Ghosttown Memory Dinners –

There is a particular dish that my Mother cooks that runs right to the center of me. Chicken Fricassee is comprised of stewed chicken in a cream sauce over white rice. Usually she serves this with a side of peas. I’m not sure when she started cooking Chicken Fricassee for my family, though I cannot remember any moment of my life without knowing this meal, intimately. She got the recipe out of one of James Beard’s cookbooks from the early 1970s (a Portland, Oregon native, interestingly enough). It is a cold weather dish, though I want to eat it at even the slightest hint of a cold spell coming on. I recently was making my way back home to Portland on a work trip and had to stop through New York. While waiting on a train at the station in Graz, Austria, I wrote my Mother an e-mail and asked if she could cook Chicken Fricassee for when I stopped over. She wrote back saying that it was funny that I asked as she was already thinking of making it. It wasn’t at all cold in New York when I arrived. It was still delicious though.

I grew up in the same town with my cousins. I would be over at their house all the time. My Aunt Eileen cooked Chicken Fricassee too. I remember eating it over at their house once. It was not the same. It probably was, but not for me. I also remember a time when I was about five years old and my sister Amy was watching me for a few days. My parents were away somewhere at the time. Amy made me a tuna fish sandwich on an English muffin. It was not the same as how my Mother made it. I ran crying out of the kitchen. The world was coming to an end, certainly. I can remember these two incidents in my minds eye with near perfect clarity, or so I think.

You may intuit through these two memories that I am either a complete Momma’s Boy or, more likely, that we all carry around with us memories of food from various points in our lives that can have profound effects on who we are. All of us can remember dinners we have shared with our families growing up, the rice and beans we ate every day of the month – for months on end – while dead broke in college (ramen can easily be substituted for rice and beans, of course), meals we’ve had while away on trips, meals made for us by lovers – current or long gone. The Ghosttown Memory Dinners focus on these epicurean moments; inviting you into the homes of your neighbors for free meals derived from their memories, interactions, friends, and family.

- Sam Gould (of Red76)