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I frequently hear on NPR words or ideas that ensnare my mind, sending me on a trip to the past. Recently, a guest was discussing summer books with particular attention to cookbooks. She emphasized the fact that love and relationships are present in our memories of foods.
Then she mentioned the dark red, purplish fruit of damsons and my mouth immediately started watering, as I recalled the damson preserves my grandmother used to make. My widowed grandmother cooked good wholesome food for her five daughters. Yet, after many meals at grandmother’s house, it’s strange to me that the damsons with their tart, yet sweet, taste are most memorable.
This thought led me to the bread that my great-aunt Jennie made when I was a child. As a favor, she would cut it for me while it was still hot. Smeared with butter, it was food from the gods, manna from heaven.
One item my mother made that I have never tried to duplicate was her Brunswick stew. The meat, a combination of chicken with whatever was available, was cooked the day before so the meat could be chopped or shredded. The next day the broth, meat, corn, butterbeans and seasonings were combined to make an elegant feast.
I tried to make Mother’s butterscotch brownies but they never came out as good as hers. Was the secret in the mixing or the stove?
During my teenage years, we had a cook who would rival the best chefs today. Ervie made flour muffins as tasty as cake; her sweet potato pies surpassed pumpkin pies, and the piece de resistance was fried apple pies. Dried apples were cooked, softened and seasoned to be encased in rich flaky pastry and then gently fried in a flat iron skillet.
Long before the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes,” my Aunt Nell, who lived in Columbia, S.C., had a cook named Goldie who introduced me to the delight of fried green tomatoes. I never attempted to make those but I did make green tomato pickles years ago.
More than 40 years ago when I lived in Charlotte, I was introduced to cheese fondue by Lydia, my next-door neighbor. This delightful dish is another I never tried to prepare. However Robert, her husband, taught me to savor the flavor of a Manhattan. I still enjoy one and occasionally mix one for myself.
I recognize age has probably dulled my taste buds. It may not have been the food that is so memorable. It most likely reverts back to the love and relationships that enhanced and spiced these special foods. They fed the body ó but better yet, they fed the soul!

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