By Mike Sokol
You are what you eat!
Since my recent survey on whether you prefer to have ketchup or mustard on your hot dog/corn dog went BIG a few weeks ago, I’ve been revisiting the concept of comfort food and why we crave it. In fact, Diane (my long-suffering [not true –D] copy editor on RVtravel) and I just had a discussion about Campbell’s Pork & Beans with cut-up hot dogs (dog medallions, if you will). And sure enough, Diane said it was a favorite childhood treat just like my own experience with this starchy, over-salted, too-sweet, gooey mess. But we both love it because of our childhood experiences.
Why do we love sometimes-low-in-nutrition dishes like Rice A Roni (The San Francisco Treat) or the original Mac & Cheese in a box with cheese (maybe?) powder, or even tamales in a can? I’m not only married to a fantastic chef who once managed a large catering company, but one of my sons is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America with an advanced degree in Baking and Pastry. While their normal offerings are certainly high-end restaurant grade (seriously, they are), I just requested a grilled ham and cheese sandwich for lunch today. It was nearly perfect with a bowl of my wife’s fabulous chicken noodle soup, but it might have been even better with a bowl of humble Campbell’s tomato soup like my mom would serve me 60 years ago. (Yes, that’s also the favorite lunch of Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “Psycho II,” but I digress.)
So in addition to all the wonderful and high-end meals my now-retired-from-catering wife has the time to prepare for us, I’ve been on a quest to find and rediscover the meals of my youth. And I’m making headway, even though it means eating a lot more that usual. Here’s a short list of what I’ve found so far. Please feel free to comment and add to the list of favorite childhood comfort foods.
The Hagerstown Farmer’s Market: Grilled Tenderloin Pork Sandwich
Wow, oh wow! Just like I remembered it: You can stop by the Farmer’s Market early on most any Saturday morning and enjoy what has to be the best pork tenderloin sandwich I’ve ever had. I had nearly forgotten about them, but last week my wife suggested it as a pre-errand breakfast, and it was fabulous! Now run as Mama Jean’s Snack Shack, this same booth has been serving up the best tenderloin sandwiches I’ve ever had for at least the last 25 years that I know of. I’m actually salivating right now as I write this, just like Pavlov’s dog.
Krumpe’s Do-nuts: Chocolate Cake, Cinnamon Twist or Glazed Donuts
Well, I’m cheating a bit since I never stopped eating these since I first discovered Krumpe’s Do-nuts when I was 16 years old. Located in a garage connected to the back of a house that’s accessible only from a tiny alley, if you didn’t know exactly where it was located you were out of luck. They started making donuts every night around 8 p.m., and would be open until at least 2 or 3 a.m. and would sell them from the garage door in the alley. That meant we could drive our muscle machines with exhaust cutouts to the back of the donut shop at 1 a.m. for a post-adventure snake. It doesn’t get any better than Krumpe’s.
View Street Country Kitchen: Blueberry Pie
This was one of the restaurants I would haunt late at night after playing a gig in my rock band, and my guitarist Karl and I would stop in for a slice of blueberry pie. Karl would always give the waitress a sob story about how skinny I was, and she would cut an extra large piece for me. The restaurant has been closed for many years, but I just found out that the daughter (the young waitress who served me back in the day) of the original owners is trying to reopen it this summer. If so, then I’m there for another slice of pie. That’s her in the picture above. Think she’ll remember me?
Boy, does this take me back to when I was 6 years old visiting Grandma and Grandpa on their farm. Just like the food critic Ego in the movie “Ratatouille,” who is transported to his youth by a simple peasant dish, this is one of my favorite comfort foods. You see, Grandma was a baker in a convent back in Hungary and she would make the most wonderful pies, breads and donuts for us kids, all out of whatever cheap ingredients she could get from the local store just before they were thrown out. The best dessert of all had to be her Palacsinta, basically a crepe with fillings from berries on the farm she canned herself. I haven’t found a modern substitute yet, but I’m working on it and will let you know.
I saw this on the highway a few years ago, and nearly wrecked while getting a picture. Diane tells me Chuck Woodbury may have been in one of these Weiner-mobiles, which is totally awesome. I’m so jealous.
Food memories come in all sizes and shapes, like the time I found a great roadside BBQ joint in Texas where you could begin drinking your bottle of Lone Star beer while standing in line waiting for your brisket. Simply heaven.
Or the time I ate at an Italian restaurant owned by the family of a professor that was hosting my advanced mixing seminar. We ate at the chef’s table in the kitchen and were served the “family” marinara sauce – not the “swill” that was fed to the customers. Absolutely incredible.
I could go on and on about all the great meals I’ve had, but now it’s your turn.
Please tell me your own favorite food memories below. It’s just fun to revisit what we ate in the past and compare it to what we eat now. And remember, you are what you eat – so eat great food.
Let’s play safe out there….
Email me at mike (at) noshockzone.org with your questions.
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 40+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.