Like everyone, I think, I associate certian foods with certian people (no? Is this just me? ...). My sister with Chicken Picatta, My grandmom with navy bean soup, My Auntie Ange with salmon spread (and Ange Dip), Julie with Velveeta dip, Lisa with Spedie Chicken Pizza... the list goes on. Mostly because these are the signature things that these people make, and that for me, the very best version of them I've had is theirs. It forms a taste memory for me, and when I try to make the dish that is "theirs" I always seem to fall short. It is tasty, but it's not quite the same as when they make it. (this could possibly be because I am pretty incapable of making a dish, especially a savory one, without monkeying around with it a little).
There are dishes that remind me of people that I haven't been able to make, because it is too hard- the memory makes me too sad, and when I think about it, I get a lump in my throat, and have to think about something else. Rye bread with butter and a cup of tea. Breaded chicken wings, apple pie. These are all things that remind me of my Nana so much that if I close my eyes, I can almost see her, walking into my parents' house, arms full of chicken wings, ready for the superbowl party. Or sitting at her dining room table, with a steaming hot cup of tea, wating for it to cool so it doesn't scald my mouth, and eating a piece of rye bread that has an almost obscene amount of butter on it. Someday, maybe, I'll be able to make these things, but not any day soon.
I have been thinking about my Auntie Jack a lot lately. I can't believe so much time has passed since she's been gone. I miss so many things about her, her sense of humor, her kindness, and her strength. She, like all of the women in my family, was a great cook. She made lots of great things, but most of what sticks in my head is her orzo salad, her caramel brownies, and her breaded tomato pasta. Her tomato pasta may have in fact come from her Italian husband Ralph, but I always associate it with her. (Just like I associate donuts from a bakery in North Jersey with Ralph)
My friend Lesley came to visit from Frostburg last night, and when I was thinking about what to make, I surveyed my cabinets, and I had all the ingredients for the breaded tomato pasta. I didn't have a recipe to go from, but I stumbled my way through it, breading the tomatoes with panko breadcrumbs, sauteeing them in the pan, and setting the angel hair pasta to boil. I mixed the pasta in with the tomatoes, and served it with salad and bread. It wasn't as good as hers (I didn't think it would be) but it reminded me of her, and it was pretty decent.
Someday I'll try to attempt her caramel brownies.
Auntie Jack's Breaded Tomato Pasta
4 tomatoes, (on the smaller side) Sliced
2 cloves of garlic
A cup and a half of italian style panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup shredded parmesano reggiano
Olive oil for the pan
1/2 package angel hair pasta
Procedure: Put water for pasta on to boil.
Take sliced tomatoes, and lay out on paper towels to dry Pat dry. mix egg and milk, put in a bowl. mix cheese and breadcrumbs and salt and pepper, and put in seperate bowl. dip tomato slices in egg and breadcrumbs. Dice garlic, heat up skillet with oil. put garlic in pan, then slices of tomato in (do not overcrowd pan, do in two batches if not enough room). when tomatoes are done, set aside on plate.
Drain pasta, and toss with tomatoes and a little olive oil. I put a little extra grated cheese on here too.