Old Fogey Food Memories

September 22nd, 2015 § 0 comments

Mimi Sheraton, who is one of HG’s favorite food/restaurant writers (she was the NY Times restaurant critic for many years), once recalled the chow mein she ate in Brooklyn restaurants during her youth: “I still remember the mild soothing taste of that food, primarily the flavors of celery, bean sprouts and onions. It is far removed from the sophisticated (and truly better) Chinese food now fashionable, but there are moments when I would trade six of the best Szechuan meals in town for one plateful of that old chow mein (pronounced ‘sharmane’) nostalgia.”) The quote is from Sheraton’s book, From My Mother’s Kitchen. an indispensable guide to Jewish family cooking. Yes, HG shares her chow mein nostalgia. HG often enjoyed the terribly messy but strangely appealing chow mein sandwiches dispensed by the Nathan’s Famous hot dog emporiums in Coney Island and Manhattan’s Seventh Avenue. Years ago, HG and gourmand companion Charles E., would meet for a stealthy lunch in a dimly lit Sixth Avenue Chinese restaurant. They would devour “combo platters” of chow mein, fried rice and greasy egg rolls. Like illicit lovers, they would leave the restaurant swiftly and furtively to avoid being seen by friends with elevated dining tastes. Yes, nostalgia has a kick: A week or so ago, a ferocious north wind was battering Prince Edward Island. Outside, the windows of HG/BSK’s home revealed a sea topped with a froth of whitecaps. For some obscure reason, the tumultuous weather made HG remember the plain-spoken comfort food HG enjoyed decades ago in New York bar-and-grills, diners and coffee shops: Corned beef and cabbage with boiled potatoes on Third Avenue (when the El rumbled overhead). Open faced pot roast sandwiches drenched in rich brown gravy. Ditto open faced turkey and roast beef sandwiches (accompanied by mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce or insipid vegetables). liver and onions topped with bacon. Salami and eggs served “pancake style.” Spaghetti (never al dente, always overdone) with big meatballs and “red sauce.” A simple “bowl of red”–chili topped with raw onions and grated cheddar. BLT’s on whole wheat toast with loads of mayo. That night BSK and HG devised a PEI dinner that provided comfort: Grilled weissurst (veal) sausages with sweet mustard. Sauerkraut. Boiled local potatoes. Yellow bean salad. Gahan’s PEI ale. There was a fire in the Danish stove and sounds of Mozart. The winds did blow. The sea surged. And HG/BSK (and Toby, The Wonder Dog), were snug in their comfort zone.


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