With that first bite, I was back in the mid-1980s, sitting in one of the houses we lived in during that decade, my mother talking on the phone with Nanny, and my father walking into the house carrying a box of leftover pastries that did not sell that morning on the truck. He would tell us all to run out to the car and bring stuff in—cold cuts (ham, cheese and pork roll) that you find in the deli department of your supermarket along with huge boxes of bacon, eggs, butter and cream cheese. There was a smell on his clothes that reminded me of the cardboard box from the rolls that was delivered at 3:30 each morning, or it could have been the gasoline that he used to fill the generator in the morning.
But that memory of listening to Nanny on the phone triggered more memories of being at Nanny’s house and bouncing between her and Pop in the garden, picking green beans or swinging on the hammock while the dogs barked in their backyard.
All of this began with a bite of a calzone I was testing out this week.
A couple weeks ago we went to a friend’s house to make some ravioli. We were trying to do things that our grandparents did on a Sunday—make pasta and catch up. The ravioli was not that great, none of us had made it in years, but the concept got me thinking about food and family. I used the ricotta mixture from those ravioli to make some calzones during the week. Those came out okay, but once I tweaked the recipe a little more it became the vehicle for my time traveling moment. When I was a kid, whenever we ordered pizza my mother would order a calzone. She doesn’t like red sauce so it was either a calzone or white pie. The calzones of my youth in Jersey were generally the size of small sofa pillows filled with oozing mozzarella and ricotta and slightly browned on top. Sometimes we would get sausage or ham in it but generally it was all cheese.
My attempts to make a cross between a hot pocket and calzone brought flavors like sausage & peppers & onion, chicken parmesan, or ham & cheese. But it was the one that I made with ricotta and mozzarella that had me experiencing my own Peggy Sue Got Married moment. If you have never seen the movie, Peggy Sue goes back in time to her high school years, spends time with people she had loved and lost over her lifetime, and gets to redo things she felt went wrong the first time around. But the thing that stuck with me most was she got the opportunity to say what she missed out on while those people were still alive and spent time with people she had lost and missed in her current existence.
We have all experienced love and loss of people in our lives with things we will never be able to say or a hug we will never be able to give again. This calzone brought me back to the lovely memories of those I’ve lost but it also was a sharp reminder that I will never have the opportunity to hear their voices again or give them that hug. So with these thoughts I have started thinking how the food we make today and from here out, we are building new memories with the people in our lives. And I make sure that I hug each one of them every time to keep those memories alive.