FOODS WE ATE AT GRANDMA'S HOUSE
My sisters and I spent lots of time at my maternal and paternal grandparents' houses when we were younger. I have really strong food memories associated with each.
- •Mini Peppermint PattiesCold because Grandma kept them in the fridge. She used to give us "one for each hand" and we couldn't believe how lucky we were to get two candies each.
- •No-frills store-brand sodaCola, lemon-lime, and cream soda flavors, consumed outside on a summer day as we played in the plastic kiddie pool and with the kind of yellow metal lawn sprinkler that had three arms and spun around.
- •Strawberry shortcakeGrandma used to buy the packages of mini sponge cakes from the produce department and fill them with sliced strawberries and Cool Whip. I legitimately thought she was a culinary goddess because of this dessert.
- •Rainbow sherbetThe type that came in the round plastic container that was used for storing leftovers once it was empty. (Come to think of it, is there any other kind?) Almost always served over fruit salad, which remains one of my favorite dessert combinations to this day.
- •Ice cream cakeGrandma (still - how lucky am I?) makes her own ice cream cakes with layers of crushed chocolate-covered graham crackers between layers of ice cream. It is perfection. We used to have lots of family barbecues in the summer and when I taste it, I am instantly transported to her backyard in my memory. I can even feel the texture of the grass under my feet.
- •Crunchy cheese ballsThe ones in the cardboard canister. These were exclusively a beach snack (my grandparents retired to Florida), so they were always extra crunchy from the sand. Often served with the no-frills soda mentioned above.
- •Pop-tarts and Entenmann's productsMy parents never would have let us have these at home. Grandma stocked the house with them when she knew we were coming and we ate our weight in cheese danishes and pecan rings for the entire week we were in Florida. If I remember correctly, she also got separate boxes of Pop-Tarts so each of us could have our favorite flavor.
- •Campbell's tomato vegetable soupThis was our lunch the next day every time we slept over my grandparents' house. I always picked this flavor because it had the little pasta shells in it, and because the green beans were a pleasant texture.
- •Cantaloupe, honeydew, and grapefruitWhen we visited my grandparents in Florida, Grandma had these fruits on the table every morning. She sliced the melon really thin, with the skin still on, and it somehow felt like a delicacy. She also let us pour as much honey as we wanted on our grapefruit and served it with those pointy serrated grapefruit spoons.
- •Lasagna and garlic breadMy dad's parents came to this country from Ireland in the late 1940's. When my dad was a kid, Grandma made spaghetti sauce by adding water to a powdered mix. She has since learned to make her own sauce and uses it in a killer lasagna, served with the most buttery garlic bread I have ever tasted. This is one of the smells I most strongly associate with her house.
- •Godiva chocolateOne of my grandma's friends gives her a box of Godiva chocolate every Christmas Eve. For years, we have had a tradition of opening the box at the end of the night after our gift exchange and passing it around with the little key, agonizing over and comparing our choices. One of the clearest signs that another year has passed.