Coming home from a long day at the beach, I am in the kitchen making hot chocolate for my daughter. She is waiting anxiously beside me, watching as I add the chocolate and the milk, gently stirring the liquid as it slowly warms. I stop just short of filling our waiting cups and go to the cupboard. I pull out the salt, slyly adding a pinch to the mixture. Babou and I sit with our "hot choclit" and I am five years old again.
I cannot think of a more contented time in my childhood than the afternoons we spent on our front porch, the sun-heated deck warming our outsides while my father's special hot chocolate warmed our insides.
It would always be after a long day at the beach, when my sisters and I would return half frozen, that we could expect a nice hot chocolate to ease the numbness from our limbs.
Lying on the warm porch , we would wait happily while our father made us our special drink. It tasted distinctly different for our father always added his secret ingredient: salt. It made it taste at once more and less chocolate-ty, and always more exotic.
Popcorn was another specialty of my father. It was always a treat, and always in the afternoon, that we would get popcorn. But as soon as we saw our father pull out a certain pot, we knew we were in luck.
We would all wait for the first pop of the corn as the air filled with the scent of warming oil. Our father would pull out a paper bag, carefully fold the edges down once, and then add the popcorn and salt and shake it together vigorously.
And then it was a free for all. There was never quite enough popcorn and always too many hungry hands. It always went way too quickly, but I suppose that is part of the reason it tasted so good.
Food memories and childhood seem like two sides of a coin, perfectly fitting together with tongue and groove-like precision. Mothers, as a general rule, hold sway in this department and this was true in my growing up. My mother prepared most all of our meals and I can recall so many wonderful things that she made, things that I try to reproduce more and more for my family. But perhaps because my father's food contributions were less regular, they stand out distinctly in my memory.
Today I carry on the tradition with my family, letting the taste take me back to my childhood while creating memories for my little one. And isn't that just the beauty and the mystery of tradition...the ability a memory has to carry the happiness someone creates down through time? Memories creating new memories; an ancient echo of love.