I recall some of my happiest childhood memories taking place on weeknights between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. That magical hour before dinnertime equaled anticipation, joy, silliness, laughter, love, and happiness.
As soon as the kitchen clock indicated 5 p.m., I started looking forward to my father’s arrival home from work. My mother would be at the stove preparing dinner while my younger brother played nearby. Their proximity soothed me. I felt good and safe and calm. The fact that my mom’s attention was divided between watching my brother, cooking dinner and dad’s imminent arrival created an ideal environment for which to enjoy myself. Mom wasn’t inquiring about my school performance or extra-curricular activities. She wasn’t lecturing me about being nicer to my brother or telling me to ask my teacher for extra credit assignments. She was otherwise occupied and, for the moment, this little girl was just being a kid.
Then dad got home and it was time to play! My dad invented all sorts of silly games for my brother and I but one of my favorites was an EPIC sporting event called "Muscle Fighting". It entailed my dad crawling around on the floor pretending to be a wrestler-ape-type character who would toss us around (gently and) playfully the moment either of us dared "challenge” him.
It was incredibly silly fun. Muscle Fighting even had its own theme music, which I can demonstrate to this very day, should the need ever arise. So the three of us would play in the living room while mom finished up dinner, calling to us and laughing at our rowdy antics. Then dinner would be ready and we would sit down together to eat. I wanted very much to like the same things that my dad liked to eat so we could consume them together.
Treats like fresh artichokes and pomegranates were quite special because they were considered a “splurge” on my parents’ modest budget.
I loved eating artichokes with my dad as it secured his attention for as long as it took to consume the vegetable, which was a fairly involved process. The artichoke would be steamed and then placed in a bowl on the table where we would pull off the leaves, dip them into red wine vinegar (it has to be vinegar!) and then scrape the “meat” off the leaves with our bottom teeth. We worked on the exterior leaves until we got to the tender artichoke heart, which we split.
In the space of time between 5 p.m. and the end of dinner, life was perfect; our family was perfect. I had everything I needed and was content.
I am an organic gardener by way of lifestyle and sunflowers are an annual planting tradition for me. Delving further into the research on sunflower care and maintenance has caused me to wax nostalgic for those happy memories as I learned that not only can you eat the seeds, leaves, and sprouts of the plant, but you can also eat the entire flower while it is still in its bud stage.
Steaming the bud and serving it with vinegar results in a very similar culinary experience as enjoying a steamed artichoke!
It is universally understood that food and emotions are interconnected. Undeniably, I associate happy memories with certain foods.I also associate happy memories with the hour prior to dinnertime, but not necessarily dinnertime itself.
How do emotions and memories impact your food choices?