These warm sultry days of summer are full of nostalgia. In my case, thoughts turn to the vivid memories of food. Food and Family are inseparable in my mind. Born and raised in a large family living near New York City, I was blessed with parents who enjoyed their food and enjoyed talking about it. As children, we knew summer had arrived when the sound of the Ice Cream Truck was heard. Grabbing handfuls of loose change reserved for the occasion, my little sisters and I would run to the street.
Popsicles were the treat of choice. Root Beer or Grape, sometimes Orange, are the flavors I’ll always associate with warm summer days. As my palate matured, Orange Creamsicles moved to the top of the list. What I wouldn’t give to taste one creamy delight this very minute. But, when is that last time you heard tha magical sound of the neighborhood Ice Cream Man?
On many summer days, our Mother could be seen reading in the back yard while munching on an apple. If an apple could not be found, a turnip with salt would suit her taste. Later in the Fall, that white picket fence behind her would be used by Dad to dry strings of Porcini Mushrooms. Foraging for these prized sticky-cap fungus (Boletus Edulis, or Cepes in French) was an activity that Dad and I enjoyed together. My sisters hated the earthy aroma of the dried Porcini which Dad kept sealed in a glass jar. He’d open the lid and, taking a big whiff, pronounce them to be “the smell of the crypt”. I can’t help of think of my Father any time that I smell the unique aroma of dried forest mushrooms.
Grilled Fresh Porcini with garlic, white wine, and olive oil was one of Dad’s crowning culinary achievements. He told us kids that it tasted like Porter House Steak as he ate it all up with a glass of French red wine. None for us, however. Dad had tasted truffles while living in France, but we were too poor to ever have that experience in our home. As an adult, I have learned to eat shaved truffle and truffle oil. Honestly, they are too rich for my taste.
Dad was the most adventurous eater because he had traveled extensively. When he’d describe dishes that he’d enjoyed, we were transported to France or New England or even China. China was the easiest to imagine because our home was just outside Manhattan with its amazing China Town. Visiting China Town as a boy, learning to eat the cuisine of an exotic culture, and mastering the use of Chopsticks, set me on a course of world travel and adventurous eating.
I like to think that I have properly introduced our children and grand-children in the same fashion, laying the groundwork for a lifetime of adventurous eating.