Thursday, May 20, 2010

OD on Nostalgia

My hubby Tim likes Classic food. If I make Chocolates Chip Cookies, he wants them to be regular chocolate chip cookies; 3 inches across, semi-sweet chips, no nuts. If I make pot roast, it has to be the pot roast your grandmother would have made; in a Dutch oven with the veggies and no crazy spices. If we make his favorite breakfast, Eggs Benedict, there can be no deviations. Eggs, english muffins, canadian bacon and hollandaise. Nothing more, nothing less. He likes food to be like it was when he was young or like when he first tasted it.

Tim is a nostalgic eater.

Tim's comfort food can be a source of stress for me. There are some foods I just won't make, because there is no way it will ever live up to the memory in his head. I sometimes wonder if he really remembers what it tastes like, or if it is the taste mixed with the emotions of the time.

Nostalgia is also difficult in restaurants. He can't stand when cooks put spinach in the Eggs Benedict, or don't put 1000 Island Dressing on a Reuben. "Why do they always have to do something different? Why can't they just make it like it should be?" He seems to seek out the replica and in turn often seeks out disappointment.

If you ask Tim what his favorite soup is, be ready for a half-hour story. It is something called Book Binder Soup. He used to get it with his father in this special old restaurant in Chicago. My husband has a great memory for every little detail. He will tell you what the place looked like, smelled like, the fabric napkins, how his father acted, what is in the soup, and how it made him feel. He will go on and on about the soup.

Early in our marriage, he admitted to me that his Mom asked the restaurant for the recipe and they actually gave it to her. "Did it taste the same?" I asked. "Pretty close" he said. Which is saying a lot. So, I called up his mom and asked for the recipe. She told me no. She said that If I made the soup then it would be 'Heather's good soup' and she wanted to be the only one to make him his favorite soup. "You can have the recipe when I die."

At first I was taken aback and angry. I thought she was pulling some sort of Mother-in-Law power trick. I mean, we live two states away! She flies in to see us 2-3 times a year. I always do the cooking while she is here! Why would she deny her own son his favorite recipe?

Now that I have 12 or so years of cooking for this man under my belt, I see it a different way. I always assumed that he became this nostalgic as an adult. I now think he has always been this way.

Maybe, even as a small child, he was comparing tastes from the past, always slightly unsatisfied with the current version. When his Mom made the soup and got a "Pretty Close! " well, that is about as good as it gets. She probably just wanted to hang onto that recipe, that feeling from him. The approval of current times, of current Moms.

My husband is wonderful in so many ways. I am lucky and blessed as a wife and a mother to have a husband who is so kind, helpful, and sexy. Who walks on water in more ways than I can tell you. Nostalgia is a bitter-sweet blessing in this marriage. When it comes to food and travel, I stick to the unexplored. It means that I am always trying new things, making discoveries.

Some day I imagine, after a lifetime of exploratory eating, Tim will order something in a restaurant and say, "It's good, but not as good as yours." That is the power of nostalgia. If you hang around long enough, you become part of it.

I found this recipe on my own nostalgic search for the perfect Shrimp Scampi.  You know, Shrimp Scampi like your favorite Italian place makes.  After quite a few dry and icky scampi recipes, I came across this one on the Internet.  It certainly isn't perfect. But it is easy, quick and full-proof.  You can go from frozen shrimp to meal in about 35 minutes!  For some reason, I almost never put this over linguine.  I usually put it over white rice.  Don't know why, I have just always done it that way.  In case you are wondering... No, Tim doesn't think it is a perfect Shrimp Scampi, but he does like it.

Shrimp Scampi Anne  
*feeds 4

1 1/2 pound jumbo bay shrimp -about 30 jumbo
1/4 cup olive oil
salt, black and red pepper -- to taste
3 cloves garlic -- minced
1/3 cup parsley -- chopped or 3 tbl dried
1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
8 tablespoons melted butter
1/3 cup white wine
1 dash Tabasco or Louisiana sauce
linguine or white rice-- cooked
1/4 cup Parmesan and Romano Cheese -- grated

Slit shrimp down the back leaving tail tip section of shell on the shrimp. Devein, wash and dry shrimp.

Arrange shrimp, single layer, in 10-inch square baking dish. Pour olive oil evenly over shrimp. Sprinkle to coat with salt, black and red pepper, garlic, parsley and bread crumbs. Cover dish and bake in preheated 300F oven for 20 minutes.

Pour butter, Tabasco, and wine evenly over shrimp. Bake uncovered 5 minutes longer or until done. Do not overcook; the shrimp will toughen. Serve over cooked linguine and top with grated cheese.

Recipe Notes:
For the shrimp, I use the frozen kind that you can get at Costco (Kirkland Brand, teal bag).  They come deveined and lovely!  The bag I buy is 2 pounds of 21-25 size shrimp.  For this recipe I dump half of the frozen bag into a glass bowl and put them in the sink, letting the water run gently on them for a couple minutes.  The flowing water is what makes them defrost quickly.  Stir them once or twice to break them up.  When they are mostly thawed, drain and dry with paper towels. 
I use a garlic press for this recipe, so that you can keep the pieces of garlic small.  In this picture, you can see the shrimp layed out in my oval Corning Ware baking dish (2.5Qt).  The garlic, dried parsley and salt and peppers have been applied.  You can kind of see how much red pepper I use. Just an even light dusting.
Seasoned bread crumbs work well, as well as plain.  I cover the pan with foil and throw it in the oven.  Then, mix the liquids.  Boy, my kitchen was pretty sunny the day I made this!
Of course, great wine would make this great!  However, I am not a huge white wine drinker.  When I have it great, when I don't I use those bad Pino Grigios or Chardonnays you can find in a 4-pack or milk-like carton.  I think I am a bit overzealous with the wine because you can see my liquids equal about a cup, and they should be a bit less.  I use 3 shakes of Louisiana sauce in this recipe, and it isn't too spicy for my kids. 
I hope you like the recipe.  If you have a "perfect" Shrimp Scampi recipe, please leave me a comment.  I would love to try it.  Nostalgia can be pretty powerful!

1 comment:

  1. Yum, that shrimp looks sooo good. Shrimp is a favorite in our house and we're always looking for new ways to make it. And my older brother is totally a nostalgic eater, too. When he got married he made SURE his new wife got all of my mom's recipes. And he lets her know when it's not up to par. LOL!!