Cravings and Memory

Not my grandmother's applesauce, but wholesome comfort food nonetheless

Not my grandmother’s applesauce, but wholesome comfort food nonetheless

It’s funny what you crave when you’re sick.  As a child, when I was sick my grandmother would make for me Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup (with milk, not water, so it was nice and thick and always topped with a slice of butter). If I had a sore throat she’d make her delicious baked custard (I remember especially the chocolate that was melted into the top). We lived next-door to my father’s parents during most of my childhood so she was right there when we needed anything.

I’ve learned as an adult that we can’t always get our childhood comfort foods, and find it interesting what I crave instead.

When I was in grad school, I spent about a month in the former Soviet Union (Moscow and St. Petersburg), where I definitely drank the water and wound up terribly sick for almost a week. I wanted nothing more that Campbell’s soup and Saltines, but they were half a world away. My craving turned to the food that reminded me most of home: McDonald’s. Seriously. I was sick as hell, and insisted on going out for a McDonald’s hamburger and french fries because it was the one thing I could count on to taste exactly like it did at home.

I’ve been pushing hard lately at work and in training, and it finally caught up with me on Friday night when I came down with something. I spent all day Saturday in bed. I tried a couple of times to make it to the kitchen to fix some tea and a bite to eat, but couldn’t even manage that until late afternoon.  As I prepared to get up I sorted through my options. I really wanted toast and applesauce, but I don’t keep applesauce in the house – it’s just too easy to fix in my Vitamix, but I wasn’t up to operating heavy equipment at that point.

When I was very little, our wonderful neighbors (Mr. and Mrs. Carter, who lived across the street) introduced me to bread, butter and sugar sandwiches.  They made them with thin-sliced Pepperidge Farm white bread (why do I remember all the brand names from my childhood?), salted butter, and white sugar. Not having any of that on hand (ever – except for salted butter), I made my grown-up version: multi-grain English muffin, salted grass-fed Irish butter, and turbinado sugar. It was a bit of my childhood on a plate. With that and half of a honey crisp apple I was satisfied and ready to go back to bed.

I’m on the mend, and even managed a short run last night, but still not 100%. I’m on my fourth day without craving (or being remotely interested in) either coffee or wine, which is a sure sign I’m still recovering from my funk. Instead, I’ve been all about green tea, chamomile tea, tart cherry juice, honey crisp apples, and spicy tuna rolls – as I said, cravings are odd and interesting.

I finally got my applesauce last night, though. I was feeling pumped up after my run, and took out my Vitamix. Two organic honey crisp apples, a splash of lemon juice, and about 30 seconds later, I had a bowl of my childhood comfort food – quite different than the applesauce Gram cooked and made from her home-grown apples, but it did the trick.

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