The importance of family, comfort, and peanut butter toast

Our Mother's Day celebration this year, as every year, reminded me (as if I need reminding) how precious family is. I grew up in a house filled with laughter and chatting and NOISE. After years of being around all that action I cannot abide quiet. Noise means joy and togetherness, while silence is sadness and grief. Living in small house with no chaos, now my life's soundtrack is the din of television or radio.

Nothing brings us back easier or more quickly to childhood than a meal remembered. Mark Bittman recently wrote about comfort food and childhood. "Every family, every ethnic group and every person can talk about their cravings. The comfort food of others rarely appeals to us; it’s our own that matters... You don’t need a study to understand that for most of us the foods we come to love as children are the foods that will cry out to us for the rest of our lives; we’ll occasionally seek to regain those feelings."

Recollections of my mother's rotating menu stir-up in me the feelings Bittman refers to; imagining weeknight hot dish brings to mind formal dining while weekend tacos were an eating frenzy and I can see my sisters reaching for the hard shells and and shredded lettuce. A whiff of peanut butter toast served alongside fruit cocktail (mom took Sundays off, just like God, and we fended for ourselves with that unchanging weekly dinner) is as familiar and comforting as the companionship of a dear friend.

I am often told that I get excited about small things. It is true, it doesn't take much to make me blissfully happy. The fortunate byproducts of a good childhood are great expectations yet a happy-go-lucky attitude regardless of what nutty stuff life throws at you. Another lucky consequence, especially for a writer, is that happy childhoods provide loads of material.

At Called to the Table today is an ode to peanut butter toast and reflections of The Winter of Raggedy Ann (who was lost for months under the snow). The best family legends are made of such events, and remembered best with the food that comforted us then and now.


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