Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ghost Stories

I know a spell for conjuring ghosts. The secret ingredient is nutmeg.

Before you claim that there is no such thing as ghosts, whip up a batch of your grandmother's recipe for (insert name of beloved childhood dish here).

I propose a sixth basic taste. To sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami, add “haunting.”

I love ghost stories, particularly those of the nonfiction variety. I am especially fond of old photos, recordings (audio and video), personal anecdotes, etc. My favorite ghost stories though, are old recipes.

Let's gather 'round the fire and swap tales!

I'll tell you the story of living in a small town in the wide, fertile farmlands of the Great Plains at the beginning of the last century. It begins with a pork tenderloin...

When we recreate the dishes once prepared by those who are now gone, we make it possible for part of their unique aesthetic (read: Yum) to exist again. A small part of what made them “them” can once again be experienced, savored and even shared in real time.

Grandma's pot roast. Grandpa's home brew. Family reunion around the dinner table!

I never met my husband's great-grandmother. Nevertheless, I know we share a taste in sugar cookies.

Making that jello salad that is barely nibbled on may be a way of preserving someone's cheerful, pink place at the holiday table.

How quickly a mundane, faded, fray-cornered, butter-warped, flour-dusty, handwritten card can become a sacred talisman.

My mother's mac & cheese. Your mother's mac & cheese. A lifetime of memories can live in the space of ¼ teaspoon of salt.

Reconnect with the Old World, the old ways, the Old Folks at Home... and end up with dinner.

Today's exercise: Share your favorite ghost story.

Next: Maybe that post about “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Or not. Either way, we'll all be surprised together.

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