sharing food memories

I led a food/memory workshop at Diane Geurin’s 10th grade English classes at Guilderland High School Monday November 19. I brought my family pumpkin compote to share with everyone, a bag of spices, camera, and my laptop. Students tasted different spices and wrote responses, memories, poems with the guidance of their teacher, and recorded powerful reflections.  Please take a moment to read bellow and be inspired. Thank you all for your participation and I wish you and your families a wonderful Thanksgiving.



A Taste of Home

I open the door of the apartment,
walk into the room
suitcase in tow, backpack in hand.
The smell wafts up to my nostrils
before the sight meets my eyes,
The scent of sweet and sour spare ribs,
the sight of those red-brown pockets of heaven
makes me salivate hopelessly.
Dropping everything in hand
and in mind
I rush over to the dining table,
where pork in brown sauce, buk choy, chicken soup and fried rice
accompany the spare ribs in a table of goodness.
My grandpa smiles at my eagerness;
He has prepared for this:
There’s a pair of chopsticks already waiting for me
beside my bowl of rice.
Never forget the rice–true staple of all Asians (and other cultures too)
I sit down
and dig in like civilized pig, or maybe just like a pig
The food
in all its majesty, deliciousness, and glory
tastes distinctly of my grandpa’s cooking.
It tastes like Shanghai,
like China,
like home.


Sunday Mornings

Some weekends
I would visit my Dad.
and Sunday mornings I would wake
to the smell of rich, warm dough.
Sweet sparkling sugar
browning on top of scones in the oven.
I would shuffle in my slippers to the kitchen
groggily rubbing my eyes
and sit with a mug of hot chocolate
at the kitchen table.
We would watch the scones rise
Just me and my Dad
at the same moment the sun rose in the sky.
We would cut the scones into slices to eat
with smooth apple butter that melted on the hot bread.
My Dad and I, and my brother when he
woke up, sat on Sunday mornings and
ate scones together, until it was time to go
a couple hours later.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen my Dad
and ate those scones
but I remember that smell
on Sunday mornings.


Peppermint and Cream

 the cookie press kisses the cookie tin
pink and green little circles lay flat.
little hands are mixing,
timers ticking,
sugar flying
flour scattered around,
boxing treats
 topped with ribbons and bow,
sneaking snacks,
in and out the memories flow…
peppermint and cream 
swirl around our head,
scents that taunt us to take one more,
licking our fingers for any lasting tastes.
taste buds tingle
as we sneak our treats of peppermint and cream.

By: Sophia Schermerhorn
Eden Alin
Every Friday since as long as I can remember my mother would make her famous Asian recipe called plof. The strong and aromatic smell of cumin and rice would flow throughout the house. It would drag the entire family in for dinner after a week of hard work. With a freshly cut garden salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, green or red peppers, and onions all mixed together. A dash of salt and black pepper was added to give the salad even more life. The warm plof with chicken in it would fill my stomach and sanctification at the same time. No other food brings my family together like plof does. It never gets old and I look forward to eating it every Friday to this day. It is a part of my childhood and it is still a part of me.

Emma Oliver
If I smelt sugar, I would think of my house around Christmas time when we make chocolate chip, peanut butter and sugar cookies. I love making the cookies with my whole family because it brings us together to do something that we all enjoy. We make at least 60 cookies which we end up eating throughout December break. Like little kids, my brother, my sister and I roll out the cookie dough and cut Christmas shapes out of it with the cookie dough cutters that we’ve had for years. Once we start putting the cookies in the oven to be baked, the aroma of sugar fills our whole kitchen and eventually the whole house. I will always love the smell of sugar because when I smell it, it makes me feel warm and happy inside.
      I have such vivid memories of the holiday season because of the great foods that are made around the time like the wonderful, delicious smelling cookies. Also around the holidays, my mother makes a vegetable casserole with cauliflower, broccoli carrots, mayonnaise, bread crumbs and a few kinds of spices. My whole family and I love eating the casserole all together. My mom got the recipe out of an old cooking book that she has kept away in a cupboard. I look forward to eating this casserole and many other treats every holiday season. Smelling sugar and eating the vegetable casserole always makes me think of being with my family and of celebrating good times.


Matt Mesiti

Memory Poem

As I enter,
I can already hear
the laughter,
I can see the smiles
before they are shown,
because tonight,
is calzone night.

Calzone night is what we call it.
Every year,
on my cousin and aunts birthday.
It’s a night where my entire family,
gets together.

On calzone night,
all the happiness and joy
of my family come to life.

For the kids,
it’s always a contest
on who can eat the most calzones.
But for me it’s different.
I would rather savor my
calzone and make sure I get
every taste and don’t leave any behind.
That’s my calzone night.

I made two in class.

Apple Pie Memory Poem

The mixture of
apple and cinnamon has
always gotten your taste buds jumping.
Just the smell
sends you to another place.

It’s Thanksgiving night,
with all your family and
friends present.

It’s time for dessert,
and you have so many options,
but like I said
before, apple
and cinnamon
is what you crave.
So without hesitation
you go for the apple pie.

Nikki Salatel
One memory that I have is about my mom cooking pizza. My dad doesn’t really like garlic and lots of spices but my mom loves them all. She tries to sneak garlic and spices into as much food as possible, hoping that none of us would notice. One day, my mom made a homemade pizza for dinner. She bought the dough, added sauce, garlic and cheese. She may have overdone the garlic though. The first bite I took I spit right out and smelt it. I could smell the strong garlic in my nose. I then immediately looked at my dad to see what his reaction was going to be. His face was the funniest face I’ve ever seen him make. I was laughing so hard for hours, and even days. After that, we decided to order a pizza for dinner instead.
Olivia Scheider
The collection of spices reminds me of my mother’s tea. One time she brought home this tin full of whole and half pieces of varying spices. She had bought it at this fancy tea store and was quite excited. She explained how good it had tasted to me with an abundance of animation. These spices today remind of the distinct smell of the tea. It was sweet, but harsh at the same time in the way it would shoot in through your nose and expand throughout your skull. I am reminded today of all the times this tea is made in the black iron tea kettle that looks quite old, even though it’s not. Every time, the aroma filters through the house and a warmth enters as you inhale. I like these days. The tea gives me a sense of alertness and clarity that I get now as I inhale the spices.

Most people look forward to fairs every summer. They enjoy the rides, games, people and the food. I enjoy those things too, except for the smells. Ever since I saw the movie Super Size Me, the smell of fried dough and other fried foods make me want to throw up. Fairs are crawling with fried things so it is a recipe for disaster going there. The grease is what I hate the most, the way you can hear it sizzle on top of the grill and the thought that is it fat makes my stomach turn. The smell, to most people is delicious and perhaps their favorite part of the fair. I personally stay away from the food booths and focus on the rides and games. The smell of fried foods are also very strong in New York City. Every street you go on, there are food vendors set up with their products trying to convince passing tourists to purchase that item. I always try to stay away from those because I can’t stand the smell and if I ever dare to eat it, I guarantee my stomach couldn’t handle it either.
In kindergarten, we made homemade applesauce to learn about apples and Johnny Appleseed.  The fresh apple scent filled the classroom that fall morning as my teacher chopped up the apples.  As we all stood around and watched, I just wanted to grab one of those juicy apple chunks and begin eating.  The apples and some cinnamon were poured into the large pot to get cooked. As we waited, the smell got stronger and stronger and I couldn’t wait to dig in.  The smell continued to fill the classroom and eventually filled the hallway.  Teachers and other students kept looking in our classroom to see what that wonderful smell was.  When my teacher would open the top to check on it, you could see the heat escaping.  When it was finally done, my teacher served each of us.  It looked so good and I was so happy to finally get some.  As I took a scoop, it tasted just as well as it smelled.  After all the applesauce was eaten, the smell continued to fill the classroom for the rest of the day.
Olivia Elmore
the food I yearn for
so distant to my life
in everything I eat
or see

ice cream
oh how I miss thee
eating it off a cone
during the summer time
or in a bowl while
i watch my favorite show

no longer can I
feel its vanilla coldness
streaming down my throat
as it causes my mouth to fee
thick and coated

something I must eat
the pureness of milk
no longer able to satisfy me

the food I must limit
pizza every Friday
causing my stomach to flip
after one slice

my favorite candy and sweet
sadly closes my mouth
in a pure, thick whole

the food I yearn for
so distant to my life
in everything I eat
or see

Nick Sprio
Chinese food always brings back the memory of my sister leaving for college. I remember because, the night before she left, we ordered Chinese food from her favorite restaurant. So now whenever my family orders Chinese food, the smell of the steam-fried lo main, brings back the memory of the night before she left for college. It brings back memories of my sister eating her favorite Chinese food the night before, her voyage to college, and her bags in front of the door to show that she was all set to leave.
Erin Templeton
I am from paper, from I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and hydrogenated vegetable oil.
I am from the purple room upstairs, tan rug, fuzzy, it felt like clouds.
I am from the yellow dandelion, the white dandelion, with seedlings that would spiral away from me.
I am from Chinese New Year and pale skin, from Dan and Marley and Christopher John.
From tooth fairies and the Easter Bunny
I am from a crumbling church in which money is priority over Jesus.
I’m from Albany and Ireland, potatoes and salad.
From the picture with my mom and her short hair, and her little dress, and Connie’s strawberry afro.
I am from the television cabinet, with the train station photos. They traveled with hats tall enough to reach heaven.


The scent of cinnamon always brings me back to the memories of Christmas time. When I Put up the decorations and tree with my family around this time there is always a scent of cinnamon. My mom has decorations that contain cinnamon and fill up the whole house with this delicious smell. She also lights cinnamon candles that travel across the entire house. The scent of cinnamon to me, just gives me a warm, sweet feeling that I can’t describe. Also during Christmas time my mom always makes apple pie and I help her cook it. When she adds the cinnamon to her pie it just smells so could that I want to eat the pie, right at that moment. Whenever we have a lot of people over for breakfast she makes cinnabons that are beyond amazing and sweet that I end up eating three of them. The smell of cinnamon just reminds of the winter time and being with loved ones because of all these memories.

How to Make Me
Fill up a pot with a few cups of humor
And next add a dash of spirit.
Don’t forget some imagination
With me, it makes all the difference.
Add an extra cup of humor
Just to make the laughs last longer.
Sprinkle in some Ireland,
Don’t forget a dash of Poland and a teaspoon of Russia.
Scoop in all five feet eight inches of me,
although I must be squished a little.
Don’t forget a quick spritz of hairspray,
my presentation would be wild without it.
Put a lid on the pan
And let me simmer together.
Serve me however,
I always need some change.
I will always remember the smell of Woodloch. Woodloch is a family style resort in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. I used to go for the weekend with my Aunt Karen, my Uncle Eric, my Aunt Ellen, my Uncle Lenny, my grandma and my cousins Dana and Alexa. We would always go during the winter or spring so it was very cold. The resort had a dining hall overlooking a mountain that you could eat over. Is till remember the smell of the burning wood in the fireplace in the dining hall and the smell of the cinnamon french toast I used to get there. My family at Woodloch and in their dining hall is one of the things I remember most strongly from my childhood and I think that has a lot to do with the smell and memories I had of things that took place inside the dining

Brandon Das
The scent rising from the plastic bag reminded me of black licorice. This aroma brought me back to a memory from eight years ago. In second grade I was learning my multiplication and division tables in school. During this time my family was on a vacation in Florida. I was driving with my mom, dad and sister, Nicole from Clearwater, Florida to Orlando, Florida to go to Disney World. On the long trek my mom was quizzing me on my multiplication knowledge. For every ten I got correct in a row I would receive a piece of salt-water-taffy. We always bought taffy at the beach in Clearwater. We all love taffy and we only have it once a year on vacation. My favorite flavor was the black licorice. Unfortunately, this was true for both of my parents as well, so I had to answer quickly if I wanted any of the coveted family favorite. Due to this our rental car smelt strongly of black licorice which displeased my sister who hates the smell.  Of course, once the black licorice ones were gone there were plenty of other flavors to choose from so I was happy to keep doing math as long as I was getting taffy.
Butterscotch Cinnamon Candles
During Christmas time my family and I always have butterscotch cinnamon candles lit. The first time we lite the candles is when we decorate the trees. My brother and I start on the kids tree. My mom is placing the delicate ornaments on the table. Then on to the big tree. The ten foot tall tree. The fancy tree. My dad does his part by grabbing the ladder to put the angel on the tippy-top of the green tree. My sister is there too. Pacing, walking back and forth across the room reading the book. By then I was little; shameless. I changed into my PJ’s right there in front of my family. At the time of changing my sister gasps and points at my stomach. My mom mid sip of her hot tea glanced over. I had a target like image on my tummy; bruise like. “Mom does Emily have cancer?” My sister asked. No, it was ring worm. I assume now that I got the rash from my smelly, sweaty gymnastic gymnasium. That week was hell. Stuck with a boat load of meds and stinky cream for my rash and the smell of butterscotch cinnamon candles.

Jo Ann Mulligan

Every year at Christmas time you will find someone in my family baking. On Christmas Eve, particuarlly, you will most likely find us all in the kitchen very late at night baking Christmas cookies. My mom has had many recipes passed down to her from her mother and her grandmother. Such cookies as sesame cookies, snowballs, and yewons. It has become almost a traition for my family to wait until around 9 o’clock on Christmas Eve, to decorate the tree and hang up the stockings. To many it seems like a crazy idea and look ridiculous. All of us five kids running around the house, screaming and laughing, alll of us on a Christmas high, Christmas music blaring in the background and the kind of craziness that goes around with Christmas. Afterwards we all drift into the kitchen to help my mom and dad with the baking. My mom then sets us up doing different little jobs. Charlie and Laura roll the fresh out of the oven snowballs in the confectionery sugar and the dough for the sesame cookies in what else? Sesame seeds. It’s a job even the little ones can’t mess up. Mary Jean and Carrie roll out the dough for the Snowballs and the Sesame cookies. Since I have the most experience in the kitchen and help my mom the most, she usually gives me a harder job, usually preparing the dough for the yewons by cutting them into the specific strips or I make the ricotta pie. We all chat, sing, laugh, and yell. Flour is everywhere and the entire kitchen smells of confectionery sugar. It’s a mess; the perfect mess.
Jordan Shultes
I actually picked two scents that had the same meaning to me. I always loved the smell of Thanksgiving dinner and cinnamon. My mom, sister, and I always go to my aunt’s house for dinner. When you walk through the door there is always a deep, rich aroma of Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, potatoes, corn, stuffing, and apple pie. They just bring back that memory of laughter, love, warmth, and family. It feels like the warmth you get from the unconditional love you get from a kitten or puppy, or a small child that just adores you.
Iyal Basen
In my family we have an eclectic repertoire of spices in our cabinets. From garam masala, saffron, chili powder, oregano, basil, thyme, pepper(s), etc., But, somehow all these scents are not as powerful as the scent of my family’s chicken soup.

My family’s chicken soup consists of chicken carcasses, with some meat on them, carrots, onions, and sometimes celery, salt and peppercorns along with a bay leaf or two boiled together for five hours. After five hour it still isn’t ready to eat because it needs to cool for the flavors to meld, and for the fat to rise to the top. It then needs to be skimmed, cooled, and then skimmed again. After for what seems like a day and a half of cooling and it is officially done and ready to eat. The flavor dances on my tongue, a true sign that a special Jewish festival is going on, otherwise no one would have slaved over it for hours. However, this dish is truly best a couple days after it is made, with each day it sits it gets better and better, because by at least two days after it is made all the flavors are together as one, giving that haimishe taste.
When I smell cinnamon it reminds me of when my mom makes applesauce.  It reminds me of autumn evenings coming home after a long day and smelling the cinnamon in the applesauce.  Cinnamon is probably one of my favorite spices because you can put it on or in  applesauce, toast, apple pie and lots of other things.  I would always love eating my mom’s homemade apple pies oor applesauce.
     One of my absolute favorite foods is chicken cutlet that my grandma would always make.  When I smell her cooking the chicken cutlet it makes my mouth water.  When I’m at my grandma’s house if she doesn’t make chicken cutlet then I am disappointed.  I don’t think I could ever get enough of it.

Pinch, Fold, Pinch, Fold

Pinch,  Fold, Pinch , Fold
over and over
a systematic pattern…
roll roll roll
out the soft dough
into sweet little circles
scoop scoop scoop
in goes the filling
the little dumpling is formed
a cresent moon
Pinch, Fold, Pinch, Fold
The aroma of pork and scallions
blends beautifully with the smell of
seasame seed oil and ginger
Pinch, Fold, Pinch, Fold
over conversation and old stories
passed down
Pinch, fold, Pinch, Fold
crackle crackle crackle
goes the oil in the frying pan
plop plop plop
goes the dumplings as I drop them in
Pinch, Fold, Pinch, Fold
once again.

Some people say cooking is a fun way for people to communicate with each other and can be really fun. I agree, but only to a certain degree. I personally think cooking is something that is like a double edged sword, sort of like a nuclear reactor. When you succeed there’s a lot of benefit’s to cooking, but when you don’t succeed, like the reactor, the consequences could be deadly. This is a memory a recall from just over 7 years ago. I was at a sleepover at a friend’s house. I remember vividly the events of that disastrous day. It was 5 P.M and my friend’s father was making dinner. He was using a rather old pressure cooker, but it worked, so he didn’t really care. At 5:10 P.M, he receives a rather urgent phone call. He leaves the room to answer the phone, as it was a land line. As he talks, the stove is still on and steam and heat is building up in the pressure cooker. At 5:22 P.M, he returns to the kitchen after the phone call and arrives just in time to see the pressure cooker explode. With a noise of a volcano erupting, the lid is blown clean off, and a shock wave is sent into the house. I could feel it from the second floor where my friend and I were. We rushed downstairs, and found my friend’s father on the floor suffering from multiple burn wounds. He was rushed to a hospital. But what was done was done. This showed a perfect example of cooking gone wrong.


Christina Commisso
During the holidays, my mom always makes her apple pies. I always know when she is making one because of the smell of apples and cinnamon all throughout the house. On Christmas especially my mom serves apple pie for dessert but before then is dinner when my grandmother makes homemade pasta and sauce. Her sauce and my other grandmothers and my mom’s are all the best ever made. My grandma always lets all the kids help her shape the pasta dough which always smells delicious when it is cooking in a giant pot of boiling water to feed our big family. Sometimes on the holidays, my sisters and I like to try out new desserts as well. It is always fun to discover a new smell and taste with your family and see everyone enjoy it even more than you enjoyed making it.
Alexia Holden
When I was growing up my house was always filled with Maple. My mother is from Quebec, Canada so she brought home a lot of maple sugar, taffy, candy products. She would also make sugar maple pie and it was amazing. One time for an international dinner in 6th grade we signed up to bring in food for Canada and she made it. Everyone loved it. I don’t even think it should count as a pie because it doesn’t have any fruit, its really just a sugar pie.
I also don’t like spicy food. I think because I grew up around sugary sweet food and not spicy food I became accustomed to that. I think that goes for everyone, what you grow up with affects the food you like and tend to eat.

Whenever I smell meatballs I always think of my grandma’s house.  It’s not the packaged meatballs that I think of, I think of the homemade ones.  Whenever I go to my grandparents house, there’s always that smell that hits you when you walk in the door.  About every Sunday our whole family gathers at my grandparents’ to have dinner together.  But before dinner, my grandma always makes that one thing, meatballs.  When you walk in the door, the aroma just hits you, square in the face so you immediately know what she’s making.  They’re not normal meatballs, they’re Yiayia’s homemade meatballs that taste like heaven.  You don’t know what you’re missing until you try them.  They are one of a kind, made by the typical Greek Yiayia, who lives in front of the stove.  I don’t know the recipe, well I don’t think anyone does, but I guess that’s just Yiayia’s special secret.

I really love the smell of lemons and lemon zest. I think it has a very nice and clean taste and smell. My mother always makes the best lemon chicken. Also when i make apple pies i use lemon zest. That always add a kick to the pie, making it very fresh. Last year i made a very delicious set of lemon cupcakes. They were like the best cupcakes i have ever had, only second to crumbs bakery cupcakes. Though they cost an insane amount of money to make. We had to buy so many lemons to make 12 cupcakes. I also remember when i was little eating cut u lemons and making funny faces. I mean i know lemon aren’t very unique and different, but they are extremely delicious. They are used in dishes i make to make the dishes light and fresh. Also i love putting lemon juice in my tea, it’s very soothing for sore throats.

Ben Phelan
The smell of pumpkin floods my mind with memories. Memories of not only pumpkin foods, but carving pumpkins, Halloween and even growing up and that notion of nostalgia. It’s crazy that one little smell can bring back all those memories. Trying to keep nostalgia contained is hard with this feeling. Back to pumpkin foods, the food that specifically comes to mind is pumpkin muffins. My sisters Kate and Kelsie always make pumpkin muffins. It signifies that they are home. So pumpkin muffins are like a safe haven for me. That’s my bond between pumpkin.

The smell of vanilla fills my kitchen every Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s day, and just about every other holiday. It’s not only in our sweets but it’s in our lives. It’s like the sweet taste of sugar vanilla is our secret ingredient in deserts. Being from Romania this ingredient of sugar vanilla makes me feel like I’m still there. Romanian deserts tend to use sugar vanilla as a flavor intensifier. My family loves to use it. Whenever a recipe calls for liquid vanilla we would use this ingredient instead.
      The last thing that I cooked/baked was this lemon pound cake. It turned out better than I expected it too. In the recipe it wanted me to bake the batter and then let it sit for a couple of minutes. After it cooled for a while the recipe called for a lemonade mixture to be poured onto the cake. The cake soaked up the liquid and it gained it’s lemony taste.

When it is not Christmas time and I smell pasta sauce the first thing that I think of is Christmas time at my grandfather’s house. My family is extremely large and we are Italian. This in turns equals a lot of Italian food. At the Christmas celebration we have everything from pasta to meatballs to sausage and peppers. My favorite of course is the pasta lightly sauced with cheese on top. It is very delicious and I look forward to Christmas time every year to feast on the Italian food and smell and taste the pasta and sauce!


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