Recalling Childhood Memories Through Food

When I’m sick I don’t tend to get whiney and whimpy. I’m more than able to take care of myself. But I do tend to crave food from my childhood. Sadly, this can be a challenge as I either can’t get the foods since I’m not in Jersey or because I never learned how to cook or bake our Hungarian specialties (and in my childlike, bastardized Hungarian, I only seem to mutilate the words, so I can’t even google the recipes – trust me, I’ve tried). Well, as luck would have it, last night we decided to go to one of the local (major), Jewish deli’s, Jerry’s for some chicken noodle soup.

Imagine my surprise when along with our pickles came pickled green tomatoes!!! Dude, I was totally craving these just the other day wondering where I could find green tomatoes so I could try my hand at pickling. Granted, they weren’t quite like my grandmothers (far too much vinegar, and too hard), but it worked.

I also lucked out and remembered that Jerry’s has stuffed cabbage on the menu! Again, not nearly as good as my grandmothers (a bit too dry and sweet), but damn, it hit the spot. I mean, I haven’t had stuffed cabbage in close to 20 or so years. FWIW, the chicken noodle tasted just as good as my grandmothers (especially once I loaded it up on salt – one of the few things outside of eggs, fries and enchiladas that I will salt). Totally grubbing food. And the cherry vodka, cherry coke was kickass as well – and no, my grandmother never made cherry vodka cokes (she was a screwdriver kind of gal!)

As we perused the menu, I got excited once again thinking that I might have some apricot hamantashen (YUM!). Only I recalled the state of the bakery counter and realized that along with all the other traditional Jewish cakes and pastries, due to Rosh Hashanah, they were sold out of everything. Even today, when I sent the hubby back for still more chicken noodle soup, I asked about the hamantashen and nope, all out of the apricot, but I didn’t feel like prune or poppyseed (but I did get some chocolate rugalah as a consolation prize). I’ve got to search this out further though, as I probably haven’t had hamantashen in over 20 years since my grandmother couldn’t make it nearly as well as her mother or her sister, she never tried (and instead excelled at another kind of cookie that I can’t for the life of me remember the name of).

I was basically raised as a Catholic girl eating Hungarian ethnic foods – I know nothing of my mother’s Irish or Scottish heritage. I realized, after visiting Jerry’s that it really doesn’t matter much if one is Polish, Chechz, Hungarian or any other Slavic-Russian state, it’s all pretty much the same food and the same terms, just slightly different recipes. In fact, it’s not so much about being from one country or another it’s all pretty regional. Funny how out here in CA (or I’d guess anyone not familiar with the eastern European communities), it’s really just all considered “Jewish” food regardless of nationality.

EIther way, it was a nice way to indulge in some comfort food from my childhood. And dammit, I’m going get me some apricot hamantashen before the month is out! If Jerry’s is out, I’ll try Art’s or Canters. Worse case, I’ll hit up every Jewish bakery on Fairfax. Now that I know it’s not just a Hungarian thing, I’m sure I can find it.

Here’s a photo of the apricot hamantashen – though in our family it was made in a thin, “bowtie” shape and dusted with powder sugar.

Now can someone please tell me what the poppyseed “strudel” thing is called (though I liked the prune one better). And if anyone has any idea how to make Hungarian Chicken and Rice (with paprika) I’ll be your best friend forever and ever.

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