The first meal my husband and I had in Hawaii this June was a popular dish called Loco Moco. It is typically a mound of rice with hamburger patty, fried egg and brown gravy. The Big Island Grill is not far from the Kona airport, conveniently for hungry people, and we could order one Loco Moco big enough to share with a choice of meats to go on it. Our version was a mound of rice topped with pork chops, hamburger patty, and fried eggs, (and oddly 3 battered and fried shrimp on the side). The dish is topped with brown gravy. The waitress asked if we wanted the gravy on the side. I wondered to myself if tourists liked it on the side and why, as I’m sure she sized us up as tourists. But I said, “Just however you usually serve it.” She nodded as if I’d made her happy and maybe elevated my standing as a slightly better tourist than most.
It looked really bad when she brought it, very dark brown gravy covered every bit of the food. But not everyone on yelp would be lying when they say how good it is. I’m ok with things that look bad, as long as they taste really good.
It did. It was delicious. To be precise, it tasted like my childhood. There is something my mother made, pork and brown gravy on top of sticky rice. (We’d use the leftover plain rice the next day to make a hot cereal of rice, milk, butter, and sugar. Yum! Another taste of childhood.) Brad and I left some rice, but it was tempting to finish it because it’s the rice that scoops up the gravy so nicely!
Last week I tried the Trader Joe’s demo, and I tasted my childhood again. They combined chili and mac and cheese. I don’t remember my mother mixing them, I must’ve eaten them together on one plate enough that the association was immediate. I thought my children might like it, especially by telling them it tasted like my children. They’re sympathetic sometimes like that. Savannah loved it. Seth hated it. Arwen didn’t say anything but ate it to get dessert.
We told Seth if he wanted his cereal before bed, he’d have to finish it. He was super mopey which hasn’t worked on me in so long, it’s laughable that he would try that. I disappeared for a bit to my desk in another room. After Brad joined me, Seth was suddenly done with his supper. His pride waits for everyone to clear the room. Who knows what he really thinks of his food. They don’t have to love the food I love. Never yuck someone else’s yum, I say. I just hope his memories of eating are not eating mopey and alone.
I have a friend who compiled the best childhood memories of her friends. She asked me what I thought the most common memory included, and I guessed right because it was mine too, picking and eating blackberries. I have others, hot dog and bun topped with so much chili we had to use a fork, garden tomatoes with table salt eaten like an apple over the plate. A delicious mess! Peanut butter and syrup sandwiches, my mother’s Duncan Hines boxed marble cakes with a warm mixture of milk, sugar, and butter poured over and soaked in.
I’m also collecting favorite childhood memories, whether they involve food or not.