Joy in Food

Wickeds, in the run up to the most food-centered holiday we have, what is a meal or a treat that consistently brings you joy? Is it something from childhood that still holds that magic or something you’ve developed a taste for as an adult? Tell us about it using the most sensory adjectives you have. And then tell us about a food that sparks joy for one of your characters.

Sherry: You all know that I don’t like to cook, but for some reason seven years ago (or so) I decided I wanted to learn how to make chicken Marsala. I found a “light” recipe, made some changes (the first version didn’t have enough sauce), and it’s now a family favorite. So it’s no surprise that Sarah Winston (who also isn’t much of a cook and left to her own devices makes Fluffernutter sandwiches) also learns to make chicken Marsala in Sell Low, Sweet Harriet. And it’s good–eventually! Art often imitates life.

Julie: This holds true for me, and for all of my protagonists. Pie, specifically apple pie. My grandmother taught me how, and I’ve passed it on to my nieces. Apple pie is great for Thanksgiving dinner, but is also perfect for breakfast, for an afternoon pick-me-up and for a late night snack. It can be made a variety of ways depending on the food allergies for the family. Pie is the perfect food.

Edith/Maddie: Oh, Julie, I can’t agree more about apple pie. My sky-high version (crust made with butter, apples unpeeled) is rather famous among the people I know, and I always make at least one for Thanksgiving to serve next to the pumpkin and pecan pies. But for this post I have to say traditional Japanese sushi (no avocado, no mayo!). It’s a perfect food, clean, delicious, piquant. I sometimes make it at home and am never without nori and wasabi in the pantry plus candied ginger in the fridge. Note to self: put sushi rice on the shopping list for a Christmas feast. Cece Barton lived in Japan for a few years when her daughter was tiny, and Cece also happens to love sushi.

From Christmas a few years ago.

Liz: This probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone but as an Italian I grew up loving pasta and eating it at least twice a week. Even after many years of being meat, gluten and dairy free, I still go to pasta as my comfort food. I just got used to eating gluten-free pasta – and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not good!

Barb: So fun to have this question this week when I am digging out recipes in preparation for Thanksgiving. I have my mother’s recipe for dressing and also gravy, handwritten by me on stationery with the address where we lived in Brighton, MA from 1976-79. I have an email from 2001 with my mom’s directions for my grandmother Ross’s Depression era Corn and Turkey Chowder. And the recipe for my grandmother McKim’s yellow turnips. (Really rutabagas.) The recipe for my mother’s apple pie appears as Vee Snugg’s in Musseled Out. We’ll also be having my husband Bill’s Oyster stuffing which appears in Shucked Apart. (Yes, two kinds of stuffing for 9 people, 3 of whom are kids who I’m not even sure will eat stuffing.) Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, I’ll also be making 3 kinds of my grandmother McKim’s Christmas cookies because it’s the only time before the holiday I’ll have all three of my granddaughters together. Nostalgia, tradition, joy.

Jessie: Next time that we all get together maybe we should plan a meal around all of these recipes! Perhaps my favorite food in the world is a particular toasted cheese sandwich. Pumpernickel bread, a lushly ripe slice of tomato, pungent, grainy mustard, and the sharpest of cheddar cheese. Mayo on the outside of the bread to brown it to perfection. Patience beyond measure as the heat must be no higher than medium. A lid on for the first side, lid removed once it is flipped. Divine!

As for dessert, it is passion fruit mousse. I used to have it a Brazilian restaurant years ago. Ever since they closed my sister in law makes it and brings it to me as an occasional indulgence. With its puckery bright fruitiness playing off the rich, silkiness of the cream it is the perfect balance of flavors!

Readers: Tell us about a food where a taste or sniff brings you joy and why.

27 Thoughts

  1. For me it’s dressing – whether chicken or turkey doesn’t really matter. It brings back such sweet memories of my Dad and I as the taste testers to getting it just right. We both loved sage and after our little taste, we would always say “needs more sage”. We would do this until we both said that we needed more than a spoonful to be sure. Mom would smile and give us each a small bowl to which we would both say “more sage”. She would add the smallest bit and pour into the pan for baking. I’m not sure if she was satisfied a much as fear that if we kept testing that there’d be none to bake. To this day, I can make dressing and think of them both and hubby will stand beside me saying “It needs more sage.”

    Another Thanksgiving must was pumpkin pie. Although we always had many desserts and often several pies, it was the pumpkin one that smelled up the kitchen with all its spices. One year mom even made a praline pumpkin pie that had a praline layer under the pumpkin that was oh so yummy too. Isn’t it amazing how smells can evoke so many memories!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  2. Gotta agree with Julie here – pie is the perfect food! Whether it’s sweet, like apple, pumpkin or coconut cream, or savory, like chicken pot pie or shepherd’s pie, it’s by far my favorite!

  3. Mouth-watering, smooth and spice-fragrant pumpkin pie with homemade whipped cream, a bit of caramel sauce on the side. If I could I would feed it to the turkeys (as a thank you for being the main course).

  4. Anything with cinnamon, especially apple pie or cinnamon rolls, makes me think of holiday get togethers with family.

  5. I often talk about the sweet potatoes and apples that my parents make for meals like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Smelling that makes everyone happy since it’s a family favorite.

  6. Oh, so many memories! One food that brings me joy – pizza. Thin crust, spicy sauce, mushrooms. Original NY/NJ pizza is the best, but alas, not available near me – so I make my own. It’s not the same, much more health conscious than the original, but very satisfying.

    As an aside for folks of a certain age. I grew up in New Jersey. Does anyone remember a singer named Joey Dee? His folks owned a pizza shop (then called pizza parlor) in Passaic or Passaic Park. His mom had autographed pictures all over the walls. When Joey Dee and the Starlighters weren’t touring, he worked in the shop. His mom insisted he have a profession to fall back on in case the singing thing didn’t work out.

  7. My own homemade “world famous”pumpkin pie. It has brought so much happiness to others that just thinking about it brings me joy. Not my original recipe, but I make it with a lot of love.

  8. My mom makes the best “healthy” fried chicken. I always try to duplicate it but it’s just not the same. aprilbluetx at yahoo dot com

  9. I agree about pie being the perfect food, but for me the perfect Thanksgiving food is enchiladas. We have enchiladas, rice and beans for Thanksgiving the last four years, making 3 dozen so we have plenty of leftovers

  10. Man, I love food. When I was a kid, I didn’t like much–I disliked Tex Mex, any seafood but scallops and other things. Now I can’t get enough of all of that good stuff. Most Mexican restaurants don’t serve yellow cheese enchiladas which are the best. It is hard to find great Tamales (but we recently did of a young lady that came from our old stomping grounds the Lower Rio Grande Valley and moved to Georgia to get married. I love my paternal grandmother’s cornbread dressing which is better than most as it has roasted slivered almonds (then diced and put in the butter along with the celery and onions) in it along with cornbread and dried white bread soaked in milk with the usual onion and celery sauteed in butter and all mixed together with sage and salt and pepper and turkey juice. But Turkey is my all-time favorite. I love turkey. The smells remind me of going to my paternal grandmother’s house for a fabulous meal.

  11. Mom always made gingerbread cookies at Christmastime and I had the job of decorating. She used to laugh at the amount of red hots I could fit on a cookie. And the smell. Mmm. Now I really want the Marsala recipe, Sherry!

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