When asked questions about childhood I often draw a blank. I’m mentally paralyzed as I search the dusty corners of my brain seeking to withdraw stories coated in details that reveal more about who I am today. I envy those that can paint vivid images of when they stood, just barely, on their sausage-like legs. They can seemingly make sense of every year of their life and beautifully illustrate how it informs of who they’ve become and anticipate who they are yet to be.
I can barely remember yesterday let alone the days when my permed hair was tangled into two little pig tails. But when a familiar taste from those days finds me then suddenly the surrounding details become more clear.
I remember gathering around our large oak table slightly off-set from the rest of the house, when mom had spent hours in the kitchen preparing a special dinner. I never liked seafood but salmon pie was another story. Perhaps it was the mashed potato filling and the buttery crust that made it bearable for me to choke down the fish that flecked the inside. Or it could have been the cream sauce made lightly sweet with chartreuse peas.
There is nostalgia over nachos as we had a date with them every Sunday night sitting down with a giant cheese-laden platter while watching America’s Funniest Home Videos followed by The Simpsons. I found comforte in fried tortillas and my family all around.
Taste triggers those memories of time with my family, of what season we were in while eating those meals and how sometimes it was just the meal itself that remained the constant while we all grew up in various forms.
With my own struggles to follow a recipe or make the same thing twice I worry that my kids won’t have repeated tastes to draw from but then, without consciousness, there seems to be flavors that mark our time. A dish that I can’t help but make again and again while the berries are fresh or while peas are at their sweetest. In the present we can grow weary of the same taste but I can’t bare to move on to another while the season produces perfection so briefly.
In this season we’ll recall sweet roasted strawberries buried into a buttery crust with cool whipped cream acting as a blanket filling the crevices. That taste will evoke memories of a potluck where neighbors gathered and the kids ran around us with swords and loud, happy voices. They’ll remember it as their sweet reward after working so hard to build their lemonade stand with promises of many cups of the sour/sweet themselves and sticky fingers counting the day’s profits.
We’ll also have the taste of a nutty, crisp cracker with pungent blue cheese and a bright, lightly spiced pickled peach. The kids may not remember this bite as much as just the crackers themselves but for me this taste will mark memories of a picnic that lasted nearly the whole day. Of a conversation with a new and not-as-new friend that left me feeling inspired, fulfilled and satisfied. Years later, when this taste evokes memory, I’ll laugh about nearly pummeling Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) as I profusely thanked her for her pickled peaches that inspired this bite. It’s a taste of a Summer when the kids were young and we were tired but eager to soak in the sun and these precious days.
It’s one I’ll eat again and again for sealing in the memories of this season.
Cherry Rosemary Crisps
adapted from Dinner With Julie
There are so many great flavors in these crackers it’s hard to pick just a couple to pull out for the sake of naming them. Call them whatever you want after you’ve tasted them. I was looking for an alternative to something like the Raincoast Crisp – which are reserved for special occasions because of their price. While this may not be a perfected version of those I was quite happy with what I came up with, as were the many people who I shared them with.
2 cups white whole wheat flour (all-purpose or whole wheat would work fine too)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 Tablespoons molasses
¼ cup honey
½ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup sesame seeds
¾ cup dried cherries
1 Tablespoon minced rosemary (or more if you prefer a stronger rosemary flavor)
¼ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pre-heat the over to 350*F
Combine everything in a large bowl. Stir well to combine.
Pour the batter into two greased standard size (8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 ½) loaf pans.
Bake until edges just start to pull away from the pan, about 40-45 minutes. The top should feel firm to the touch with a slight give.
Let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before unmolding and continuing to let cool on a wire rack.
Slice the loaves as thin as you can ¼” (or thinner if possible) then place the slices on parchment lined sheet trays.
Bake at 300*F until crackers are crisp. The baking time will depend on the thickness of your crackers. Start with 15 minutes then flip and bake another 10 minutes. Continue to bake if they still feel soft. Some of mine took quite a bit longer.
Let cool completely before storing for up to two weeks in an airtight container.
Blue Cheese and Walnut Spread
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
8 ounces blue cheese, (I like Rogue Creamerys’ blue)
1 cup (3 ounces) toasted walnuts
Cream the cream cheese and blue cheese in a food processor. Once combined pulse in the walnuts leaving some large bits of walnut intact.
Serve immediately or refrigerate in a well-sealed container for up to one week.
Habanero Pickled Peaches
slighlty adapted from The Homesick Texan Cookbook
3 pounds (roughly) peaches
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
½ habanero pepper
2 cinnamon sticks
2 sprigs basil
Sterilize two pint jars and their lids. Set aside on a clean surface.
Peel the peaches by cutting an x with a sharp knife at their base and submerge in boiling water for 30 seconds. Run under cool water then slip the skin off. If it doesn’t come off easily you can peel with the help of a paring knife or submerge in the boiling water again.
Slice the peaches and place them in the jars along with ¼ of a habanero pepper (Lisa calls for half a habanero in each jar but I love the soft spice of just a quarter. Take great caution when working with this pepper. It is incredibly spicy. Use gloves when cutting or if gloves aren’t available cover your hands with plastic bags as I did).
Bring the vinegar, sugar, cloves and cinnamon sticks to a boil. Stir to ensure sugar is dissolved. Pour the liquid into the jars. Tuck a clove and cinnamon stick into each jar as well as a clean sprig of basil.
Cover and refrigerate. I like their flavor the very next day. A week after is great too although the peaches start to break down a bit.
They will keep in the fridge for one month.