There are those words, pictures, songs, movies – even recipes – that instantly devour your senses, bringing up a memory long forgotten. For my husband and his family, food has always been Memory Lane’s tour guide. I suppose his career in the kitchen is a genetic predisposition.
We spent the afternoon with my father-in-law. A long overdue visit that included lunch (of course) – lobster rolls from his favorite seaside restaurant. We sat indoors because, with my husband and his father, atmosphere is trivial. It is the food that matters most. The girls and I sat together, a blanket found buried in the car draped over us, and we shivered beneath the vent that blew cold air at us from above. My husband and his father sat across from us, tiny sweat beads noticeable on both of their brows. We managed to catch a quick glimpse of the bay as we were leaving, the two men barely noticing. Their bellies were full, the lobster roll even better than their memory allowed them to recall. Our visit could have successfully ended there, but we needed more.
Returning to my father-in-law’s house, we sat in his living room where the conversation quickly turned to food. My mother-in-law – when she was alive – was constantly in the kitchen, literally feeding their obsession. The house always smelled of something delicious. Comfort food. Even now, long after her death, she seemed to be comforting her ‘boys’ with her handwritten box of recipes. At some point, she began neatly transcribing them onto lined index cards. Both recipe boxes still sit where she left them. Rummaging through them together now, we laughed and my husband and father-in-law argued over the ingredients in her rouladen recipe. On the sidelines, I sat and wondered what rouladen was. My husband swore that his taste buds recalled a mustard flavor. His father doubted that was true. Those two stubborn Germans searched those boxes until rouladen was found.
Turns out mustard was, in fact, one of the ingredients.
Rouladen gave way to her sauerbraten recipe and then to Betty S’s special punch and finally, to my personal favorite, the ever-elusive recipe for a Harvey Wallbanger cake. Good ol’ Harvey. Thanks buddy – you made us happy today.