Cooking Up Memories

This is a story, all about how, my life got flipped, turned…oh wait, that isn’t my story (but bonus points for you if you kept singing along). This week’s post is all about how food makes so many memories in our lives. Todd’s birthday was a few weeks back, and I started thinking about his past few birthdays and how we celebrated. Last year, we had a big, Star Wars themed birthday party for him, and then we spent a couple nights in Castle Rock exploring their downtown area, specifically, trying their restaurants.  We ate at Yolanda’s Tacos (which is the restaurant that made the tacos for our wedding), and Guadalajara Family Mexican Restaurant. That lead to a conversation about our trip to Breckenridge last October, and the amazing crepes we had from the Crepes A La Cart, this, by the way, was the only place we ate twice on that trip. Food has an amazing power to trigger so many memories.

I’ve written before about my mom and the stroganoff recipe I learned from her, and how she wasn’t an amazing chef.  But so much of my time with her, was spent in the kitchen. I would make the dips for family get togethers, while she prepared the main dishes.  Todd’s family gave him a canister with the mix for his grandmother’s cookie recipe after she passed away. That canister sits in our kitchen as a reminder of where my husband comes from, and a woman whom he loved so very much.  Every time I eat a really good slice of pizza, I will think of my Uncle Keith who passed away in 2017, and the amazing pizza he used to make at the restaurants he worked at over the years in Berkeley.

Food can transport you back to another place and time.  I was at the grocery store a couple weeks ago, and I saw a bag of shrimp chips. I bought a bag and opened it as soon as I got in the car.  As I took my first bite of the pink, fried chip, I was instantly back at my church in the 90s with my friends. My church was primarily Laotian, and because of that, I got to spend many years eating Laotian and Thai food in the homes of my friends and their families.  For Todd, anytime anyone mentions (or he just thinks of) Chico’s Tacos in El Paso, Texas, he instantly tells me about the time his best friend Ray, and himself drove all the way from Alamosa, Colorado to El Paso to get some Chico’s Tacos.

The thing is, the food isn’t the memory, but rather a catalyst to the memory.  In any context, when I see a mango margarita, I will think of my friend Sara drinking one while she sat on my kitchen floor and I cooked her dinner.  I am almost 40 years old, and every time I see a package of Reese’s Pieces, I think of my grandfather and his house in San Francisco in the 80s. For Todd, when he thinks of lasagna, he is reminded of the Christmas holidays with his family and his mom’s lasagna recipe.  And the stuffing…oh the stuffing! Todd and me both spoke many times about how our mother’s made the best stuffing, only to realize this past year that it is basically the same stuffing recipe, from the Pepperidge Farm bag…but with WAY more butter!

Part of the reason we started this blog was because of these memories. Our love of food comes from these stories.  We would love to hear your memories and which food triggers their memories.

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Sushi & Salmon

The past few weeks have been a bit of a blur. On Sunday, March 3rd, I was getting ready to post something about something, and then before I went to do my final edit, I got on Facebook…and that is when I saw it, a post from my friend, Elaine, that her husband, Rex, my friend of 19 years, had had a stroke and was in the hospital. I dropped my phone, and began to panic.  Rex was in California, and I am in Colorado. I contemplated how I could get to the Bay Area as quickly as possible. But avalanches on I-70 and responsibilities kept me in Colorado Springs. The next day, I couldn’t speak, my words had left me, they were in California I assume. Poor Todd, the 4th was his birthday and I couldn’t speak. I managed to get one of my nephews to make a run to King Soopers to get him a $5 chocolate cake and some candles, but even that took everything I had.  The next day, the doctors in California confirmed that Rex had no brain activity. The next few days were filled with emotions, talks of organ donation, tears, regret, stories, and more tears. On March 10th, I said good-bye to my Rex over a video call, and I am so incredibly grateful that Elaine and Churma gave me that chance to say goodbye, and he was taken off the machines. He saved lives through the gift of organ donation. And, just like that, my Rex was gone.

Now you may read this and think, “Come on, it really took you a month to write something???” And the answer is 100% yes. The loss of Rex has left the world a little darker, a little less flavorful. I have struggled with my grief and my guilt. Rex was many things in my life, but most importantly, he was my friend. He gave me two very large gifts in my life. First, he gave me a standard of what a man was supposed to be and how I was to be treated.  He loved me, unconditionally and completely, he taught me what a man that was my age, from my neighborhood, was supposed look like at his core. If I hadn’t had his example, I probably would of settled for one of the guys that came before Todd, the guys that didn’t love me as much as my friend, as much as my Rexy Poo.

Second, he taught me about sushi and salmon. To be clear, I do not like sushi or salmon, never have, and most likely, never will. But, because of Rex, I have tried countless kinds of sushi, and salmon prepared in every way imaginable. One day, we were at work, talking about food, which was a normal conversation for us, and I mentioned that I hated salmon, that I had tried it before, but I didn’t like it. Rex told me, “You just haven’t had it cooked the right way”…that was the end of the conversation. About a week later, Rex and Paul, another good friend we worked with, came to me and told me about a big dinner we were going to have that weekend at Paul’s apartment, I was told to bring some good bread. I showed up for dinner, and when I walked in, I saw salmon…lots of salmon, cooked in every conceivable way. I handed Rex the bread, and he handed me a plate with a bite of every type of salmon. He told me that he wanted me to just try each one, just a bite…and he was my Rex, so I tried a bite…and surprise, I don’t like salmon. Sushi is another thing Rex tried to get me to learn to like sushi. Every time we went out to eat to a place that served sushi, Rex would pick a roll for me to try, and I would try it, normally with the promise of a sake bomb to follow.  On one particular sushi outing, Rex and Paul were having a competition on who could eat the oddest sushi roll, Paul won the competition with a roll that contained monkfish liver. I tried about 6 or 7 different rolls that day, and several sake bombs. I still do not like sushi, but once again, if Rex asked, I tried it.

I trusted Rex, blind trust, I would try any food he asked because I knew he would never make me do something that would hurt me. I didn’t realize this while he was alive, but now these are the stories that come to mind when I think of Rex. Today these stories make me cry, but I have faith that one day these stories will make me smile again, which is what he would want. He wanted me to try new things, and because of Rex and our friends, I did, and for that I am forever grateful. Rex loved good food, good whiskey (and beer and wine), and he loved his friends & his family. He was a wonderful man, with a beautiful soul. I will miss him for the rest of my life, and the next time I am faced with a new food or drink to try, I will, I will try it for my Rex.

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