Lately, I've had a craving for orange pop.
This all started with an uncommonly annoying common cold. My nose had one. The sniffly situation required treatment, so I reverted to the tried and true illness elixir favored by my mother when I was a girl. Orange pop. At my house the fizzy beverage cured everything from runny noses to broken hearts.
I hadn't indulged in orange soda for years. Probably not since I was a kid and sick with a cold.
I cracked the seal on the first bottle of my six-pack and with one sip found myself transported back in time. Who knew a bottle of soda contained so much feel-goodness? I was hooked. My cold is long gone, but I continue to stock the fridge with orange pop. A person can never be sure when she'll experience a similar medical emergency.
The orange pop experience got me thinking. I've always been intrigued by the way food and memories are intertwined. From birthdays to baptisms. Weddings to funerals. Everyday to holiday. Wherever people gather, there is food. Wherever there is food, there are memories in the making.
My mom did two things when company was coming: clean the house and cook. Then she cooked some more. She compiled lists of the foods she planned to prepare. She took out the fancy dishes and silverware. A tablecloth always adorned the dining room table.
Orange pop is only the tip of the food memory pyramid. For me, history is steaming (or broiling or roasting) with culinary reminiscences.
Food doesn't need to be fancy or expensive to be special. My mom used to serve open-faced peanut butter sandwiches with the bread cut into three rectangular pieces. She called it "birthday party bread," because she thought the name made the simple fare feel special. It did. Every day should be a birthday party kind of day, don't you think?
Comfort food brings comfort memories. Tuna casserole with potato chips crushed on top. Porcupine meatballs wrapped in cabbage. Tomatoes from the garden, sliced thick on a plate. Iceberg lettuce with Western dressing. Ham at Easter. Turkey on Thanksgiving. Spaghetti at Christmas. Your foods may differ from mine, but I bet the memories follow similar trails.
I don't cook exactly like my mom did. We were a meat and potatoes family living in a meat and potatoes era. I don't use tablecloths or even own a set of fancy silverware. Mealtimes have changed. The relationship between food and memories has not.
I may not make porcupine meatballs often (okay, never) but I hope my family experiences the same feel-good sentiments around the kitchen table that I grew up with.
Food brings us together. As we pass the potatoes and break the bread, conversation provides the human connection. Laughter makes us stay at the table a little longer and tastes as sweet as any dessert ever could. Inexplicably, it's no longer just about the food. It's no longer merely sustenance. It is a meal.
Because our bodies require food, we all continue the tradition whether we realize it or not. At my house, we stir together a pot of oyster stew every New Year's Eve. Throughout the year winter or summer my kids request ice cream cake for each of their birthdays. And when they are sick, I make homemade chicken noodle soup and buy them pop. Orange pop.
Follow Slices of Life on Facebook. Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist and author of "The Do-It-Yourselfer's Guide to Self-Syndication" Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit her website at marketing-by-design.home.mchsi.com/.