Readers share their best food experience
From the bonds and hopes of family to an unforgettable taste of Boston history.
“A great meal fades in reflection. Everything else gains,” David Mamet writes in “Glengarry Glen Ross.” So it seems for those who responded to our call for remembrances of meals past. While readers certainly summon juicy details of the food itself, their recollections are seasoned with more than a dash of “everything else,” from the bonds and hopes of family to an unsavory lapse of decorum at a nearby table to an unforgettable taste of Boston history. Bon appetit.
MATTHEW BERNSTEIN, Letters Editor
A slice of salami, a bite of bagel, and thou
I smile every time I think of the bagel and salami sandwiches we ate with so much pleasure in 1956.
Bill and I were sitting on the stone steps leading up to the front door of our first house. At the end of our street we saw cows grazing in a pasture. I was pregnant with our first baby, and my husband had been painting the bare walls of our brand-new, affordable ranch in a development outside Pittsburgh.
Bill took time out for lunch and joined me outside, away from paint fumes, on a sunny August day. He and I felt like we were the two luckiest people in the world. We had each other, a house, a baby on the way, and kosher salami sandwiches with dill pickles, potato chips, root beer, sunshine, and love. This was the perfect meal, and the succeeding years have been lucky indeed.
Now, when we have salami in the fridge, we may eat it on bagels or fry it for a breakfast omelet with four eggs. We dine in our sunroom overlooking the pond in our senior retirement village, and smile at each other.
So many years have gone by since we lived in that little ranch house. We have shared many memorable meals, but those 1956 salami sandwiches still top my list.
A heightening of the senses on a dark, cold patio
It was a chilly November evening. My husband and I — busy parents — decided to make a date out of my annual mammogram, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on a Saturday. We got a sitter and headed out.
We angled for some comfort food near the clinic. When nothing grabbed us, we ambled toward Kendall Square and, out of habit, simply parked when we saw an open spot. We were in front of Oleana, that magical Turkish restaurant. Oh, we sighed, we’ll never get in.
The sun had set, and dusk was closing in.
We stepped up to the hostess, who said they were completely booked, unless we wanted to dine outside. She said they had heat lamps.
Intrigued, and starving, we headed out to the dark patio, which was lit only by fairy lights. Seated next to a heat lamp, using the glow of our phones to read the menu, we ordered up a storm. Despite the lamps, it was cold, and it started to flurry. That was when they brought the blankets and the tea.
We sat in the near dark, wrapped in cozy blankets.
Then the food came. “Is that the olive spread or dates?” We couldn’t see anything. We could only taste and guess. Our senses heightened, our phones safely stashed away, we floated on a dream of flavors, spices, and textures.
“Why don’t we always eat like this?” we asked each other — in the dark, outside in winter, under a blanket.
Yes, why don’t we?
Family gathering was a precious stop in life’s fleeting passage
It was our son’s idea to go out for dinner.
It was Christmas day, 2009. The younger of our two daughters was on a 12-hour pass from her treatment program. We’d had brunch with relatives, opened presents at home, and she’d attended the prescribed 12-step meeting. Our son had gone back to his apartment, then called to suggest we eat as a family before he drove his little sister back to her facility.
My husband, the two girls, and I met our son in Central Square for a wonderful Indian meal. Amy savored her mango lassi, spiced ice cream, and chicken tikka, eschewing the onions and forking them over to her older sister. After she returned from a quick trip to the bathroom, her dad made a point to look at her pupils to make sure they were not constricted.
I’d thought about asking a waiter to take a family photo, but I didn’t have a camera and didn’t make the effort to ask if others did. I considered using my flip phone, but thought that the quality would be too poor. I still regret that decision.
We drove back to our son’s parking lot and said our good-byes. My last words to Amy were, “I love you, be safe.” Less than 24 hours later, she was dead from a heroin overdose.
A few years later, I returned to the restaurant and shared our story with the proprietor. As we cried in the sacred space, he insisted on giving me a mango lassi, which comforted me.
Melissa M. Weiksnar
A keepsake from beyond the finish line
It was 3:30 on April 15, 1996. I had just finished a road race. We were given minestrone soup from Bertucci’s. I still have the cup.
I don’t know why this is my lasting memory of running the 100th Boston Marathon, except the soup was good.
Kevin B. Schofield
One perfect peach
The summer after I married a widower with children, I was assigned to a two-week job in Newark. My new stepdaughter was attending camp in the Delaware Water Gap, and I decided to drive up to visit her.
The camp didn’t allow junk food, so on the way I stopped at a farm stand, where they were selling the most beautiful peaches I had ever seen. They were perfectly colored and about the size of a softball. I decided to try one, to make sure it was sweet. When I took the first bite, the juice ran all the way down my arm and dripped off of my elbow to the ground.
Every peach I have eaten since pales in comparison to that one gorgeous piece of fruit from a stand in New Jersey. That was in 1972.
Diapers were not on the menu
It was perhaps 15 years ago, and I can’t remember what the occasion was, if any. Probably it was just an evening when my wife and I felt like going out to a nice place and treating ourselves to a fine meal.
It was one of the better restaurants on the South Shore. I will omit its name, even though the restaurant was not to blame for this horror story.
We were seated next to a party with six or eight people, including a baby not more than a year old. My wife was facing the group, and I had my back to them.
Shortly after our drinks had been brought, I saw my wife’s eyes widen. “Just what is going on?” I asked.
“Don’t look around,” whispered my wife. “They are changing the baby at the table.”
A few furtive looks behind me confirmed that, unbelievably, this was indeed the case. After a rapid consultation with our server, we moved to different table, as far as possible from the baby changers, who, mercifully, left shortly thereafter.
My wife and I have always been reluctant to be seated next to parties with small children, because one can usually expect a fair amount of wailing, crying, or screeching. This experience gave us a whole new reason to be leery.
Robert D. Ruplenas
Sharing a slice of Boston history on the waterfront
We were dateless for our senior prom. The year was 1966. My friends and I were in my mother’s car, heading east on Route 9. Mom was taking us to Anthony’s Pier 4 for dinner. We drove past the place [the Meadows?] where our classmates were dancing, laughing, and taking pictures of their gowns, flowers, and boyfriends. The word bling had yet to be coined.
Mom parked her beige Dodge facing the Boston skyline, and we chattered our way into the magnificent restaurant. I knew the aroma of their famous popovers and the snap of the linen napkins. We had a reservation and were promptly seated near the swinging doors of the noisy kitchen.
The dining room was full of serious adults, drinking martinis, wearing sophisticated clothes, and laughing aloud at their end-of-the-week conversations. Who knew what a swizzle stick was until that night?
I don’t believe that we ate lobsters — more likely we had their famous swordfish with perfectly baked potatoes and garden vegetables. The term locally sourced had yet to be invented.
The rest of the evening fades from memory, as have the celebrities whose photos decorated those hallowed halls. What remains is knowing that we shared a slice of Boston history that night. The image of Pier 4 comes to my mind whenever I drive down Northern Avenue. Thank you to the Athanas family, wherever you are.
Lydia M. Bogar
He made it all happen (so they tell him)
We took a family trip up to Canada, which coincided with my wife’s birthday.
On that special night, I insisted we go to a “real” restaurant, the kind with table cloths, real candles, and metal utensils.
At some point during the meal, I excused myself and quietly told the waitress that we had a birthday girl at our table.
Then I got sick.
Not sick sick, but queasy enough that I needed to step outside and get some air. I had to take a short walk away from the restaurant.
Meanwhile, the waitress, in keeping with my request, produced a slice of cake with a lit candle, and the staff sang a round of the traditional copyrighted birthday song — without me.
Later I would feel bad about missing this moment, but what occurred next at least partly made up for it, though, again, without me.
Apparently, somewhere in the area there was a singing event going on, and at a table on the other side of the room sat a group of Gregorian chanters — who immediately broke into a Gregorian chant version of “Happy Birthday to You.”
I wish I had been there.
George J. Vezina