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  • Writer's pictureJorge Martinez

Food Memories

My mom in the kitchen where I grew up

After I graduated from culinary school my friends would always ask me if I would replicate and improve the dishes that my parents would prepare for me growing up. Although I probably could, I wouldn’t. It’s difficult enough to truly replicate the dishes of your parents, or local establishment. No matter how closely you would follow the recipe, of your parents it just never was the same. There's something about how your parents cut the onions, seasoned the meat, stirred the pot, sweat the vegetables, etc., that would make that dish their own that could never be replicated. It can be a psychological thing, who knows. All I know is, when I revisit my childhood home, I always ask my dad to make some of my old favorites, and I love it.

I grew up on the east coast, in New Jersey. Ever since I moved away, 20+ years now, I like to go and revisit my old stomping grounds. It’s pretty methodical, each place has a certain place in my heart, or belly. These places are not fancy by any means, they’re the local deli/sub shop, pizzeria, pub, diner, etc., I would often visit when I lived and grew up there. They each have their certain something that I always enjoyed.

The turkey sub of yore

Among them was a turkey sub. Piled high with sliced turkey, shredded iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mayo, hot peppers, vinegar and oil on soft Italian bread. Also there was a pork roll and egg sandwich on a kaiser bun. and a real slice of pizza that’s about three times the size of what they call a slice in the NW, and don’t even think about asking for a side of ranch. I could go on, but each of these items hold a certain nostalgia for me, that takes me back to when I was growing up there.

Just like anything else in life times move on, the neighborhoods of my childhood have grown, developed, and expanded. It's a far cry from the two lane country roads, and horse farms that I remember. Fortunately, my old haunts still remained true despite the transformation, I could still go and enjoy my old favorites and be transported back in time with every bite, until now.

During my most recent visit, I went back to my favorite sub shop, to get my pork roll and egg sandwich for breakfast. It was great, just as I remembered. Salty processed pork, with a fried egg on a kaiser roll with salt and pepper, ketchup. It was perfect. I know, it may sound gross, and something I wouldn’t generally eat otherwise, but it’s my childhood. This place also made the turkey sub I frequently ate growing up, I always ordered it the same way and still did when I would revisit.

This time however, it was different, the bread was chewy and the turkey meat was different. It wasn’t bad mind you, it just wasn’t what I ate growing up. It was a real bummer for me, one of my favorite places to revisit was no longer making the sub like I once enjoyed. I can’t hold it against the new business owners. Just like how my neighborhood has transformed over the 20 plus years since I left, I’m sure the clientele has as well, and to remain successful they probably needed to do the same to satisfy their new client base. It really struck a chord with me. After that I decided to not revisit my other old haunts fearing the same.

My old neighborhood memories are slipping away as time moves on. Cherish those memories......

Thanks to John at for allowing me to use the image of the turkey sub.

Other images are copyright of monchef, llc.

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