Childhood Memories Evoked by Special Foods0
By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel
Do you remember when the sound of the Good Humor truck’s bells sent your heart racing? Who can forget such tasty treats as coconut, chocolate éclair or toasted almond ice cream pops? You can still buy them in the supermarket, but the impact is not the same as waiting for that magical truck to appear on a summer evening.
Certain foods have connections to our childhood that can bring back wonderful memories. Who remembers the popular NYC restaurant chain, Horn & Hardart (H&H)? As a little girl, trips to the city with my grandmother always included lunch at the “automat.” What was an automat? It was a cafeteria with an unusual way of serving its offerings. There was a whole wall of little glass windows, similar to post office boxes that some people use to receive mail. Above the windows was the name of the item inside. Customers peered in the window and saw sandwiches, cake slices, puddings, Jell-O, salads, etc. Self service — customers dropped the correct change in a coin slot next to the chosen window to unlock it. (In those days most items were under a dollar!) Seating there was unique too, as you sat at any empty spot rather than waiting for your own table. This often meant being at the same table with others already seated, like you did in a school cafeteria. Prices were reasonable, the food was good, and we often chatted with the most interesting people during our meal, discussing our day in the city.
The highlight of eating at the automat was having a dish of their fabulously delicious tapioca pudding. If you’ve eaten at Horn & Hardart you know what I am talking about, especially if you are a tapioca enthusiast! This pudding was thick, rich, and creamy and contained large “pearls” of tapioca. (Tapioca is a starch derived from the cassava root, native to South America.) I just now learned it is also gluten free, which we never knew back in the day. I have never found another tapioca pudding able to hold a candle to this heavenly dessert at H&H. Even making it myself at home from packaged “tapioca pearls” does not come close. Can it be my memory of this pudding is tied to its taste, or is it something more? Perhaps it is the fond memories of going to the city with my beloved grandmother. Whatever the answer, the memories remain over half a century later!