marginfades

The joy of movement. Words. Food & memory.

with 11 comments

Though it’s not among my earliest memories (which reach far back into toddlerhood), I first ate a hamburger at the state fair when I was two years old.

It’s recorded in family lore: my father snapped a picture of my mouth opened wide, capturing both buns, the layers of burger, tomato, lettuce, pickles and onions in between – my eyebrows raised in effort, anticipation. My mother was feeding it to me, her expression serene and indulgent.

And that’s all that matters – that there’s proof, even permission.

Had I eaten that burger (or any burger – even a veggie or turkey burger) as a teenager, or in college, the act of eating would have been interpreted by my extended family as rebellious: a slippery slope into having feet firmly planted in the western world. As it was, they didn’t lament – they knew that while they had my love, and their corner of the world was mine, too (it lay claimed soul long before I was born), my heart is always and forever bideshi to them – wholly American.

Il Meraviglioso Mondo Del Roskilde Festival.

Il Meraviglioso Mondo Del Roskilde Festival., by Kollaps

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
It wasn’t with any resignation that my parents heard me narrate my weekly “treat” lunch at school – predictably, hamburger, curly fries, and chocolate milk. It was bafflement at its one relatively healthy inclusion. “Chocolate milk? You can get milk at home.” My father believed “in for a penny, in for a pound” – and having never touched the stuff, there’s no way he understood the sugary appeal of the chalk-latey drink – his choice would have been a soda. As a teenager, my body burned through that weekly ritual as if it carried no calories at all – and it satisfied something in my palate that I felt otherwise lacking. This is what my peers eat at home, I thought.

That was a belief my family held, too. Because of those unfortunate offerings by the school’s cafeteria, as well as the ascendance of fast food in every day meals – we believed what our neighbors ate could not sustain us, and might eventually kill us. Obesity had not yet achieved epidemic proportions, and while “The Jungle” was long-published and widely read, Mickey D’s chicken nuggets were a status symbol among my friends. Only the kids whose parents were doctors ate at the clown’s cafe twice a week as a treat – both Friday night and Saturday, with their families – they afforded. Pink slime and Jamie Oliver’s dire pronouncements of reconstituted, blended chicken innards were a generation removed from this novelty.

That hamburger I ate that day was a rare treat. I can count on two hands how many times we ate fast food hamburgers as a family – my father firmly believes that nothing good could come out of food that he couldn’t watch being cooked, and my mother loves to cook. We ate out seldom – and when we did, Dad would already be planning his palate’s return to the home-made dishes he loved.

Hamburgers grilled at a cook-out were a different matter. With my mother’s home-made ketchup and finely ground mustard (which our German-American neighbors loved), the burgers from our fall bonfire cookouts were the most fresh and juiciest I’ve ever eaten.

Those burgers set my conscious bar for any that I’d eat in the future. I’d eat those served in my college cafeteria for fuel, not with any tripti. Even those served by our college as a game-day fundraiser were middling – until the day a benevolent alumnus donated some fresh quality beef from his farm.

Meatward Season

Meatward Season, by Joshua Bousel

Biting into that burger took me back to the state fair. I tasted the burger, yes – but I remembered how my mother looked, luminous as a young mother and wife. I hear my father teasing me into a post-burger smile, chuckling at my greed/hunger. “Did she really eat all of that?” he asked my mom with some consternation (he’d been hoping to wolf down what I hadn’t, I think).

There’s so much more to the memory. How handsome my father was, with his then ever-present smile. The camera around his neck, taking pictures of us, rather than the sights and the crowds. My mother’s hair, flowing past her knees in bountiful, silken waves. My prescience in realizing that my mother’s luminescence came from within – a scintilla of life within her, quite new and precious.

I’ve tasted many burgers reviewed as excellent by critics or stylized as “gourmet” by the chefs and restaurants that serve them. I’ve had backyard burgers and burgers cooked in a pan. I’ve had burgers grilled over charcoal, gas, and campfires. I’ve eaten traditional (beef) burgers, turkey burgers (ground turkey as well as compressed meats), black bean burgers, and tofu burgers. But I’m certain none of them taste quite like that burger I had when I was two.

Of which I really have no memory – just that picture my father snapped. Was it juicy, or dry? All the fixings, or did mom leave off the cheese? Was there pickle juice oozing rivulets through the other condiments? My parents don’t remember, and I’ve given up trying to guess. It’s no one burger that brings back brief flashes of the minutes that make up the memory of the first burger I ate – and no two that bring forth the fragments are quite alike.

_____________________________________________________

Inspired by Prompt B – Day 1 of the Scintilla project

Advertisements

Written by marginfades

March 14, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Posted in Food, Margins Fade

Tagged with , , ,

11 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Really enjoyed reading this essay. Our first food memories — great topic. Since most of us are unlikely to remember things that happened to us at two with any great detail, these memories are always shared ones, coloured by what our parents or siblings have told us. If we are lucky, they tell us enough that we come to remember as if we really could still hold the original event in mind. These memories are their gift to us. And nothing ever tastes quite as good as it did the first time.

    Thanks for the new word – tripti – it deserves to transcend Hindi and become an international food word.

    chris

    November 17, 2012 at 2:32 pm

  2. Your post seriously made my mouth water. (That first picture only helped intensify that.) And I love this line:

    “Did she really eat all of that?” he asked my mom with some consternation (he’d been hoping to wolf down what I hadn’t, I think).

    So funny. 🙂 Great story.

    Cassie

    March 22, 2012 at 10:13 am

  3. This post has been nominated as a Favorite Response in the Scintilla Project! The permalink is here: http://scintillaproject.com/favorite-responses/2012/3/21/294.html

    Congratulations!

    The Scintilla Project

    March 21, 2012 at 9:27 am

  4. Oh, as if I wasn’t hungry enough already! Love your descriptions here – looking forward to reading more as Scintilla goes on …

    Katja

    March 15, 2012 at 2:38 pm

  5. Thank you all for your comments! I appreciate the feedback.

    marginfades

    March 15, 2012 at 1:23 pm

  6. Wonderful imagery, and a wonderful memory made all complex with everything memories contain. I really liked this.

    edna million

    March 15, 2012 at 8:30 am

  7. What an awesome first memory to pick for writing about. What a glimpse into your life and world you just gave us. Thank you!

    texancountess

    March 15, 2012 at 3:08 am

  8. “As a teenager, my body burned through that weekly ritual as if it carried no calories at all – and it satisfied something in my palate that I felt otherwise lacking. This is what my peers eat at home, I thought.”

    and

    “Of which I really have no memory – just that picture my father snapped. Was it juicy, or dry? All the fixings, or did mom leave off the cheese? Was there pickle juice oozing rivulets through the other condiments? My parents don’t remember, and I’ve given up trying to guess. It’s no one burger that brings back brief flashes of the minutes that make up the memory of the first burger I ate – and no two that bring forth the fragments are quite alike.”

    make me smile, a lot. meanings of rituals, the experience of things through someone else’s memory or a photo. I loved your use of the word ‘tripti’, instead of just writing it in English. What a great first, and how meaningful it is, and how much you weave into the ‘simple’ story of a first burger. Family, home, culture, movement. Love it.

    medea culpa

    March 14, 2012 at 11:34 pm

  9. Absolutely gorgeous. I always marvel at other people’s “madeleine moments”. Good luck during the Scintilla Project!

    Megan

    March 14, 2012 at 11:26 pm

  10. Dammit, now you’ve made me hungry. Great memory, it is going to be a pleasure to read more of your work as this progresses. Thanks for sharing.

    jasonsbrain

    March 14, 2012 at 10:07 pm


work your work!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: