I suppose we all have foods about which we feel nostalgic, foods that we associate with growing up or pleasures we enjoyed as children. I certainly do. Vernor's soda pop when we visited Michigan. Malasadas in Hawaii. Seven Layer Cake.
Seven Layer Cake was served at our birthdays whenever we were stationed in the Washington, DC area, close to Baltimore where one of Dad's best friends and our dear family friend, Uncle Sam Silber, ran the family bakery. Uncle Sam was no relation - he was a friend of Dad's from the war, a highly decorated fighter pilot who was just so beloved that we dubbed him our uncle and always looked forward to his visits.
Uncle Sam's bakery made the most marvelous seven layer cake on earth - the whole thing was no bigger than an eight inch cube, seven delicate layers of cake with mocha frosting spread thinly between them, topped with chocolate ganache. It was so rich that even greedy teenagers could only eat a thin slice. Silber's bakery is closed now, but the memory of that cake and Uncle Sam's smiling face over the top of the box in which he brought it will always stay with me.
And here's one from My Beloved's childhood, Checkerberry Syrup made in Guilford, Connecticut where his family spent many a summer when he was growing up. It has a wintergreen flavor and is very, very sweet.
You can make a float with an ounce of syrup, vanilla ice cream and soda water, or you can use it as syrup on an ice cream sundae. You can even make a milk shake. It comes in a bright red bottle but what pours out is clear - apparently the red bottle subs for the red dye they used to color the product years ago.
So, what My Beloved enjoyed when he was a boy was likely bright pink in color. His sister slipped a bottle of Checkerberry Syrup into our rental car as we were leaving, a fun little gift of nostalgia for him. When we got home, we opened the bottle and, using it as one would use the syrup for an Italian soda, we mixed an ounce of the syrup with eight ounces of club soda and ice. Just lightly sweet when mixed liberally with soda water, it made a refreshing and novel drink.
It's still made in the same little Connecticut town by a company called House of Checkerberry. The plant from which it is derived, Gaultheria procumbens, or American wintergreen, grows wild in a huge range from Newfoundland to Manitoba and south to Alabama, so you might even find the plant yourself and consider a small distillation experiment if you can find instructions on the interwebs. The bottle doesn't even list a website, but there's an email address should you want to give it a try without traveling to Connecticut or hiring a botanist to help you. email@example.com.
A sip of this takes us back to long summer days in Connecticut, water skiing in the morning when Long Island Sound is flat, sailing in little boats once the wind picks up and, in the warm, humid evenings after dinner, going for ice cream at the Maple Shade, the local creamery.
Tell me about your food nostalgia - what do you recall fondly from your childhood?