Monday, December 30, 2013

A Comforting Taste of Home

The most recent journey to my hometown of St. Marys, West Virginia yielded some much sought-out comfort food.  Every bit of it provided tastes, textures, aromas and even the look of something deliciously familiar.  Some reminded me of my childhood, others were new flavors that I now associate with going home.  Every bite was like wrapping myself in a one-of-a-kind security blanket like none else.

Many of the bites that remind me of childhood are happily still available.  Mister Bee potato chips was founded in 1951 in Parkersburg, WV and is a crisp, salty chip that I've been noshing on since I was a kid.  This company, while having struggled in recent years, remains a prime example of small business made good.  The perfect accompaniment to these chips is of course, Broughton's creamy Chip Dip.  Broughton's dairy was founded in 1910 and remains the go-to local dairy.  I also reveled in a return taste to a hometown pizza that is truly beloved to me from childhood.  Pizza Place is a pizzeria that I first encountered in its home in the Grand Central Mall.  One bite of that thick-crust Sicilian style (corner slice, please) pie and I was swooning.  I hadn't had it in so long and one bite reminded me of lunches with friends, high-school band outings and so much more.  Finally, we had a quick lunch with our beloved Lydia at the Town House in Marietta.  We noshed on French Onion soup and Buffalo chicken salad while I perused the place...its always interesting to see in the less-than-light-of-day here as it is far more familiar when it is elbow-to-elbow, pitch dark, really loud and reeking of beer as it was during many an unwieldy nighttime sojourn in my more wayward youth....

On this last trip to St. Marys, I was introduced to a new taste of home by someone I had grown up with by the name of Denette. Thanks to Kristy who gave me the heads up (and assistance from Facebook), we were fortunate to get a lovely gift basket from Denette filled with mason jars of homemade pickled beets, salsa, and apple butter and all were wonderful.  Such a thoughtful surprise, but not really shocking as this is just one example of how the good neighbors of St. Marys treat each other.  Some newer and now treasured tastes of home come from Chams, the Lebanese restaurant that Kristy turned me onto. This food is homemade Lebanese cuisine that stirs the senses with its delectable aromas and nourishing flavors, from a family that clearly prides itself on its dishes. The bright, lemony fava beans are outright soul-nourishing and this last time I got to try the lamb shawarma, which was so filling and flavorful.  No wonder the Avengers sought out shawarma after saving the world from an alien invasion.

The allure would be lost on many for some of the homegrown items I sought, such as the six ham sandwiches wrapped in plastic that are found only at the Food Giant grocery store in St. Marys.  Indeed, they are rather plain, each with thinly-sliced ham and a slice of American cheese on a bun.  These sandwiches are burned in my memory, though, as they were bought on many a week for my father to take for his lunch to work when I was a kid.  I would watch as each one was packed in his square, black plastic "pail" (as Dad would call it) along with the red plaid plastic Thermos filled with black coffee.  These would only count for the five work days of course, so Dad would always give me the sixth ham sandwich.  Dad worked a long hours at at tough job and when I was young, I would eat that sixth ham sandwich and imagine myself working alongside him, precariously balanced on a steel beam at his ironworking job.  Eating one of these sandwiches now continues to evoke memories of Dad; now even more treasured as we lost him a couple of years ago.  I will probably be treating myself to these somewhat plain ham sandwiches for the rest of my return trips home.

The power of hometown food is precious to me and so welcome with every return trip.


Anonymous said...

Too bad the Jug wasn't open :)

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed this post. The food of home does indeed bring back wonderful memories...... Thanks for writing this. (-:

Indian food in Australia said...

This is an old family recipe and a personal favorite.
first, gather about a half a cup of peanuts, and grind and whip it until it becomes creamy
second, use grapes or strawberries to create a jam.
spread the peanut cream on one slice of white bread and the jam on another slice of white bread.
join the two slices, cut in half and serve with fresh fruit.

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