Friday, December 11, 2009

Guest Blog: My Mother, Dawn Goodman - My Food History

My great-grandparents, Ora and Rolla Goodman, at a family barbecue in Waller Park in Santa Maria, California.

Introduction - My Life in Food

I have very fond food memories from my childhood growing up on the Central Coast of California during the 60s and 70s. I grew up in the near-coastal town of San Luis Obispo. Even though I lived in other places as a child, it's my hometown. My mother, Dawn Goodman, was born in Santa Maria, a town further south on the 101 freeway; and her grandparents, Rolla and Ora Goodman lived in Orcutt, a small town just south of Santa Maria. Most of my memories are of my great-grandparents, their profuse garden and their sourcing of local-area ingredients for family meals. Their home was the locus of all family gatherings and many happy times were spent there. However, my mother, my sister, Traci, and I have our own food history of which I also have memories. My mother recounts much of it in this post: read on...

Recently I celebrated a 'big' birthday. My friend, Karen Roorda, devised the most extraordinary gift for me: my life in food. From childhood all the way up to this blog. She brought a large duffel bag to the party and proceeded to take out all manner of items related to my food, cooking and eating history including a Big Mac, large fries and chocolate shake from McDonald's. Was I surprised by this? Yes!! My mother had told her that we subsisted on fast food when my sister and I were in our pre-teens and teens. Karen had contacted my mother without my knowledge and gathered the necessary information to make this gift-presentation. It was an amazing surprise and a wonderful gift. Afterward I found out that my mother had written Karen an e-mail recounting my food history. I learned a lot from reading it, and remembered things I'd forgotten, and enjoyed it so much that I thought it would be fun to share on this blog. It also shows a bit where I came by my interest in food.

Before I let my mother take it away, I'd like to point out that she did raise my sister and I as a single mother without benefit of financial security. Food and cooking were not really a priority as she had a hard enough time keeping up with everything else. She did get us fed, she cooked often because she had to, we did eat out at fast food restaurants for awhile. I have no complaints. We all survived. I thank her for what she was able to do for us and show us about life. Now then, here's my mother, Dawn Goodman, writing to my friend Karen Roorda (I have inserted my comments in [brackets]):

Charles' History in Food by Dawn Goodman

Hi Karen:

What a wonderful thoughtful gift to give Charles. My problem is trying to remember 30 plus years ago, as well as having given Charles all his history (baby book, school records, photos, etc.) a long time ago, but I will do my best. Charles was nine pounds at birth and as a baby was not picky, he ate everything. At nine months he had to be put on low-fat milk because he was too roly-poly. He remained 'chunky' until junior high school when he shot up to six feet and thinned out. I do not remember him disliking any particular food although I'm sure there were some.

Being a single mother, working full-time, and keeping up the house and kids, I did not have much time for cooking. Also, Traci was a very picky eater, and as result we had a limited diet. I remember using a lot of Bisquick -- in pancakes with bananas, biscuits, coffee cakes, etc. But mostly it was the usual, over and over -- meatloaf, hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages (pigs in a blanket), macaroni and cheese (from a box), spaghetti, tuna casserole, fried chicken, pork and lamb chops, turkey, beef stew, potato and macaroni salad, Iceberg lettuce salad, coleslaw, and pizza. We ate a lot of zucchini, in bread, as a pureed soup base, patties and in salads. When pizza first came out it was in a box with a can of tomato sauce and dough. The toppings were up to each person. This was just before pizza parlors became popular. We ate out more often than not. There was McDonald's, Chinese food, Taco Bell, A&W drive ins, Sizzler (they were just starting). I seldom used a recipe only because I made the same things over and over. This was when nearly every recipe was made with one or the other of Campbell creamed soups; and yes, every dessert had some Jello in it. We ate few sweets except for cookies. I did make a banana bread/cake. Traci took the recipe to 1st grade for a Christmas book of recipes the kids made for their families. In it was our 'Rotten Banana Bread,' as the kids called it.

I was not a good cook and did not enjoy cooking. Because I didn't, I think it was in junior high when Charles took an interest in cooking. He made up a recipe and entered it in the once-a-year recipe contest in the local newspaper [Telegram Tribune, San Luis Obispo, California]. He didn't win but it was printed. It was called Pizza Casserole. There was Italian sausage, onion, zucchini, and tomato sauce with Bisquick biscuits on top. We ate it often. It was good. One time I was busy painting the outside of the house when he came out with a picnic lunch he had put together. He made me stop, clean up, and go for a short ride in the country. We had a lovely lunch which I've never forgotten. After he had been in France and come home he started culinary school. When a close friend was getting married he and two other students did the entire reception as a gift. He has always been interested in good food.

We were lucky to live near my grandparents and uncle and aunt. Because the ocean was only a few miles away we had access to fresh fish, clams, and abalone. This influenced Charles more than anything. When he was born there were still clams to be dug up at low tide in Pismo Beach [Clamming is now restricted due to over harvesting]. Grandma Ora made clam chowder and clam cakes. The abalone were on their way out by the time Charles was aware but we did have them from time to time. Grandpa Rollie raised sheep which we ate [I assume it was lamb we ate vs. mutton], and all the vegetables and fruit came out of their garden. Charles' favorite item was the homemade jerky our Uncle Herman made from deer that he hunted. We also had wonderful barbecues at the local park [see picture above], on homemade pits, and even in the fireplace when it was cold outside. It was a way of life fast disappearing. Favorite family recipes made by grandparents and aunts: Tamale Pie, enchiladas, Heavenly Hash - a fruit salad, Macaroni Loaf, Mock Ravioli, Hot Fudge Pudding (I think I've seen this in a box by Betty Crocker now?), Velvet Crumb Cake, plus others.

Dawn Goodman

Please Vote For Me: The Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook Contest: I have entered my baked papaya recipe, 'Chef Wally's Baked Papaya,' into the Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook contest. If selected the recipe will be published in cookbook published by Andrews McMeel Publishing. To vote go to the top of my blog to the Foodista icon. Thanks!

My Status:
Continued wet, cold weather here in Southern California which is nice for a change. Planning to make some hearty winter dishes, recipes. Also new cookbooks to try, some to review; new kitchen equipment to try out. More cooking, eating, writing, blogging coming soon.

Upcoming Posts: Reviews: Cooking Light, a review of the redesign of the Time Inc. magazine. Cooking The Cowboy Way, a review of the new cookbook by cowboy-chef Grady Spears.

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  1. This is such a touching and wonderful post Charles! How great to hear from your mother. She sounds like a loving and lovely woman.

  2. Thanks Phoo-D! I REALLY appreciate your comment a lot. And you are right she is both of those things and more. I am glad to have the opportunity to share her. :-)

  3. I love your mom's story about you, how wonderful to learn about your life-long love for food!

  4. Thank you, Natasha. I am glad you enjoyed it. It was fun for me to see what she had to say and what she remembered.

  5. Your mom rocks! I love all those food memories and I can relate to most. I had a perma-grin the whole time I was reading it.

  6. Really nice story Charles! I'm probably your mom's age and I sure remember the mac & chees, hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken pot pies that I gave to our two girls; times were tough, but we never went hungry! I've started a cooking school and hope to share my various expertise and secrets with whoever wants to learn! My blog is at!

  7. Thank you, Kristen, Jo and French Beach Cooking School. BIG, big :-)

  8. Awesome post and great mother Charles!

    And Happy Holidays to you and to Robert.
    Love and hugs to you both.

  9. Thanks to Dawn for preserving these memories. And, having been lucky enough to witness Karen's presentation, I have to add a big salute to her for one of the all-time great birthday gifts.

  10. Thanks, Afaf! So glad I met you this year. Happy holidays to you, Ray and the boys.

    Lori: thank you. I am so glad you were there to bear witness!!

  11. This is really sweet. It's really cool to have those memories and have someone else share them with you. Love it. Happy holidays!

  12. Thanks Chrystal! Glad you enjoyed it. Happy holidays to you as well.

  13. Very interesting! I know San Luis Obispo well, having lived a couple of years there; my late husband was an architecture student at Cal Poly; in those days, you never locked your house door! This is my favorite area of California. Your mom's cooking habits made me chuckle!
    By the way, I have brought back goodies from Lebanon that I am giving away. so stop by if interested!

  14. Thank you, Taste of Beirut. I remember the days of not locking the doors - I wish it was still like that. My father was a student at Cal Poly. I'll drop by your blog and take a look!