There is no better time than now to start making some great food memories.
Childhood memories. If you were ever a child, and, I’m assuming you were, then you have them. A smell, a taste or a sound, immediately drags you back to a different time in your life. There’s nothing you can do about it.
Many of these memories revolve around food. Funny how that happens. The people, places and circumstances vary, but, most of us have fond food remembrances from when were young.
There isn’t enough room in this post to start a recitation of the food memories from my youth. Suffice it to say there are lots. From a bowl of Chuckle-like fruit gels that sat on my Grandmothers coffee table, to my Mom barely simmering a big pot of chicken soup for hours on the stove. Those memories and more are easier than you would think to conjure up.
Children’s book author Litsa Bolontzakis has food memories too. The difference between her memories and mine are that she has memorialized them in a great series of books aimed at the younger set. Four books in all, one book for each season.
Winter: A Season for Chestnut, tells the story of Litsa’s love for this underappreciated nut with a Greek background. It’s a tale of her childhood and the foods that helped to make it special. It is part story and part cookbook. A great combination for kids.
I have to confess my chestnut knowledge is a little on the thin side. My only chestnut experience is probably similar to many peoples. Being in New York City, smelling the aroma of roasted chestnuts emanating from vendor’s cart, but, being too busy with the bustle of my day to stop and have a taste. Next time for sure!
If you would like to start making some chestnut memories of your own, it’s pretty easy to do. Here’s the way Litsa does it:
1 lb. chestnuts
Preheat oven to 425. Cut a large X with a sharp knife all the way through the skin of the nut. Place the chestnuts in a shallow baking pan. Place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Shake the pan several times during roasting so the chestnuts will cook evenly.
As soon as the nuts are cooked, remove from the oven. Peel the roasted chestnuts once they are cool enough to handle. Once they cool completely they will become difficult to peel.
You can also roast your chestnuts on an outdoor grill. Or, over an open fire (think Christmas and Nat King Cole) using one of those fancy chestnut roasting pans with the long handle.
Litsa says the roasted nuts are great dipped in chocolate. I don’t doubt that.
The Bottom Line: Reading someone else’s childhood memories stirs up a few of your own. That in itself is fun. Litsa’s series is a great way to get kids interested in food and cooking. The illustrations by Daniela Zekina are beautiful and add a warm, nostalgic, dreamy feel to the book.
Now, feel free to go out and make a few food memories for someone in your life.
Recipe adapted, Roasted Chestnuts, Litsa Bolontzakis, Winter: A Season for Chestnuts, Hummingbird Publications, 2010