[The contest is now closed! The judges will take a look and come up with top favorites, which will be listed for you to vote on. Thanks to everyone for the great entries.]
A few years ago, we had a food writing contest. It was so successful, I’ve lined up some great prizes, and we’ll do it again. First prize is an evening class for two people at Robert Reynold’s Chefs Studio. Located in SE Portland, Robert offers French and Italian cooking classes for both professionals and amateurs. I’ll have further details on this as the contest progresses. Second prize is a $25 gift certificate to Gilt Club in downtown Portland.
All you need to do is write about a food memory. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about Portland; perhaps your memory is of an evening on Corfu. There will be prizes for first, second and third place, as voted by our readers. Let’s keep the entries to 500 words or less. Email your stories to me, or post them here in the comments for this post. You can read some of the entries from the last time here.
The winner in 2008 was “Granny Moon” for this memory:
Breakfast when I was a kid was a weekend event – cold cereal before school didn’t count. And every weekend it was pretty much the same thing. Daddy would get out his cast iron skillet, place it on the gas stove and start frying. Always eggs. Sometimes bacon, occasionally ham – and if it were fishing season there would be fresh caught rainbow trout from his 4 am jaunt on the lake.
But the thing I remember most was his fried potatoes. If I were really lucky he would grate them, then dump them in the hot grease and make them oh so crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I’ve tried forever to duplicate that. 4 out of 5 times I almost get it. That 5th time is heaven. Makes my arteries harden just to think about it…
Daddy grew older and ended up having a triple bypass. But he never lost his love of fried potatoes. When he reached the age of 88, I moved to Tucson and lived with him and my stepmom. Over the course of 16 months I perfected the fried potato. Not the grated wonder that my dad turned out; but a thin sliced, perfect circle of crispiness. With a soft center that melted in your mouth.
I would get up at 6 am when Daddy came out of his bedroom to get the newspaper, and we would have a cup of coffee together while I peeled a couple of small potatoes. Then I would slice and fry them up – using that same cast iron skillet and a gas stove. When I served them to him in his recliner, he would eat them with his fingers – savoring every bite.
My step mom always said that I was spoiling him. But I like to think that I was feeding his spirit – transferring the love that he gave his baby girl right back to him, by way of a fried potato.
Here are a couple of examples from me:
Away from home for the first time, waiting for the beginning of college, I was in Sebastopol California, staying in a cold drafty old barn surrounded by apple orchards. The winter wind was so strong, it would blow bits of hay across the old barn floor, covering me with little pieces of summer-perfumed straw while I slept. On my second night, the wind was so strong one of the trees kept dragging its branches across the old tin roof. Warmed by several hot buttered rums, I stumbled outside and climbed the tree, trying to get to that overloaded branch. It broke with a loud crack, sending me crashing into the wet grass, pelted by apples shaking loose from above. Drenched and drunk, but ever the epicure, I grabbed some of the fruit and ran back inside, where I stripped off my clothes and hung them on old saddle hooks in hope they would dry. Shivering under a blanket, and huddling over my electric kettle for warmth, the idea of rum and apples appealed to me, so I sliced some up and threw them in the pot to simmer. As the water bubbled, I bit into one, and for a moment, everything stopped. It was the height of perfection, a diamond thrown from that gnarled tree, unlike any that had come before. I sat naked under grandmother’s old wool blanket, apple juice running down my face, hot-buttered rum warming my hands, listening to the sound of the rain and the wind flexing tired timbers back and forth. Everything was right in my life.
I can remember my mother packing us in the car to every Thursday to go to the strawberry stand. It was run by a Japanese farmer and his wife on the back side of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. We’d pile into the old VW van and wind along the bluffs overlooking the ocean. Just before Marineland, mom would park, and me and my friend Jacques would run down the steep dirt trail to the tide pools. At the time I wanted to be a marine biologist, and would dash from one pond to another, picking up rocks to see what was underneath, and carefully putting them back again. Jacques taught me how to smash open a sea urchin, and we’d eat them raw, sitting on a rock with the salt spray floating over our heads. As the tide came in, we’d race each other to the top of the bluffs where mom would be sitting, patiently reading a book. Twisting along the cliffs, we’d follow the coast where a weathered white strawberry stand stood surrounded by acres and acres of dark green fields. I’ve never had any berries that tasted as good as the ones we’d eat in that dirt parking lot. When we got home, Dad would serve them simply, with a sprinkle of Kirsh liquor and a dusting of powdered sugar. I still eat them that way.
What memories do you have? Email me here.. Please let me know what name you want used when I post them. I’ll announce the prizes in a couple of days.