When I look back at my childhood memories, there are a few distinct moments, almost like screenshots (keeping it current, snapshots/photo images) that are vivid in my mind of people and places.
I can tell you what I wore or what song was playing at an event or moment in time, but will fail in giving you a year or telling you how old I was. I can even still hear the jingling of my mother’s favorite gold bangles as she entered a room; you always knew when she was approaching. Even stronger memories are tied to certain smells, such as the scent of Greece, the motherland of my parents. We would land every summer into the Athens airport and walk off the plane into paradise. It is something magical and unique to experience.
But above anything, my most nostalgic and strong memories revolve around food and family gatherings.
Most kids, at least my sisters and I, have a special place in our hearts for the foods that we grew up with and especially Mom’s cooking. No matter what, nothing can compare to Mom’s food, even if the world’s top chef was preparing the same meal. We pretty much followed a Greek Mediterranean diet with a sprinkling of American fare once in a while. To give you an idea, I didn’t try mashed potatoes or even macaroni and cheese until I was well into college. You might gasp, but for me, all that existed were oven roasted Greek potatoes and tiropita (cheese phyllo pies).
But when left to our own devices (Mom and Dad worked a lot at the restaurant), my sisters and I came up with what we still call the “super sandwich.” My youngest sister, Michelle, had convinced Mom that it was the perfect solution for her inability to tolerate eggs on their own. Hence, the super sandwich was born. The original prototype consisted of toasted white bread, two fried eggs, jelly, and a slice of cheese. Now, this varied because Michelle thought it genius to add peanut butter and bacon to this concoction.
Since then we have become a bit more health conscious—thankfully—and I think back and gasp at the three of us. However, in all honestly the super sandwich rocked, and upon closer observation, it was a balanced meal, sort of. We had our carbs and protein, and some healthy fat from the peanut butter. I am stretching it, but I am sure you all can think of a childhood favorite and get wrapped up in the nostalgia.
Also, a sandwich is a great way to meet all the criteria moms look for: kid-friendly, mom-friendly (i.e. easy), budget friendly, and nutritious.
The three of us recently had a chat about our famous sandwich over Instagram messaging. You see, my one sister, Maria, now lives in Greece. These days, she adds celery and tomatoes to her egg sandwich and can’t imagine eating the original version now. Michelle keeps it old school. She works full time and is a mother of three girls, and when she wants to change things up a bit, she will whip up the super sandwich and have the girls help. And so the tradition lives on! I haven’t tried that with my daughter yet, but she’s still quite young so we have time.
Food definitely evokes nostalgia and memories. Can you think of some of your childhood favorites?
Lela Iliopoulos is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator and an expert in nutrition therapy, health promotion, and education. She is passionate about impacting nutritional health through the practical application of science-based information.