Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.
Summer time always called for a change in menu at our house when I was a little girl. Stews and roast beef and casseroles were for cold winter nights, bratwurst and hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill were summertime treats.
Dinner planning started early. Mom set a huge jar filled with water, tea bags and sugar. Lots of sugar. Sweet tea isn’t the bitter brew from up north were we lived by Chicago, but the tea of my father’s youth down south. Often compared to Kool-aid by our northern neighbors, sweet tea was a mainstay of our suppers on hot summer nights. I was allowed one small glass each night, poured from the nubby milk glass pitcher that sat in the middle of our table.
The warm tea flowed over the ice cubes in my blue metal cup, popping them with the sound of splintering glass. If I sipped it quickly enough, the tea would still be warm from the hot sun with wintry slivers of ice cooling my lips. Too soon my cup was empty, leaving bits of ice perfect for crunching up with my small, white teeth.
Dad would bring the burgers or dogs in off of the charcoal grill, lines from the grate making hash marks on each one. Mom pull out the big bowl of potato salad she made that morning from the fridge. The mixture of potatoes, onions, hard-boiled eggs, celery and just a bit of pickle relish was mixed with Miracle Whip (we never had mayo in our house), French’s Yellow Mustard, salt and pepper.
I sat at the gray and white flecked metal table. Swinging sandaled feet that didn’t come near the floor, peeling my sweaty legs off of the yellow plastic seat of our kitchen set, waiting for Mom and Dad to sit down so we could eat.
If I ate all my supper – dinner was the name of our noontime meal – I could have dessert. Sweet slices of ruby red watermelon waited for me in the fridge. After finishing the food on my plate, I could take an ice cold smile of fruit to the back yard. My little brother and I would have contests to see who could spit the watermelon seeds the furthest.
These meals were simple and delicious. We had fancier meals on holidays, but the sticky summer nights with our small family chatting and laughing over simple, delicious homemade food were the ones I loved best.