There are many ways to preserve memories and, conversely, there are myriad varieties of memories we can preserve.
The obvious choices for the preservation side of things might be photos, diaries or scrapbooks, all excellent ways of communicating from the past with our loved ones and passing down mementos of precious and timeless events.
I have chosen a different kind of memoir. I’m naming it a “menu journal.”
Since 1969, whenever I have hosted a family holiday dinner, or a social dinner with friends — perhaps experimenting with my recently acquired knowledge of French cuisine, for example — or maybe just a casual and informal dinner, I have written down all of the relevant information. Staring back at me on lined notebook paper are names of attendees, dates of event and itemized descriptions of all foods and wines, especially the champagne.
Growing up, I was used to people coming over to the house for dinner and to celebrate various holidays. My dad set an excellent example by always keeping the fridge stocked and the welcome mat extended.
In high school, I had one friend who was so comfortable at my house that he would come and visit my kitchen as if it were his best friend. He would open the refrigerator, park himself in front of it and literally study the selections until he finally made his choice of the perfect snack. (I promise not to name names.).
As a result, the idea of keeping menus and lists of attendees didn’t seem strange to me at all.
Looking back at groups of friends we have hosted, usually serving them five-to-six-course meals made “from scratch,” I am amazed. When did I learn to make croissants? And why didn’t anyone scream about all that butter? Following in Julia Child’s footsteps, I thought there never was a time of too much cream or butter.
How did the melon balls sneak through? Oh, that’s right; they were meant to cleanse the palate.
Re-reading my menus, with the dates of the decades they appeared in, can certainly serve as a kind of time capsule for our family. How did all those people fit around our table for Thanksgiving in 1977? What the heck is a “spinach boereg?”
At least I remember most of the guests. The Sunday brunches in Boston, from the ’70s through the ’90s, with exotic names of fish and cheeses, rare roast beef and creative salads — not to mention the endless mimosas — sound fantastic .
Suddenly, our friends’ children were old enough to be invited to gourmet dinners, and they would sit alongside our own children. Significant others also were invited, although this list changed from year to year.
Even our relocating to Sarasota didn’t stop the dinners, but the menus definitely appear more streamlined — new friends and Pauly the Wonder Dog are included, along with a description of his special foods and treats.
Keeping a menu journal is a marvelous way to relive so many happy occasions and not even gain an ounce. There are zero calories in this article.