a kid, coming home for lunch during the noon hour back when Conquest School was still open and watching The Flintstones before walking back to school for the afternoon.
It’s surprising what memories will come flooding back when you’re filling your face.
We all have that, right? I believe it’s what they call ‘food nostalgia’. You get one whiff of a particular dish, and your brain automatically goes to a file folder somewhere in your psyche comprised of personal memories that are associated with it; the first time you ate it, the people you’ve eaten it with, perhaps a certain date or life event that happened when you enjoyed it one specific time. Maybe the memories are good, bad or ugly, but the food was probably good nine times out of ten.
Last Friday, I did the whole ‘Taste of Saskatchewan’ thing with my brother up in Saskatoon at Kiwanis Park. It was one of those yearly summer events that I’d kept meaning to go and take in for myself, but I just didn’t get around to it until this year. I was pretty impressed with all the different types of food being offered, and it was my first time trying ‘kanpoonggi’, which is a Korean dish of fried chicken tossed in a spicy garlic sauce and served on a bed of white rice. Very tasty; some kick to it, but very tasty.
There are other dishes that I associate with my childhood or memories that I have.
Wonton soup: This one is a very particular recipe from a very particular place. The absolute, 100% best wonton soup served anywhere within a 100 km radius comes from the Peking restaurant in Saskatoon. My family has dined and gotten takeout from that place for a very long time, and there are times when I’ll stop in on my way out of the city just to buy a soup to go. When I sit down to a hot bowl of it (man, what is it with me and *soup*?) I just think back to many family dinners either in the restaurant or around our own table with Chinese takeout. It’s not the biggest place, it’s not the biggest menu, and it’s very much one of those “Western Canadian version of a Chinese joint” places, but the Peking restaurant – in particular their wonton soup – has a pretty special place in my heart.
Lasagna: Again, this is another specific dish from a specific restaurant. I love my mother’s homemade lasagna, but this particular dish brings back a flood of Christmas gift shopping memories. See, there used to be a restaurant over in Rosetown for years called The Hood; today, it’s ‘Pete & Roy’s Canadian Pub’. The Hood was your typical Italian/Greek place plopped down in small town Saskatchewan; specialty ribs, steak cuts, shrimp dishes, that kind of thing. Growing up as something of a human version of Garfield the Cat, I loved lasagna, and The Hood’s recipe had something in the meat sauce that was just incredible. I’m pretty sure it was cinnamon or nutmeg.
I think of that lasagna dish at The Hood every Christmas because for years, a tradition my dad and I had was driving over to Rosetown on a Saturday afternoon to do our Christmas shopping. He’d park the van at a neutral spot on Main Street, hand me some cash, and we’d split up to do our respective shopping. The meet-up spot after around an hour or so was, you guessed it, The Hood. Dad would order the roast beef or a halibut steak, and I’d order the lasagna with that sweeter-than-usual meat sauce. I’ve been trying to replicate that sauce ever since whenever I make spaghetti, but it just doesn’t taste the same without Dad sitting across the table from me, not trying at all to be coy about what he bought us three boys for Christmas. Spoiler alert – they were socks.
These days, I try to be something of an aspiring chef in the kitchen. One day, I hope the food I cook for my own kids will be something they enjoy and think back to when they eat a certain dish.
But I guess I should work on that whole “getting a girl” thing before I think about serving my future offspring. Well, if the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.…in the kitchen.
For this week, that’s been the Ruttle Report.