The Detective’s Daughter – A Tasteful Memory


Kim in Baltimore welcoming spring… finally!

My grandmother’s kitchen was the center of not only our home, but our family life. Every Saturday afternoon my aunties would gather with their husbands and children around our kitchen table for a coffee hour that would last well into the night. There were stories to tell, disputes to iron out, and card games to play.

The Norton Kitchen
My family in our kitchen long before I was born.

All that was fun, but one of the main events of the afternoon was whatever my grandmother was making for dinner. She was truly an outstanding cook who worked for McCormick’s as their lead dietitian for many years. Her meals were famous. Whether it was sour beef and dumplings or  chicken noodle soup, no one walked out of our house hungry.

Florence Beckhardt
My grandmother, Florence Beckhardt, being recognized for her years of service at McCormick’s.

My mom had her own specialties like beef stew, though she also served Spaghetti-O’s for dinner as well. Just seeing the red and white can brings back fond memories of sitting around the dinner table with Mom and Dad looking over the crime scene photos from his latest case. The good old days!

Thinking back to those dinners, I can nearly taste the orange sauce and the slippery o noodles. They were delicious. With the addition of Wonder Bread and Green Giant green beans,  you had yourself a good weekday evening meal. We saved fancy stuff like Manwich or Chun King for special occasions or guests.

When my children were small and I was a young mother, I wanted everything to be as it had been in my happy childhood. Though I was no slouch as a cook, I didn’t have much time for preparing big meals. I stocked up on all the staples my mom had used- San Giorgio pasta, Ragu sauce, Jiff peanut butter, and Hamburger Helper. I was ready to be a mom, or at least cook meals the way my mom had for me.

I was especially excited to recreate my favorite childhood meal… Spaghetti-O’s. I thought about this all day long, how, in years to come, my own children would have fond memories of dinners together. That night I heated the cans of pasta and green beans up as my two children waited for the special treat I’d promised them. They loved it. I, however, was underwhelmed. Could this be the same stuff I’d enjoyed as a child? Had they changed the recipe? Yuck! 0414191252

That was twenty-three years ago and never again will Spaghetti-O’s pass my lips. I suppose, just like the Tooth Fairy, some things are only meant to be enjoyed by children. I’m now hesitant to recreate any more childhood dinners, though I do make doughgies for breakfast just like my grandmother did for us. I’m not even going to try to make her sour beef and dumplings. Whenever I get a yearning for that I go to Dimitri’s in Ellicott City . Their recipe taste just the way my grandmother’s did.

It’s hard to live up to a good memory, but it’s very nice when you taste something that takes you back to a special place and time. Whenever I have a  spearmint snowball, I close my eyes and can imagine I’m five-years-old, holding my grandfather’s hand as we walk home from Miss Edna’s store. Those are the memories to savor.

Dear Reader, Is there a food that you loved as a child that you would never eat now as an adult? What food brings a good memory to mind?



21 Thoughts

  1. Chocolate pie always brings happy memories. Knowing it was my favorite, my mother would always make one and have it ready anytime I went home for a visit. As to a food I ate as a child that I don’t eat now: bananas. Don’t like them now.

  2. I had a working mother, so we were responsible to feed ourselves lunch in the summer. I remember making a lot of Chef Boyardee pizzas from a box, and Kraft Mac & Cheese. Now–yuck! Just the high salt volume makes them inedible. On the other hand, fending for ourselves was a very valuable lesson.

  3. Once or twice during the summer my mom would buy us Swanson TV dinners and let us eat them outside at the picnic table. Back then it was a special treat that we hardly ever got but I wouldn’t eat one now.

  4. Twinkies and Cracker Jack. As a child, those were the holy grail of store bought junk food I didn’t get anywhere except Grandma’s house. Now? Blech.

      1. It’ so funny to think of Cracker Jacks again. I remember when the surprises were worth getting! Ah, the good old tastes. They taste better now I remembered them, with far more calories than I imagined. It’s just the prizes, now pieces of paper that disappoint.

  5. So true How tastes change. At least your kids loved the meal and you have your memories, even if the reality as an adult is different.

  6. Spaghetti O’s are a huge childhood memory for me. My best friend and I waited for the nights my parents went out to dinner so we could have Spaghetti O’s and canned spinach–my father would never had eaten either one. Today I’ll pass on the Spaghetti O’s but I still enjoy canned spinach with butter and salt. And as I remember Spam wasn’t all that bad–sometimes Mom studded it with cloves and brown sugar and baked it like a ham. Other times she sliced and fried. I keep thinking I’ll try it, but I haven’t done it.

  7. My mother and grandmother used to make vinegar dumplings. I haven’t made them in years, but when i used to make them, I still loved them. My mother was a caterer and even tho’ she didn’t prepare gourmet foods for us, we seldom had canned food or frozen dinners. So for me they still are a treat! Oh, and I still love peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches! And, liver and onions. Yes, I was a strange child. Still am.

    1. Ginny, so many people think I’m crazy to eat peanut butter and mayonnaise, but my mom taught me that one too. One of my sons and I eat it–the other kids scorn it. So glad to find someone else who enjoys it.

    2. I can’t say I’ve ever had peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches, nor do I want to try one, but that did remind me of the ketchup sandwiches my mom used to make for us. I loved them, but the other kids in my class thought it was weird.

  8. My husband, who hates pork chops, was camping with a friend and I was sooo happy about getting to make myself Shake N Bake for dinner. Didn’t live up to my memories at all. (Same as Spaghettios did the last time I bought them, but that wasn’t for a special occasion.) I think they’ve changed them over the years to reduce sodium and other things.

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