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Food & Me; Me & Food

Credit and thanks go to to Adam Somlai-Fischer for the great template (http://prezi.com/jipjiqvj6dsc/about-perspective/), and to the Flickr community for photos.

Hailey Reissman

on 3 May 2010

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Transcript of Food & Me; Me & Food

When I was about two years old, my dad compiled a list of things that I, as a toddler, liked to eat. The list remained--a crumpled and strange family heirloom--in a drawer in our home office until a few years ago, when the family switched filing systems and a few rogue papers were lost in the mix.
From memory, it included some of the following: My love affair with food started young. moved somewhere small... Both of my parents came from households rooted in the traditions of the colonial American Northeast. Despite his down-home, all-American upbringing, my dad had and has quite an eclectic taste in food. As my sister and I were growing up, he always tried to incorporate foods from both his German-Pennsylvanian heritage (liverwurst, sauerkraut, meat & potatoes) as well as foods from his palate-expanding experiences beyond childhood (calamari, octopus, fresh fish) into my and my sister's diets.


When I was quite small, my mom went back to school to become a teacher. In her absence, the duty of primary-dinner-maker was delegated to my dad. At first, he was quite a reluctant cook. As my mom tells it--my dad--unsure of how to cook for kids--went with the typical American defrost then boil / bake meals: frozen french fries, fish sticks, hot dogs, boxed macaroni and cheese, augmented with small round piles of green peas or sweet corn for health. This continued until he realized that, as my mom tells it, this food sucked and he wanted to be feeding his kids real food.


So, he began to cook the meals he remembered from childhood: deliberate, three or five pot meals consisting ususally of meat, starch or grains, and vegetables: pork loin with mashed red potatoes and green beans, pot roast with root vegetables and bread rolls, beef tips with mushrooms and peas on noodles.

Food & Me Both of my grandfathers 30 Photo credit: ultrapop design @ Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ultrapop/2318788981/ my mom's father came from a small town rooted in farm culture ... My dad's father came from Harrisburg, the capitol, ...rooted in the state of Pennsylvania while Delaware... the place where my parents (and I*) grew up--a tiny state with a huge heart. Delaware is where my parents learned how to negotiate feeding more than just themselves, where I experienced my very first tastes of food. liverwurst
swiss cheese
Things Hailey Likes to Eat: *later some things have changed,
some have not. As I grew, my sense of rebellion may or not have dwindled, but my love for liverwurst certainly did. Around 15, I became a fair-weather vegetarian, inspired by a deep, abiding love for vegetables and a burgeoning aspiration to prescribe to the tenets of the Enlightened, Bohemian Teenager. I soaked for hours in my parents' bathtub, considering the world I so desperately understood, reading Catcher in the Rye with the passion of a zealot.

Of course, vegetarianism was only difficult because my parents made it so. I began to experience panic attacks that were certainly not a product of my anxious, bleeding-heart personality, but could only be explained by an all-too-frightening Protein Deficiency--something that--as far as I believed--forced my parents to clandestinely slip meat into my meals. Dear reader,
By now, I'm sure you may noticed that none of this excactly speaks to a specific love of food itself. There have been short forays into family history, some ruminations on food & the past, but no grand elaborations on how one can find a loaf of bread magical, a bit of cheese awe-inspiring. Fear no more. The wait is over. Now is the time.

I think, perhaps, the most remarkable experiences of food are like terrariums, tiny worlds unto themselves, enclosed by walls deep enough to protect, but transparent enough to afford a view of life beyond its bounds. Don't Let Me Be Hungry: a half-baked, almost-memoir of a girl and her appetitie
thoughtfully composed after a slice of pizza, two sticks of gum, a cup-and-a-1/2 of coffee, a side salad, and a cup of soup.* by Hailey Reissman Food absorbs the senses, the memory--the mushy, sentimental centers of our insides. It creates senses (sweet, cold, crunchy, soft) memories (June 12, birthday cake; ages 15-46.4, coffee) and sometimes makes our centers & insides mushy & filled out, but probably not sentimental.
Food can link to setting, scene, relationships, feelings and mood with merely a phrase:
Finals: Doritos, Diet Pibb, cinderblocks.
First crush: Bug juice, summer camp, stomach ache.
Halloween, 1997: Truth or Dare, friend's house, dog food, brown-checked plastic flooring.
6, Dodgers Game, hot dog has a life in itself: paper box, peanut shells, fly ball, salt smell, sunscreen, bun-fluff, no-napkins, no-brother, no-Mom, mustard-jeans, carsickness,
plah-unk of ball and ball against maple, stand up, sit down, ice cream, favorite shirt (forever--until it tears).

Asian food is exotic, spicy, Americanized. Asian food is, in an intense bout of homesickness, spending three hours reading the menus on every Chinese, Japanense, or Asian-Fusian menu in the city of Cork, Ireland, hoping to find Vegetable Lomein. Asian food is getting back to your apartment and learning that Lomein is a strictly North American dish. Asian food is eating cereal instead. Asian food is your vegan best friends, miso soup, and avocado rolls.

Asian food is the Chinese buffet for every acceptable report card from 4th grade until 8th. Is going back at 21 and finding a small beetle swimming in your glass of water. Is dying impressions. Is kitschy lampshades. Is Dad made less money then. Is tiny donut holes. Is never what you wanted, but just exactly what you asked for.

Asian food is New York is "we're the top buzzer" is losing your ATM card is only eating delivery because nowhere takes credit . Asian food is cold, styrofoam slippery with condensation, is the same as summer feet and still-fresh dew, is reaching around the refrigerator for boxes and white coated paperboard. Is drunk and hungry. Is open all night.

Asian food is every Easter. Is all that's open. Is all we want. Is better than ham.
Pancakes are 1991 from 1998. Pancakes are long, off-white globs of batter on my parents' spitting griddle. Pancakes are only eaten after being cut into SHAPES: circles, squares, strange oblong things, the occasional triangle. Pancakes are best in miniature or filled with tiny chocolate chips. Spatterings of batter become pancakes for ants, a joke my parents carry on through childhood.

Pancakes are brunch, Mimosa Sundays, the back porch of the Rabbithole & its cherrywood bar. Pancakes are soul music, Brooklyn, half-drunk kids, their hats, their cigarettes, their dragging around, trailing the faint scent of campfire and freeway. Pancakes are patio tables, umbrellas, discarded butts. The jattering buzz of June subway, its delays, its non-schedule, its school kids and hot-in-love couples, its beach towel, damp skin--salt, grease, Coney Island. Olives are stealing from your mom's preperations. Are dark salty brine. Are fit for the tip of each finger.

Are big wooden bowls at the Farmer's market. Are every lunch at Wegman's. Long sheets of prosciutto, melon slices, and ripened mozzerella.

Are number one pizza topping. Always. *please don't judge. (though I don't remember what that was) THE END. please come again. map credit: http://www.onlineatlas.us/highway-map.gif image credit: http://www.e-referencedesk.com/resources/counties/images/pennsylvania-county-map.gif image credit: jimmy wayne @ Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/auvet/95826223/ image credit: iirraa @ Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/iirraa/198236940/ image credit: Matthew McDermott @ Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/matmcdermott/4169636815/ photo credit: olya @ Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/olya/125027156/ photo credit: roboppy @ Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/roboppy/1740582036/ photo credit: massdistraction @ Flickr:http://www.flickr.com/photos/sharynmorrow/249345815/ photo credit: frangrit @ Flickr:http://www.flickr.com/photos/frangrit/2164661564/ Credit and thanks go to to Adam Somlai-Fischer for the great base template (http://prezi.com/jipjiqvj6dsc/about-perspective/), and to the Flickr community for photos. I remember liverwurst well, mostly because my mom loathed it. My mom has a powerful, almost-animal sense of smell. The minute my dad would begin to peel back the yellow and blue of the glossy plastic wrapper, she'd know, even if in the other room. My dad, in Sunday shorts and crew socks, would shuffle up to the refrigerator, slide the roll out from the deli drawer, and before he could even begin to make a sandwich, Mom would start the protest: squeals hardly ever rooted in sentences beyond one or two words--communicated solely through scattered bits of exclamation, as if the smell itself robbed her the ability to articulate.
"Oh, honey," she'd start, "Luke--Oh, no--Oh, no!--The liverwurst--No!--Oh, no!--It reeks!--Oh......no!--Please!--Oh!--It reeks!--So--Disgusting--Oh!"

My sister and I reveled in the dramatics. Dad would cut slices for his sandwiches slowly and carefully, wedging small bits off the ends for my sister and I to taste, allowing the biting scent of boiled liver to linger in the air. With each cut, the smell circled our small, boxed-in kitchen. All the while, my mother's protests would rage on, gaining momentum as my sister and I joined in my father's detestable liverwurst-consuming-activities.

"I can't buh-leeve you are giving them that," she'd cringe. "Disgusting. Get rid of it!"

But, I savored the afternoon snack just as I savored the place as an accomplice in my dad's silent rebellion against my mother's hate of all things strong-smelling. She'd yell and scream, yet never with much force, and with only a slight conviction that my dad should actually heed her complaints. We all knew it was just a joke, but it was a joke that, at the very least, supported the hunch that (at least sometimes) parents could be, and were, wrong. And here, our mom had to be wrong. If it smelled, who cared? Liverwurst was delicious. It was like hearing a friend complain about being given ice cream.

And so went our rebellion without rebellion, our revelation via weekend sandwiches.
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