something else


It’s been an interesting year.  Maybe a bit of a roller coaster ride.  I’m not really sure when or where this ride ends.  If you read my blog or Twitter feed, you probably know I’ve been working with Gluten-Free Girl.  And if you know anything about Shauna, you know that she puts it all out there.  At the closing of Blogher Food 2010 in San Francisco, it took everything in me not to start crying when Shauna spoke.  (Phew, thank god Ruhlman was there to make his inspirational “cooking is important” speech, to snap me back to reality.)  Around the same time as the convention, I read something in a book that really interested me.  I’m paraphrasing now, and yes, this sounds a little Buddhist even though the book was anything but that — it said to put everything out there.  To not hold anything back.  To give everything you’ve got and leave yourself vulnerable.  The idea is that by exposing everything you’ve got, you’re forced to keep moving, keep making progress, keep creating, keep learning, keep searching, keep looking… you get the idea. So if you’ve got a bucket full of something, and you dump it all out, or better yet give it all away, you might feel alone or abandoned at first.  You might feel at risk.  With any luck though, you’re going to put something else in that bucket.  Obviously I’m not talking about “stuff.” We’ve all got too much stuff, and the holiday season reminds me of that. I’m talking more about the mind and soul.

Shauna once asked something about first food memories.  I told her that’s a tough subject for me.  Truth is, I’ve been saving this up for a long time at the bottom of my bucket, thinking there might be some perfect time to tell the story.  My first food memory is one of my first memories, period. I try my hardest not to think about it and leave it at the bottom of the bucket.


I guess I was about four years old.  My mom was divorcing my father, but I’m sure I didn’t understand what that meant at the time.  I also didn’t quite understand at the time that my mother was going to marry someone else, a nice guy who would raise me like his own, and that the “adults” had decided it would be best if my sister and I didn’t see our father ever again.  Hey, it was the 70s — stuff like that still happened.  Maybe it still does. I don’t resent anyone for it.  But like I said, I probably didn’t understand what was happening. What I do remember is sitting on a bare, hard wood floor.  It must have been either the place my father was moving out of, or moving into, because it seemed empty. Sunlight was pouring in through the windows.  My guess is there were no curtains.  My father gave us franks and beans to eat.  You know, a can of baked beans with a chopped-up hot dog in it.  I loved that dish for a long time when I was a kid.  The smell, taste, and texture are burned into my brain, even though I haven’t eaten it for decades now.  So that’s the memory.  My little sister and I, eating the franks and beans on the hard wood floor in the bright, empty NYC apartment, with our father, probably for the last time. I’m pretty sure I never saw my father again.

Thanks, Shauna, for being so inspiring in so many ways.  I don’t know if you’ll read this. But I’ve told you plenty of times how special you are, so it’s no matter.  I’m so glad you were a part of this crazy year of mine.

30 thoughts on “something else

  1. Sometimes those early, random memories are so powerful. Thanks for sharing yours.

    By the way, I totally remember that frank-and-bean casserole, my mom used to make it often in the mid-eighties. I’m glad I’m not the only food lover who grew up with canned baked beans 😉

  2. Wow Justin. Thanks for sharing something so personal and meaningful to you. I know it wasn’t easy. I started my blog with a similar approach to Shauna’s, but I’ve retrenched from getting too personal over the past year. I’m not sure why but it no longer felt comfortable to do so. I envy people like Shauna, who are so free and secure with themselves, they are the picture of wellness in my mind. Hopefully we can all reach that peak someday.

    1. Thanks, Christine. It’s hard to do what Shauna does. It’s interesting to hear Shauna talk about her approach to blogging. It’s not right for everyone. I guess you just have to find your own approach.

  3. Wow this is my first time visiting your blog and I am such blown away by this post. How you are so honest, so open and are able to share something so personal. I truly appreciate you sharing a memory that’s so difficult to recall.
    I will definitely be subscribing to your blog. You have a talent at writing like no one else and I really mean that. By the way, your photos are gorgeous! 🙂

    Lindsey @ Gingerbread Bagels

    1. Thanks, but if you look around some more, you’ll see that my blog (and my old blog) aren’t usually like this. I wanted to try something different. But I’m glad you visited, and thanks about the photos.

  4. Justin, thanks for sharing a personal story. Fyi, I volunteer as a facilitator at a Children’s Bereavement Group in the Boston area. The group of children I work with range from ages 6-10. There are teen groups and parent groups as well. Through play activities and group discussions, we encourage those who have had a significant death in their family due to illness or accident to talk about how they feel, how have things changed in their family, how to deal with anger in a safe way. Eventually the grief process brings children and their families to look to a future of new memories, yet carrying treasured memories with them.
    The best approach to opening up to our feelings is to talk about “the pink elephant in the room.” Name it, talk about it, share experiences. When I was young there were no support groups for children to grieve with other children. In most cases, what we did not deal with as a child, came back to us as adults.
    Food is very important in our lives. We may have memories good or bad about family dinners. Holidays can be very difficult when a loved one is not there for whatever reason. Food is nourishment and comfort.
    I recently recommended the website and book by Gluten-free Girl to someone dealing with a child who needs gluten-free nutrition. I am glad I was able to mention this resource. Foodblogging has been useful in so many ways. I am happy to now be a small part of the foodie world.
    The Souper

  5. Wow, thank you so much for opening up and sharing that with us. I think it’s awesome that you are able to open up like that – I have a hard time with it in such a public forum. It’s amazing the kinds of memories we can associate with food, isn’t it?

  6. I can see why you buried that food memory at the bottom of the bucket, but it was lovely that you could finally share it. It sounds like you at least had the good fortune to have a “new” dad who was good to you–not all stepdad stories turn out at all well. (I was fairly fortunate about that myself–but I don’t feel the time is right to share my tale.) Have a great New Year. My best to Jen, too.

  7. that’s putting yourself out there for sure, but in a good way because you know you have excellent blog-friends who will read it and somewhere deep down they have a couple of ‘bottom of the bucket’ memories that you just stirred up.
    good for you for putting it out there. and i gotta tell you, i think you rock when you shared how proud you are of GF girl. that just totally rocks J. love that.
    happy new year to you my friend. 🙂

  8. Beautiful post! I too have my many frank ‘n’ beans kinds of childhood memories. Some good, some great, some not so great. Thanks for sharing yours.

  9. My food memory(one of many) literally went to the bottom of the bucket.
    My father is a somewhat plain eater, boring to some. And I tried numerous times to make something to please him. One such recipe was for something called, “blue midnight cake” a recipe that had you measure everything into the cooking dish and then bake it. What an idea, so I thought. The cake ended up being so heavy it ended up being tossed into that bucket. My father said it was so heavy we could of used it as a doorstop. And, he relishes telling people about my first attempt at cake baking.
    I gave up trying to please him and with training, I am a better cook. Thankfully, I married a man who loves to try new recipes in fact, it was my pre-requisite for finding someone…..someone who wanted to eat.
    I like the new look and I along with the others, appreciate your honesty.

  10. Sorry, I missed your blog-move until now… what a moving story. It is remarkable how food can carve things into your memory… and that must have been a soul-wrenching moment that you didn’t understand completely at the time. I wonder if you were to taste it again would it clarify anything in your mind. Happy New Year, Justin. FYI I am working on a book!!

    1. thanks. i definitely lost some blog commenters when i moved, but i figured that would happen. and right — i didn’t get it back then when i was so young. i’d be almost scared to taste it now, after so many years.

  11. Shauna’s great isn’t she? And your post is so moving. You should do more of them like it. Well, if you are comfortable doing them I guess. But reading about your memory of the frank and beans, with your father was quite powerful. Thank you for sharing it.

    2010 was a wonderful year for me and it sounds like it was pretty great for you too. I look forward to 2011 and all that it entails. Happy new year. I hope you had a good one.

  12. There’s definitely a fine line between sharing and over-sharing but a memory like this is lovely; bittersweet but since this is one of the first posts of yours I’ve read, makes you seem immediately approachable too. I’m pretty open on my blog too but if I feel like I might hurt someone who could conceivably read it, that’s when I leave it out because I guess it’s not only my information to share. Sometimes I actually wish I could talk about certain things that I can’t because of that rule I’ve made for myself though.

    1. thanks for your thoughtful comment. i’ll have to stop by your blog. of course i understand about not wanting to hurt someone. in fact whenever i’ve written a restaurant review that wasn’t nice, because maybe i had a bad experience somewhere, i’ve taken it down soon after. i want to try to keep my blog positive. but then sometimes i feel like i’ve set too many rules. that’s why it was so interesting for me to write this post — because it was something no one would expect from me because most of my posts are just about yummy food. and i guess it worked out, because the response has been great. i was worried though. as for the follow-up post (not sure if you read that), i could never have predicted the result.

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