Tuesday, March 2, 2010


"Like hunger, physical love is a necessity. But man's appetite for amour is never so regular or so sustained as his appetite for the delights of the table." 
Honore de Balzac

I love food.  I have always loved food.  I have a great appetite for food but it doesn't even have to be about eating it. All senses become involved with food.  I like shopping for it.  I like preparing it. I like seeing and smelling and touching it. I especially like serving it.  

The memories of my life are punctuated by memories involving food.  While other kids were playing "house" I was playing "restaurant".  I would drag my friends and family to sit at my kid-sized formica table in front of my cardboard appliance box which my father had helped me turn into a "take out window".  I had my empty cardboard egg carton and my paper plates and "menu" and I would get to work serving.

As I got a little older, maybe 8 years old, I got better kitchen toys.  Easy Bake Ovens "were for girls" so I didn't even ask for one of those no matter how much I secretly wanted one.  Instead I got a Magic Chef Grill!  It was a thing of beauty to me.  It was a white plastic range with a real griddle heated by a light bulb.  "Chefs" were men so I guess that made all the difference.  Now I could actually cook a hot dog, small hamburger or even an egg.  I was delighted.  Another toy I remember begging for was a "Pretzel Factory".  I liked that but even at 8 I knew that "single purpose" gadgets were silly.  I still follow that principle.  Then there was the "Soda Fountain"!  It was a smaller replica of the old drugstore soda dispensers.  I think you put a bottle of soda in it and you could play "diner".  And I did.

I also had children's versions of baking pans, rolling pin and measuring cups.  I even kept a "spare" set at my aunt's house so I could bake for her and my uncle when I visited them.  I quickly outgrew the miniature versions and moved onto the grown-up ones.

Not all of my food memories are active ones.  There were also passive ones as well.  I remember my earliest vacations with my family so fondly.  I remember playing with cousins, running on the boardwalk, swimming and of course dining out.  It is impossible for me to think of a boardwalk without immediately thinking of the smell of sausage & peppers, cotton candy and french fries.  To this day I can't let a summer pass without having at least one shiny red candy apple on some New Jersey boardwalk.  

There were also the restaurants.  I remember a place in Montauk, Long Island, called The Flying Fish.  It was about being with my siblings, mom and dad, but it was also about the lobster and the Peach Melba.  I must have been 7.  There was a local Italian eatery here in my hometown called Sorrento's.  We ate there often.  I remember big tables, organ music, camaraderie and the smell of garlic bread.  We had lovely shrimp cocktails served in cocktail glasses with a little lettuce, hot cocktail sauce and topped off with one shiny black olive. 

Food, Gloria's Food!

The best food I can remember was at home.  My aunt Gloria lived with us and she was a wonderful cook.  She was the keeper of the family recipes which I have inherited.  Gloria had learned from her mother and I learned from Gloria. I have been blessed with the food knowledge of generations of Italian homemakers. 

As a kid I loved Saturday nights.  That was the night that Gloria would spend hours in the kitchen making meatballs and other treats and simmering her sauce for hours in preparation for Sunday dinner.  The aroma of her cooking filled the house.  To me it was perfume.  I couldn't wait for her to  turn away or leave the kitchen for a minute so I could steal a meatball.  Golden fried, light and so hot I always burned my mouth, Gloria's meatballs were legendary.  I've spent a lifetime trying to reproduce them exactly.  

My mother and I traveled a lot during my teenage years.  We spent summers exploring Europe and Spring breaks visiting one Caribbean island after another.   These were really great experiences and of course exposed me to more and more cultures and cuisines.  It was during this time that realized I had the ability analyze the food I ate.  I was able to pick out the ingredients and preparation so that when I returned home I could re-create dishes fairly well.  

Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I 
remember and remember more than I have seen. 
Benjamin Disraeli

All these years later I still have my same love of food.  I still like to visit new restaurants and sample and recreate.  I'm at my happiest in the kitchen, where I commune with my ancestors, or serving my food to a gathering of dear friends.  


  1. Its all about the family and the food; I couldn't agree more!

  2. I can remember going to a French restuarant that you and I were scoutting out for a French dinner for your mother's French classes. The aromas had over whelmed you and you made "boeuf bourguignon" that same night. I remeber it being really good!

  3. I was always sort of a freak that way, hence the article title. Oh, the French place was La Rouche [the beehive] which is LONG gone.