Food Memories

I love food. I love eating food. Staying on Weight Watchers for the past eighteen months has been a Herculean effort because I don’t want to count my portions and limit my intake. I want to eat it all. I must say, I’ve become very good at the art of restraint–most of the time. But here we are, about to celebrate Thanksgiving, and I plan to throw caution to the wind and eat everything I love without guilt. I may have to work extra hard over the weekend, but how can I resist? After all, food holds such wonderful memories for me. 

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My favorite holiday dish – fried oysters!

My grandfather was a waterman, which meant that fish, crabs, and oysters were a staple at every important family gathering. Crabs not in season? No problem; there were always soft crabs and crab cakes in the freezer. There isn’t a time, when I sit down to eat crabs, that I don’t think of my grandfather. And though my father was never a waterman, I think of him every time I eat my all-time favorite food, oysters. Absolutely nobody makes them as good as he does, though I’m trying to perfect his recipe. One recipe I perfected years ago was for my grandmother’s crab cakes. Never in my life have I ordered them in a restaurant. For those of you who have tasted only restaurant crab cakes, you have no idea what a bite of Heaven a real, no-filler, all-crab-meat crab cake is. Once you taste one, you’ll be spoiled for life.

Oh… baked pineapple. I can never eat this sweet side dish (who waits for dessert?) without thinking of my Godmother and how I wish we still lived close enough to see each other several times a year. I shared her recipe on here a few years back, and it’s worth checking out. It’s one of the foods that I can never get enough of, and I think it’s because it reminds me that not everyone who is family is related to you. Some are family out of love.

And that reminds me of my two best friends. Debbie makes the most mouth-watering bacon-wrapped chicken you’ve ever tasted, and Anne’s baked goods are so life-changing that I can’t choose one to highlight. Maybe the Texas Sheet Cake that she makes like nobody else does. Or the fudge puddles with creamy chocolate inside a peanut butter cookie creation. Or the brookies, Morgan and Jacob’s favorite, that none of us has been able to replicate. I’m getting hungry (and packing on the pounds) just thinking about them!

I guess the bottom line is that food isn’t just sustenance for our bodies. In some ways, it’s nourishment for our souls. It creates a connection, a memory, a return to a cherished place in time long ago. I can’t taste hot chocolate without remembering how my mother always, so lovingly, had it ready and waiting for us when we walked into the house on a bitterly cold day. My father remarked recently that bread pudding reminds him of his mother and the wonderful dessert she made, using day-old bread, when he was a boy. The smell of Southern Maryland stuffed ham takes me back to holidays with my extended family in St. Mary’s County and to my wedding. My father and grandmother spent days in the kitchen making the unique entree for our 300 guests. I really thought we had a picture of the two of them making it, but I guess that’s a photo that only exists in my mind, along with all of my other food memories.

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My dad’s stuffed ham, ready for Thanksgiving dinner.

They say you are what you eat, but I think it’s more like, we become who we are partly through the foods we eat and love. They help form attachments, create cherished memories, and serve as a reminder of the people we love and those we’ve lost. That’s why food and meal times often play an important role in my books. My novel, Whispering Vines, contains many recipes, some of them given to me by my friend, actress Bianca Roses, which her Italian immigrant grandmother was more than happy to share (thank you Nonna Nina).

So, on this Thanksgiving, I wish you all bon appétit. Enjoy every bite you take, and remember with fondness those loved ones whose recipes have been passed down through your family. Let this meal and this time together create memories that will last a lifetime. And have another helping of pumpkin pie for me. I’ll be limiting myself. Maybe.

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From our house to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Putting the THANKS back in Thanksgiving.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is on pre-sale and will be released on December 1, 2017.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschislerand at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017)

Laughing Through Life

DSC06314So many families go out to dinner together and enjoy a nice, quiet evening.  The children are seen and not heard as the adults converse over neat and tidy cocktails.  They enjoy their meal with impeccable manners, and come and go quietly and politely.  Let’s just get something straight – that is not my family.  It isn’t that my family doesn’t have manners or that they don’t know how to act.  In fact, when necessary (for example, in Church), they behave just fine.  But the truth is that we like being together, we enjoy those times that we can share a special evening together, and we definitely let loose and have a good time.

On more than one occasion, we have endured stares and dirty looks from other restaurant patrons when our laughing has been, shall we say, a tad bit too loud.  Okay, several decibels too loud.  But those nights are, without a doubt, among our favorite memories.  A few months ago, a friend invited us to a restaurant where he was playing guitar as mood music.  Afterward, he asked us not to come back next time.  All right, he was kidding, but he did have a very hard time keeping a straight face and playing his classical guitar while we were cracking up in the corner.  To be fair, the restaurant was terrible.  The service was the worst ever, and our meal was served almost three hours after we arrived, so who could blame us for getting a little punchy?

This summer, our family took a vacation to Canada.  The girls had never been, and Ken has wanted to do this drive for many years.  It was a crazy route that took us from Maryland to Albany to Greenwood, Vermont, then to Stoddard, New Hampshire as well as Freeport, Augusta, and Bar Harbor Maine.  And that was just the first weekend (thank Heaven for campers).  We then scooted up the coast through St. John’s in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Percè, Quebec City, Ottawa, Toronto, Niagara Falls, and finally back into the States with a stop in Buffalo to visit my Godparents.  More than once, we entertained waiters and waitresses as much as ourselves with our raucous behavior.

In Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, our waiter, James, at the Old Fish Factory joined in on the fun and earned himself and his restaurant a five-star rating on TripAdvisor (okay, the food was truly spectacular as well).  In Quebec City, our young, Egyptian waiter was more than amused and began spending extra time at our table laughing and joking around with us.  However, we hit our peak on the evening drive between Ottawa and Toronto.  Trying to make it to our campground before it got too late, we opted to head out of Ottawa before dinner and stop to eat when we couldn’t take the wait any longer.  Along Highway 416, we spotted a sign for Brigadoon Restaurant and decided to take a chance.  Oh my gosh!  What a treat!  The restaurant was charming, the food was delicious (I highly recommend the rack of lamb), and the wait staff was wonderful.  Unfortunately for the rest of the clientele, we were tired from a long day in museums and walking around the city, and we were pretty hungry.  Those are not good combinations for us.  Where most families might encounter meltdowns and whiny children, that combo only ups our ante of jokes, making fun of each other, and just having a good time.  The staff was great and didn’t seem to mind our good humor, which we find to be the case more often than not.

There may be some who look down on us when we’re enjoying one of those nights, but it’s all in good fun.  And as the waitress said at Brigadoon, “We’d much rather see sisters who make each other laugh than ones who fight all the time.”  Of course, that sent all of us into a fit of laughter knowing that she hadn’t been in the camper with us earlier in the day. The bottom line is that given the choice between children who sit quietly and and chew properly but don’t experience the true joy of being a family or children who stick out their tongue to show their food and laugh so hard they can’t take a sip of water, I’ll go for the latter any day.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s next mystery, Picture Me, will be released in August of 2015 and will be available in stores and online.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com