Every once in a while, my Dad gets to reminiscing about some great dish he ate at some point during his lifetime, which gets me to thinking about the same topic. While this can be a fun exercise, often I hit upon the melancholy memory of foods I've enjoyed but will never get to taste again. Everyone has them - what are yours? Some of mine:
Chung's Pork Fried Rice - Chung's was a dinky Chinese carry-out on Cold Spring Lane, across and down the street from Alonso's. They had the best pork fried rice ever. The roast pork tasted fresh, not like it had been sitting in the back of the refrigerator for a few weeks (I'm looking at you, every restaurant that serves fried rice instead of white with their cheap lunch specials), there was a decent amount of vegetable bits, and the grease-to-rice quotient was perfect. Sometimes, when Dad and I were out running errands, we'd stop at Chung's for a quart of PFR and eat it in the car, parked right there in front of the restaurant.
Arbaugh's Ribs - there may be better rib joints in the area today (Andy Nelson's, for one) but I have such good memories of driving down to DC with the family expressly to eat ribs and cole slaw at this Connecticut Avenue institution.
Haussner's "Lobster Dainties" and Strawberry Pie - No matter how many items Highlandtown's Haussner's had on their menu, I always ordered the same thing: lobster dainties, fried eggplant, and stewed tomatoes. The lobster dish was simple - chunks of meat swimming in butter. Why wrestle with the shell if you don't have to? And strawberry pie was my favorite treat as a child, particularly the slices of toasted almond on top. Thankfully, this recipe means that I could still prepare the pie at home, even if it wouldn't be quite the same.
Maison Marconi's Hot Fudge Sundaes - Despite promises to re-open Marconi's on Charles Street, destroyer-of-the-Orioles Peter Angelos never kept his word. With the closing of this piece of Baltimore history, we lost the delectable hot fudge sauce, served separately from its companion bowl of ice cream in order not to melt it. But who needed the ice cream at all?
and of course....
My Mom's Cooking - Mom died in 2001, a few months after my wedding. She always claimed to hate cooking, but when she stopped using cookbooks and started winging it in the mid-80s, she concocted some pretty amazing dishes. I'm sorry I never did learn the secret seasonings in her stuffed pork chops (although I suspect dried mustard and minutely chopped raisins), nor have I mastered her baked macaroni and cheese. I could try to recreate them, but without Mom around, there'd be no magic.
Some things are probably best left to memory.
Cherish your parents and spend time in the kitchen with them. Once they are gone, so is all that knowledge.
I so can relate to your missing your mom and her cooking, as I miss my own dear mother as well as her phenomenal bolognese sauce, perfect meat loaf, her mile-high strawberry pie and her never-been-matched-by-anyone cherry cheesecake. Even when recipes remain, the taste is never the same when prepared by someone else; corny as it sounds, could the secret ingredient be love?
My mom's cabbage rolls. I've made them, but of course, not as good. Also, Singing Sam's pizza in Kent, Ohio. It was my favorite place in college. Made in square pans that were seasoned to thick black. It had that great buttery crust and the cheesy edge was slightly burnt. It's gone now. They also had great battered wedge fries. Can't remember what they called them.
I used to love my Mom's pork with onion topping, but I know it wouldn't taste the same if I ate it today. It's funny how I can still remember the taste so clearly. I haven't had that pork in years.
You know, I'm still sad about food that I never got to taste. I always wanted to go to the Bicycle in Federal Hill to try their vegetarian dishes. But once I moved back home to Baltimore, they had closed. I don't know why I wanted to try that place so much, but I can't help but think that I missed out.
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