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Sweet Memories

32 comments | October 9th, 2012

(by Mir, from WouldaShoulda)

I associate both of my grandmothers with sugar; my memories of both are inextricably tied up with sweets. In the case of my father's mother, I suspect she had a sweet tooth, herself. At her house there was always a metal cookie tin on the coffee table, filled with some kind of cookie I can't quite remember. It was like biscotti—a less sweet, bar-type concoction (Dad? Help me out!)—and next to that, a glass candy dish always filled with a variety of individually-wrapped hard candies. We kids were not only allowed, but encouraged, to partake from either vessel as often as we wished. Grandma always worried that we were too skinny. This was great, because it meant we could always have more treats.

My mother's mother had diabetes, so maybe she'd had a sweet tooth earlier in life, but she was very careful with her diet (and I never saw her eat sweets) in the time with her that I remember. But at her house there was a buffet cabinet sort of around the corner from the dining room table, and the middle drawer was always stocked with fun-size candies. If we ate our lunches, we could choose one for dessert; I often debated the merits of the tiny pack of M&Ms (so many pieces!) vs. the mini-Twix (my favorite). After dinner Grandma always went for a walk, and if we went with her, when we got back we were allowed to have ice cream sandwiches.

It occurs to me that my children don't have similar associations with their grandparents; perhaps the days of "I love you, here's some sugar" are a thing of the past. Or maybe our parents are just sneakier than their parents about feeding the kids. Heh.

Still, maybe it's not an everyday thing, but I definitely believe in the healing power of ice cream for my children and friends when times are tough. It may not be the healthiest coping mechanism in the world, but it's not the worst, either. I remember a friend telling me a few years ago that eating ice cream engenders feelings of love in the person doing the eating; she recommended eating ice cream with the kids as a bonding experience. I wasn't going to argue. Hey, I'm for bonding AND eating ice cream, so win/win so far as I'm concerned.

This year has been crappy for my family, to say the least. My husband and I keep joking about how we're only one crisis away from morbid obesity, such is our propensity for emotional eating. (No, we're not really eating ourselves into ill health. But I'll confess that in times of stress I'm a lot more likely to reach for french fries and ice cream than, say, veggies and salmon.) On the one hand, I want to honor my general commitment to healthy eating as the smartest path towards a healthy body and mind, sure. On the other hand, there must be a valid reason why we crave sugar and fat—and why the people we love so often offer us those "bad" foods—too. Right?

Me, I'm trying to find the happy medium. Woman cannot live by ice cream alone, I know. But when I think back to those memories of love being tied up in sweetness, I can't believe the periodic indulgence is all bad. Cosmic contentment or whatever would be great, too, but sometimes you just need a treat when you've had a crummy day.

Do you have memories of loved ones who fed you special treats? Are high-calorie indulgences useful in moderation or am I just practicing denial via my taste buds?

(For More Mir, Go Here)

32 comments

  • Cindy

    Posted on October 9, 2012

    My maternal grandmother had multiple candy dishes (one of which I still have) and she kept all kinds of different candies. We were allowed to have some, but not too much because my great grandfather had the sweet tooth. I think she kept him pacified with sugar in his crotchety old age.

    My paternal grandmother wasn’t about sweets but she made the best pancakes in the world and had Karo syrup to go with them. Definitely a happy food memory there.

    But my mom was the ice cream queen. We had a farm complete with milk cow so we ate LOTS of ice cream. Even post-farm, my mother loves ice cream. Her thing was to randomly yell out “I scream” and that was our cue to scream back “You scream” and finish together “We all scream for ice cream”. She still does that with my kids! Hey, ice cream for dinner every now and again does not a bad mother make. Right?!?!!?

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  • KGP

    Posted on October 9, 2012

    Mir, it wasn’t the Royal Dansk cookes in a tin, was it? http://www.walgreens.com/store/c/royal-dansk-danish-butter-cookies/ID=prod2663052-product

    My grandmother always had these at her house.

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  • MomQueenBee

    Posted on October 9, 2012

    My paternal grandmother had two candy dishes on top of the refrigerator and when we visited her (every Sunday evening) we were allowed to have EITHER a peppermint OR a lemon drop. Not both. That thrill of that choice still is with me. She also drank sweet tea, which was unheard of in the middle part of the country, and I add Sweet ‘n Low to my tea in her memory.

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  • Jan in Norman, OK

    Posted on October 9, 2012

    When I was small, about the only time we went to church was when we visited Grandma. She always kept a handful of caramels in her purse. Between the unwrapping and the chewing, two or three could keep me busy and quiet during the entire service. I didn’t know what these wonderful things were called; I just called them “church candy.”

    I remember eating a piece of cake at the home of a friend and telling her mother that it tasted like church candy. Couldn’t understand why she gave me such an odd look.

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  • Em

    Posted on October 9, 2012

    Can’t say that I HAVE any but I am trying to create some. I compensate for other maternal shortcomings by making sure my kids have a home made “sweet treat” in their lunch each day. I figure if I send them with a healthy lunch, a cookie or brownie can’t be judged TOO harshly. And as much as I try not to reward with food, we definitely celebrate with food. First and last day of summer vaca: ice cream. Surprise in the car after school during a rough week: chocolate shake. Mom worked the overnight shift: at least she’ll bring home donuts! In fact, if all goes according to my plan, my kids will remember their childhood home as smelling of cookies and breads and other cozy warm smells.

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  • Ann

    Posted on October 9, 2012

    Grandma Milly was a fantastic cook and baker, and visiting her (or spending the entire summer – they had a pool! Where else was I going to go?) meant standing on a chair helping make pies, bread and ‘grape juice’ – really just sugar crystals, purple dye and water.

    Grandma Isobel couldn’t cook to save her life, but she kept a silver cookie jar with the mini packs of Chicklets (I have a feeling Chicklet gum may be a Canadian phenomenon?) for us. It was never empty when we arrived, but there was always just enough for each of us. How she knew when we were going to come tearing into the house is beyond me.

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  • Mary Fran

    Posted on October 9, 2012

    My paternal grandmother always had the tin of cookies. The running joke was cookies after breakfast, cookies after lunch, cookies after dinner. My mother-in-law always has home made cookies for my kids when we visit. Plus dessert after every meal. And fresh baked breakfast breads. I know I enjoy our visits there (wine every night!) as much as the kids do.

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  • Lissa

    Posted on October 9, 2012

    If your grandmother was anything like mine, it was mandelbread in that box! Food = comfort in our family! Sick? Pastina with milk or chicken soup. Sad? rugalach or some other sweet treat. Just because? Royal Crown Cherry Sours – she always had those in a dish on the table. They don’t make them anymore but I can still taste them.

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  • Jamie

    Posted on October 9, 2012

    I channel my paternal grandmother so much! I want to be like her in so many ways. She always had a fresh baked good in the kitchen and of course the candy dishes around the house. There are so many of her recipes that our family continues to use and next month we’ll all be making “Grandma’s stuffing” for Thanksgiving. I appreciate that she provided good food for her family and was crafty and a sewist, too. I wish I didn’t like sweets as much, either, as my waistline can attest, but if it channels Grandma, it’s great in moderation!

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  • Karen

    Posted on October 9, 2012

    My paternal grandmother lived 500 miles away, so we saw her only once or twice a year. She always made wonderful chocolate chip cookies and strudel when we visited. As I was the only grandchild who was interested in baking, she taught me her baking secrets, and I have many lovely memories of baking with her. Though I never did master the art of stretching a small ball of dough into a hole-free, tissue thin layer that covered the table, I did get pretty good at scattering apples, nuts, jam, and whatever other fruit she had on hand onto that dough and rolling it up.

    I still bake — lots — though I use only whole grains and no white sugar. Not necessarily healthy, but healthier. No one who tastes my treats complains. Now I just need some grandchildren to spoil. :-)

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  • Katie K.

    Posted on October 9, 2012

    My grandma raised 12 children and never stopped stocking her refrigerator and pantry like she was feeding an army, even well after they were all out of the house. Lucky for me, she lived right on my way home from my first real job when I lived in my first real apartment. I was always welcome to pop in and she would start piling food on the table so I wouldn’t go home hungry. She also baked the best chocolate chip and sugar cookies in the world. I feel really blessed to have gotten to spend that extra time with her, as well as my grandpa who we were losing to Alzheimer’s disease. She died only a few years later, 12 weeks to the day after my grandpa.

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  • Mary K. in Rockport

    Posted on October 9, 2012

    Both my grandmothers were excellent bakers, but we lived with my maternal grandparents, and the others were quite far away. My Grammie, my mother’s mother, was a pie maker – she would save the odd-shaped leftovers from the crust, sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar, and bake them along with the pie. These delicious tidbits were called “baby cakes,” and my cousins and I would squabble over them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted on October 9, 2012

    Mary K – the pie crust treats were called “cinnamon yum-yums” at my house!

    My mom was a baker, so I don’t have any particular grandparent memories – except for one summer at the cottage playing Trivial Pursuit (did that one make the transition to the US? it must have!). We were deciding what flaouur each pie (prize) piece was, and thne mentioned that there was no such thing as chocolate pie. Gran was happy to prove us wrong with a surprise dessert (in spite of a limited cottage kitchen!)

    Sarah

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  • suburbancorrespondent

    Posted on October 9, 2012

    During our year from hell, I developed the habit of buying crochet and knitting books I knew I would never, ever get around to using. I don’t know why. It was just comforting to have them. And they were calorie-free!

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  • Diane

    Posted on October 9, 2012

    I don’t have any memories of my paternal grandmother giving us treats (although they lived in town, we didn’t visit that set of grandparents very often). My maternal grandparents, however, lived less than two blocks away.

    While my maternal grandmother would bake, it’s my grandfather who left the memories of treats. Not extravagant by any means – one of the peppermint candies he always had in abundance in his pockets (or, on a really good day, a butterscotch one), or the treat I still revert to when truly stressed: bread dipped in heavily milked and sugared coffee. Call it poor man’s biscotti. That treat could heal all hurts.

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  • Hallie

    Posted on October 9, 2012

    My paternal Grandma always had cookies or other treats at her house. You would walk in her house and she would offer you a cookie and coke. If we stayed with her, she offered us ice cream for breakfast.

    My maternal Grandma and Grandpa always had hard candy in dishes around the house. My Grandpa loved to suck on them. Also, there was always a store bought dessert around (danishes or donuts).

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  • Christine in Los Angeles

    Posted on October 10, 2012

    For Lissa … I bet, if you contacted The Vermont Country Store, they’d find Royal Crown Cherry Sours for you. They specialize in hunting down the makers of old-timey, no-longer-made candies.
    God bless, Christine

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  • dad

    Posted on October 10, 2012

    Mir

    My mother’s metal tin did contain mandelbread.
    And until now, I have not seen any, or even heard about any, since she’s been gone.

    I know judgements are not allowed, but I checked my contract and it is OK to spoil one’s grandchildren.
    Of course, in order to do that the parents need to be hard asses so that we are perceived as kind, and pushovers.

    The truth is that the “out of the ordinary” is more likely to memorable than the routine.

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  • Jean

    Posted on October 10, 2012

    My maternal grandmother always had a packages of Reeses Peanut Butter cups in her refrigerator for me as they were my favorite…and they taste so much better cold! She also always drank hot, strong, sweet tea each nite. It’s the only way I know how to drink it now.

    My paternal grandmother died when I was young so I don’t have that many memories of her. However, my paternal grandfather always kept cans of cling peaches in heavy syrup in his house. I loved those and while I rarely buy them now, when I do, I always think of him and how fun he was :)

    My son gets a sweet in his lunch each day, along with whatever he wanted to eat and yogurt. Childhood is short, he should be able to have fun treats (not to mention he is a stick figure who has 2% body fat according to his last physical). I had 2% body fat when I was a fetus!

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  • Frank

    Posted on October 10, 2012

    For me, it was less about the sweets and more about the special foods in general that were available when visiting relatives. Someone above mentioned pastina and milk… I didnt think ANYONE else ever had it… Gram (maternal) was a pie maker… she used to make rhubarb pie for my dad. at the time I understood that it was a bit of a pain to make from scratch; not sure if that is true or not. All her sisters (my aunts) each had a specialty: one made waffles that were delicious, but still could be frozen and toasted later and still be good. one made different cookies… marzipan was the treat (YUM). Ah the memories.
    Also second the idea for anyone interested… the Vermont Country Store is an AMAZING place for finding old time food and stuff. Worth your Surfing time…

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  • Andrea

    Posted on October 10, 2012

    My grandmother had an awesome refrigerator with a freezer on the bottom with a foot pedal to open it. I remember less about the treat inside than the joy of being able to be the one to open the door.

    My grandmother was, however, an excellent baker with her own sweet tooth. Butterfly cupcakes and raisinless hermits served up in an old Enteman’s box were among the favorites that visited with regularity when she did.

    All the gramma talk…what memories. I can cry thinking about holding her very warm and soft hand as a child and, later, as a young adult. Those are my sweet memories.

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  • Arnebya

    Posted on October 10, 2012

    I didn’t have a relationship with either set of grandparents (outside of a few times I recall meeting my maternal grandmother on a birthday or Christmas where she always gave me clothes 2 sizes too small). But, I had a friend who was being raised by her grandparents and yes, they were treat givers and comfort food supporters. There was always lemon pound cake in a glass stand on the counter and Rolo chocolates in the kitchen drawer closest to the back door.

    I try to limit my kids’ candy intake, but when it comes to cakes, pies, ice cream, and all around warm comfort foods? Yes, they may have some and I’ll have it with them.

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  • Aimee

    Posted on October 10, 2012

    Sweet memories… yes indeed. My maternal grandmother had the biggest sweet tooth — she used to say that all of her teeth were sweet. She never struggled with her weight because she walked every day and was generally pretty active. But going to her house always meant cookies for a snack (she made killer chocolate chip cookies!) and usually vanilla ice cream with a little honey drizzled over it after dinner. I also have fond memories of going to the penny candy store when my grandfather was still alive, and agonizing over how to spend my quarter or fifty cents.

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  • el-e-e

    Posted on October 10, 2012

    I love reading all of these. My father’s mother had a ceramic cookie jar that always had Keebler Fudge Grahams when we were kids. Not homemade, but defnitely special. AND she always had Juicy Fruit our Doublemint gum in her purse; to this day all three of those things make me think of her.

    My other grandparents were Peanut Butter bars candies (the brown and white striped ones), and Dr. Peppers kept in a special cabinet. Always saved for an afternoon treat, all together at the kitchen table. Gosh, it gets me choked up to think of it.

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  • Jessica

    Posted on October 10, 2012

    we could never visit my Grandma without getting a treat. When she got older and wasn’t able to bake as often, she would (embarassingly) offer “boughten” cookies. she always baked her own bread and even ground her own wheat (I inherited the wheat grinder and have yet to use it). When my cousins and I would have sleepovers, my grandpa would always pop us popcorn with the air popper and we would play sorry!. Man I miss those times!

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  • Lisa

    Posted on October 10, 2012

    I am definitely the grandma who is offering the treats. I feel it is my job to give my almost 2 year old grandson cookies and suckers, since his mom is firmly against sugar, which is her job. An occasional treat can’t be too bad, and I want him to remember me “sweetly”.

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  • Emmie

    Posted on October 11, 2012

    My great grandmother always had KitKats for us kids and my grandmother always had shortbread cookies in a tin. Whenever we went up north (we lived down south) we would be fed sweets whenever our parent’s backs were turned. The memories still make me smile over 30 years later.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted on October 11, 2012

    I bet the cookies were the ones called “mandelbread” or “Mandelbrot” in Yiddish. They’re a not-too-sweet, biscotti-type of cookie, often made with almonds or walnuts, that is common to Eastern Europe. Just a hunch.

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  1. I’ll be under my desk with a snack | Woulda Coulda Shoulda - [...] are inextricably tied up with various delicious treats, so I’m over at Feel More Better reminiscing about goodies and…
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