Returning to one's roots can in theory be
a melancholic experience. Living far from
one's past is rather redeeming. Unshackled
from virtually all preconceived notions one
can easily reinvent themselves. However
deep within each of us lurk links to our
historic precedence. Subtle triggers that
ignite a tsunami of memories. Anything
can cause said phenomena. Whether it be
sights, sounds, or smells. However for this
prodigal son food is my connection to the
past. And depending on what or how much
I consume, the root of most of my evils.
At times I worry about the homogenization
of America. It often has seemed to me that
all of our regional nuances have disappeared
with the advent of national chain retailers
and restaurants. One has but to travel across
this fair land to see a sea of sameness. Every
community is encircled by an outward ring
populated with the same brands and spaces.
Hence I've assumed that all of the things that
make one place different from the next have
virtually evaporated. Fortunately if one digs
deep enough it's easy to rediscover our tried
and true - mundane and urbane memories.
Since my return to Manhattan I've embarked
on a culinary trip down memory lane. For my
long term readers my old acquaintances will
seem familiar given I've waxed eloquently of
them before. However I can't help but feel a
need to chat about some highlights of my own
version of comfort food. The culinary delights
that not only remind me of my childhood, but
reinforce that all that I still hold dear is not lost.
In turbulent times such as these, one must take
comfort in knowing that some things will never
change. Even if they're only the most plebeian
of edibles such as a bowl of chicken soup.
Body and hole
I've never really liked chocolate but sometimes
even I must go to the dark side. When the urge
to indulge hits it invariably involves going to
the market or drug store and purchasing a box
of Entenmann's "Rich Frosted Donuts." It's
important that you note the moniker. No where
on the package does the word "chocolate" ever
appear. These dark and crunchily encased cake
donuts are enrobed in some magical elixir that
may look and taste like chocolate but yet they
legally aren't. Whatever their outer limits may
be, devouring several immediately takes me
back full circle to home sweet home.
Many mid Atlantic old timers can't speak of
chocolate without mentioning Goldenberg's
Peanut Chews. These tantalizing tidbits are
my beloved sweet spot. Manufactured near
Philadelphia they have a loyal fan base that
extends from Baltimore to Manhattan. Thus
few beyond the eastern seaboard have ever
experienced this true sugar high. Peanuts are
mixed with caramel and then slathered with
dark chocolate. The result is savory, sweet,
and for some an acquired taste given they're
not overtly sweet like most mass market
confections. To me they're the best bar none.
Wheel of fortune
What goes around comes around. For me a
circular slice of Taylor Ham (officially Pork
Roll) brings me full circle to my childhood.
As New Jersey as it gets, it's unique recipe
originates from the garden state's capital -
Trenton. The result of which is an acquired
taste.It's consistency is somewhat similar
to a salami, kielbasa, or spam. Never eaten
cold, it is either fried or grilled to perfection.
The secret to it's savory sensation is how
this magical mystery meat caramelizes in
the process. Placed a bun with a slice of
cheese and onion it's heaven on earth.
Now that I'm back home I can toast to my
happiness. Hence I frequently guzzle down
a bottle of Dr. Brown's Black Cherry Soda.
It tastes the closest to what my memory
serves up. As a boy "soda" was absolutely
taboo in our house. However any visit to
my dear Aunt Millie's included tapping
into her stash of Cliquot Club fizz. Once
said dark and delicious cherry elixir was
poured over a tall glass filled with ice I'd
go to my happy place. Therefore it's only
appropriate that in times like these I often
escape to my sweet spot. Care to join me?