A Word On Food: Father’s Foods

We are still a ways off from Father’s Day coming up in June. So this show is not on that. This is about the foods that well up out of our memories unbidden… a surprise recalling of the things our fathers ate .. but we had forgotten about for a long, long time. Do you have this happen to you? I am betting yes. And not to leave our mothers out. I guess for me it is that I had the privilege of knowing our mother for about 40 years longer than our dad. So the dad memories roar up .. out of a mineshaft of forgotten time. How it happens, why it happens is almost as a compelling of a mystery as the foods he savored themselves. The greatest example of this kind of evocation recalling is in the example of Marcel Proust’s masterwork, “In Search of Lost Time”. My memory of the things Dad ate are never of madeleines! They are still surprising to me and due to his early departure from the mortal realm I cherish them. A vestige of something I feel kind of stolen from me by his broken heart. For though the medical term is coronary thrombosis I think he was crashing from the life we once had together as a family and then … did not. Though Mom and Dad split when I was ten … my sisters Jane and Bet and I lived with our mom and grandmother only two hills up the road from him until I was 17 and he passed. To my deep appreciation I have memories to treasure of some of the things things he ate. Dad was an athlete as a young man. He played semi pro football and won the handball championship at the Chicago YMCA for two years in a row. So when he ate … he ate with the gusto of a body that worked hard. What got me here today and thinking of him was a jar of creamed herring I saw by chance at a local grocery store. The Ashkenazi Jewish merchants ruled the herring trade and imported fish from the Scandinavian countries and Holland by bringing it in by rail to Germany, Poland and Russia. The connection to his hometown of Chicago’s foodways is evident. What was regarded as a ‘poor man’s food’ became a delicacy to the rich when Edouard de Pomiane a French-Polish gastronome in the 1920’s started writing about it. I’m sure my father could have cared less about class distinctions. He loved what he loved. 


Now it’s time to hit the ‘Listen on WLRN’ button at the top to hear the remainder of my show. ‘A Word On Food’ airs on WLRN every Saturday around 8:30 a.m. at 91.3 and also 91.5 on the radio. I want to thank so many of you who tell me in person how much you are enjoying the show! Please check out my Instagram photos and my new IG TV cooking videos @normanvanaken 

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