I like to watch cooking shows on Create TV.
Often they make dishes that are too fancy for me, but sometimes they do what they call comfort food. Those dishes come closer to the mark for my tastes. Everyone has their own list of comfort foods. It all depends what you ate as a kid and where you lived.
The other day I was slicing a banana for breakfast and suddenly I thought of a comfort food I had eaten as a tiny child. We just called it Mashed Banana. I'm sure Mom served me mashed banana when I was a toddler because it was an easy baby food to make.
But I remember being older and asking Mom to make me Mashed Banana. All you needed was a banana, a bit of milk, a bowl, and a fork.
I could have mashed my own banana by this time, but somehow it always tasted better when Mom did it for me. Sandwiches were always better when she cut off the crusts and sliced the bread on the diagonal, creating a pinwheel lunch for me and my sister Karen. Yum. So what if it was just baloney with a touch of mayo. The shape made it taste better.
As I thought about Mashed Bananas, other comfort foods came back to me, too.
My dad worked nights for United Airlines at O'Hare, so he was gone from evening to morning much of the time. Somehow this food I attach to nights he was already gone.
It was summer, because we had fresh tomatoes from our garden. Mom would fry up a pork chop and make one sandwich with it. She used Wonder Bread, tomato slices, and a bit of salt.
I don't remember that there was anything else. In my memory, I see us - Mom, Karen, and me - sitting in the living room taking turns taking bites from the sandwich. My memory has the room dark, only lit by our old black and white television set. It was a very cozy time for the three of us.
The pork chop sandwich tasted wonderful. I've never had such a mouthwatering one since. Even though I tried to recreate it as an adult, success has eluded me. I guess it wasn't just the ingredients. It was all about being together in that moment.
My other comfort food includes mac and cheese. Not the ones made on one of those cooking shows. Mine comes in a box with the yellow powdered cheese package. I still like it to this day.
Once, my sister and I talked Mom into buying a different boxed noodle. It was in shapes and was green, not white. Spinach was the ingredient that made the noodles green.
The company figured a way to get kids to ask their mom's to buy this product. They included plastic Popeye cartoon characters in each box. We wanted to collect every character, so we asked . . . no, we begged Mom for boxes of those green noodles.
"It will only go to waste," said Mom. "You won't eat them."
"Oh, no, Mom, we'll eat them all."
I guess our begging and whining finally got to Mom and she bought the Popeye character noodles for us. Too bad she didn't just buy one box for starters. The grocery store had a sale, and Mom couldn't pass up a sale, so she bought a dozen boxes.
Karen and I wanted to make one immediately, so we could get our first toy. Again with the begging, Mom took time to make a box.
If a pork chop sandwich was a great comfort food memory, those green noodles were the opposite. But Karen and I couldn't say, "Yuck." Mom had a fly-off-the-handle temper and she would yell at us if we didn't eat our lunch.
Karen and I sat there trying to gag down those green noodles, so we wouldn't get in trouble. I think I finally swallowed, but Karen never did. The dog got my sneaky sister's food.
When Mom found out she wasn't happy with her two daughters. She then dished up a bowl for herself. Mom didn't go, "Yum" either. Eventually she cooked up the rest of those noodles and fed them to the chickens, who ate them all up. Karen and I still ended up with the plastic toys - Thanks, Mom.
Comfort food comes in all shapes and sizes, but I'd be suspicious of any that's green and in the shape of a cartoon character. They might not be worth the bother.
Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; Sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net; http://www.facebook.com/susan.manzke.