Tag Archives: Childhood memories

My Favorite Foods

I am really surprised at myself for not thinking of writing on this topic before now.

Particularly considering that, with my mother who loved to cook and loved to eat even more, that I was exposed to good food growing up. But for whatever reason, this topic finally came to me recently and I felt I needed to explore it.

I suspect everyone has his or her favorite food, ranging from the exotic to the mundane.   For me, my all time favorite may seem rather simple to many but to me, it’s great—a juicy hamburger.

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved hamburgers. This was also my favorite food growing up. And one of my most memorable experiences as a child was the day I got to eat a hamburger not just for lunch and dinner, but for breakfast as well.

The occasion was we were on vacation and had stopped at a breakfast griddle (maybe a Waffle House or similar chain of the 1960s). Our family of six was seated at the counter and as the waitress asked each of us what we wanted to order, I confidently stated “a hamburger.” The waitress paused as an odd expression came on her face and then my mother piped up and said if that was what I wanted for breakfast, I should get it. And I did! Since we were travelling all that day, it was fairly easy for me to get a burger at lunch and dinner at the restaurants where we ate completing a perfect trifecta.

I was probably 8 or 9 at the time but still over 50 years later, I vividly recall that special occasion.

Pimento Cheese Burger Sliders

Considering this is my preferred food choice, I have had a lifetime of trying hamburgers all over the US as well as internationally with variations from just the ordinary to an extra-special gourmet burger. But of all the burgers I have eaten, my favorite continues to be a Huey’s burger, right here in Memphis, TN.

This is also the burger I most frequently have since my wife and I eat there at least once a week to enjoy a good beer and burger.

My second favorite food is steak (notice a pattern here). But not just any steak, a bacon-wrapped filet mignon from Charlie’s Meat Market that I cook my own special way.

I actually started buying these steaks (in various sizes from 6 to 12 oz.) at Charlie’s even before I got married so with me having been married for over 37 years, I have probably been buying these at the same location on Summer Avenue for almost as long as Charlie has been in business (Charlie’s also happens to supply hamburger meat to Huey’s, thus being the provider for my top two favorite foods).

While this is my second favorite food, I rarely order it out as I have found via costly experience that many restaurant steaks are just no where near as good as a Charlie’s filet that I cook on my own grill. With my wife not being the meat lover that I am, this is frequently what I cook for myself whenever she has a business or social dinner to attend.

My third favorite food is salmon but living close to the Mississippi River where catfish is much more prevalent, I don’t get good salmon all that often. The best salmon I get to eat is whenever I am traveling to a region that has access to a much greater selection of fresh seafood. And looking down the menu, a restaurant’s salmon dish is almost always the first entrée to catch my attention.

The seafood chain, Legal Seafood, always has an excellent salmon dish and whenever I get to eat there, it is usually a toss up between salmon and crab cakes, a very rich and delicious alternative that I never can get in Memphis.

But of all the places I have ordered salmon, probably my favorite is a brewpub in New Brunswick, NJ, Harvest Moon (a city where I teach at least once or twice a year).

Here I get to combine my love for great beer with the taste of really great salmon. And their salmon dish is different and unique every time I go (and always excellent).

Finally, my fourth favorite food is pizza, not just purchased at a restaurant, but also cooked in our own oven as one of my wife’s eclectic toppings on homemade dough.

Probably our most often purchased pizza is from Memphis Pizza Café but while in graduate school, I know I consumed a large quantity of Garibaldi’s pizza. Of late, I have had a number of Pyro’s Pizzas, which are thin personal pizzas (this particular one making its appearance at my private Super Bowl party).

Bosco’s is another fine pizza restaurant and since they also brew their own beer, is a favorite meal combination. This year, one of their specialty pizzas allowed me to indulge in two of my favorites, a cheeseburger pizza.

I tried to think of what would be my fifth favorite food to round out a “Top 5” list but nothing jumped out at me to the same degree as these four, the ones I usually think of first whenever hunger comes my way. While my food palate may not be as broad as many of my readers, it does encompass a number of ethnicities—Italian, Mexican, Indian, Thai, Indonesian—just to name a few, and includes chicken, fish, and salads (probably the healthiest choice).

Indonesian rijsttafel (rice table) in Amsterdam

So if you happen to be dining with me sometime and ask what I would like, you now know what my top four choices would be. So if you are interested in something else, you can always preface your question by saying beyond my top four, what would I like to eat?

Bon-appétit!

Moving

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In 2015, I chronicled all the towns I had lived in during my lifetime as well as shared some of the more significant firsts that I experienced in each of those towns. But an aspect that I did not address in that post to any large extent, was the friends I had to give up each time we moved.

While modern social media and electronic communication tools have allowed me to reconnect to some of these old friends, they can’t make up for the many years of lost opportunity for staying in touch.

While getting the chance to live in different cities throughout your life can certainly broaden your horizons in terms of experiences and even opportunities, I am actually jealous of my wife who has lived in the same town her whole life and still has friends from when she was five years old. And she even got to live in the same town with many of her aunts, uncles, and cousins as well as some of her grandparents.

For someone under the age of 18, the main reason we move is for one of our parents changing jobs. In my case, it wasn’t so much changing jobs as it was changing churches. My father was a Presbyterian minister and so each time we moved was when, as he put it, “we were called to another church.”

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The first time I moved, I was only four years old so I can’t say that I really even had friends at that age that I gave up in moving.

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The second time I moved was in the mid-1960s when I was 10 years old and I certainly did leave friends behind. I had both friends at school and friends in our neighborhood. This was before the age of any electronic devices so most play was highly interactive with other kids outdoors.

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The third time I moved was absolutely the hardest. Not just because of the friends and activities I left behind but also because of what I faced in my new town. I was 14 years old—just barely a teenager—when we moved during the summer between my 8th and 9th grades. At that time, the 9th grade was the upper grade of junior high school (no such thing as middle school then). I walked in the door that September as an outsider. Most everyone else in school had gone to the same elementary schools and so had been friends for eight years already. What would most of them want to have to do with somebody new when they were at the pinnacle of seniority, their “senior” status so to speak?

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It was very difficult to make friends in school that year. I was able to join the school newspaper so I could at least fit in somewhere and was able to make some friends serving in that capacity.

On the other hand, it was very easy for me to make friends at church as everybody knew who I was coming in, one of the PKs (preacher’s kids).

The following year, I started high school where 10th grade was new to all of us. Some groups of friends carried over from junior high school but with other junior high schools feeding into my high school, I was not the only new kid in town. In high school, I mostly made new friends with other kids in my classes of interest, science and math.

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Once I graduated from high school, the whole dynamics changed. No longer was I moving somewhere to make new friends, everyone was moving on—to college.

In spite of graduating with over 650 fellow students, not one of my friends attended the same college as I was enrolled in, Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College). But that was OK as everyone in the freshman class was also new to the school.

After graduating college, people scattered all over the country, some returning to their hometowns, some moving onto graduate school in other cities, and some starting jobs throughout the country.

And all this time, college and two different graduate degrees, I stayed in the same town. It was quite ironic that now the roles had reversed and everyone else was moving away leaving me behind.

Even as a married adult, friends have continued to move away to other jobs and other opportunities and yet my wife and I have continued to live in Memphis, for my 35+ year professional career.

My wife wrote a very thought provoking blog post several years ago about friendship foreclosure and how it really takes a tremendous active effort on the part of someone to maintain friendships. I don’t know if I have used the excuse of me moving or other friends moving away to prevent me from having a large number of friends. I am an introvert so it is certainly much easier for me to do something on my own rather than to call up a friend and do something together. At the age of 60, I have two best friends—my wife of 35+ years and my only brother who is a couple of years younger than me—and one long-term dear friend, R, who I still regularly correspond with via e-mail and text.

So moving a lot growing up as well as friends moving away has definitely contributed to me not having many friends at this point in my life. But interestingly, moving is something that we are considering now that I am approaching retirement. We have always lived in Memphis throughout our marriage because that is where my job has been. In spite of numerous work force reductions and company buyouts, my job has remained, at the same location and even in the same building.

But that all changes the day I retire. No longer are we tied to this city because that is where my employment is. We are free to move almost anywhere we want.

My wife and I have already made a list of things we would want in a home and in a town if we were to move after I retire. We drafted this list in 2011, just after our two oldest kids had gotten married. Another “want” that has arisen since we created that list is living close to our grandkids, three so far.

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Not that this is a decision we will rush into or one that will be easy. It will take some time and extensive research. For my wife, it will be a big change since she has never lived anywhere else. As for me, it will be my first move out of town in over 40 years.

But no matter where we move to, we will still have our midtown condo to come back to be able to visit with friends and family in town. And in our new home, we plan to live near family as well. Because even though friendships have developed and then waned over the years due to my moving and theirs, our family will always remain.

Easter Memories

For someone who has no memories of believing in Santa Claus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I have no memories of believing in the Easter bunny either. Not that believing in a fictional rabbit is necessarily important to growing up but I don’t even have a memory of hunting for Easter eggs either. Maybe that is not surprising given I grew up in a home where my dad was a Presbyterian minister and the true meaning of Easter was always stressed. I recently had the opportunity to go through my parent’s photo albums from 50 years ago and while there were pictures of us dressed up in our Easter finery, there were no photos of us searching for hidden eggs in our backyard. But my Easter memories of our kids growing up are quite different.

Since our children were my wife’s parent’s first grandchildren, they were exposed to all of the fun activities grandparents would want to have with their grandchildren. So our kids experienced the Easter bunny, Easter baskets, and hunting for Easter eggs early on.

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After Easter service, we would go to Grandmother and Granddaddy’s house to find Easter baskets waiting for us on the stairs. There would even be an Easter basket for my wife and I as well which I really appreciated since it was a time in my life when I could eat whatever candy I wanted without regret. Then after breakfast, one of us would head outside to hide eggs for the kids to hunt for. I remember my excited anticipation when one of our children would get close to where I knew an egg was hidden and then see the glee on their face when they eyed the little colorful prize.

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Often times, after all the eggs had been found, we would hide them again for another hunt. But occasionally, some of the eggs wouldn’t survive more than one hunt as they would fall from their basket as the children raced from one location to another to be the first to find the most eggs.

When our kids got older and they learned an Easter bunny didn’t actually bring the eggs, we would dye eggs together. And it just so happened that I worked for the company that made all of those egg dying kits so I could bring home all kinds of fun items to play with. This activity was always one I looked forward to every year.

When our kids were older, another Easter afternoon activity would be going to look at new homes. We would all pile into Granddaddy’s car and drive to neighborhoods where new construction was occurring. We’d not only go through recently finished homes and see ideas for maybe our next home, we’d also go through homes still under construction and try to imagine what the home would look like when the construction was complete. Seeing homes under construction was a particularly enjoyable activity for us three boys.

Then that evening, we would go to the home belonging to the mother of my wife’s lifelong friend for a big Easter dinner.

Mimi's

It would be a day lovingly spent with family and friends and delicious food and candy and hopefully a nap somewhere along the way. And it is these memories that I know our three children have that they can share with their own children in the future.

While these memories are in stark contrast to those of my own childhood, there is one Easter memory of my mother’s that lives on to this day. After all of my siblings and I had moved out of the house and were no longer able to attend Easter service with my parents, my mother would call us early on Easter morning and without even saying hello first would state:

“The Lord is risen.”

To which our expected reply was:

“He is risen indeed.”

Even though our parents are long gone, my siblings and I carry this tradition on but with a modern twist—we text the greeting to each other and await the expected reply. In fact, some years, there is a little bit of competition to see who will be the first to text.

So early on this Easter morning, this will be the text message that flies out through the airwaves recalling that familiar call from our mom and all of the other wonderful Easter memories that each of us have.

“Happy Easter!”