Thomas Wolfe once said, “You can’t go home again.”
As I am not in Nebraska, I decided the worst thing to do would be to sit around and mope. I bet my apartment would have been full of cookies, but I didn’t think being sad, alone, and depressed for the holiday weekend was a good idea. I have a myriad of things to make me worried and upset, and figured that misery loves company, so I drove the 1:45 to Rhode Island.
I went home to Mommy and Daddy, and despite how bad my allergies get when I’m back in suburbia, I still had a far better time than I would have had I stayed by myself in Connecticut. As a thank you to the family for moving me two weeks ago, and to just get together and see each other, they decided to throw a small cookout. While apprehensive at first, the day turned into a pleasant one, especially because I was greeted with the comforts of my childhood, which include:
Del’s Lemonade. This, to me, signifies summer. It makes me a bit sad that it’s Labor Day, which is officially the end of summer, and this was the first time I’ve had it. But it was totally worth it. It reminded me of a lemonade I had in Toledo, so there was all sorts of nostalgia.
Pepper biscuits. These are from a bakery in North Providence, Rhode Island, near my grandmother’s old house. It used to be called SImone’s, and they were $3 per bag. Basically, it’s a salty, twisted bit of dough with a little yeast, combined with pepper and fennel seeds, and then it’s baked to tooth-breaking hardness. It’s plain, it’s delicious, and makes me happy.
The story that goes along with these biscuits is that when the owner died and we learned Simone’s would be closing, my grandparents went there and bought every remaining bag in the store – a few hundred dollars’ worth. They hoarded them for years, giving us only bits and pieces when we visited instead of a whole biscuit. Then, just like WIlly Wonka’s chocolate factory, they started appearing in the bakery under the new owners. It took a bit to perfect the recipe, but they’re available again – and as a gift, my cousin gave me a bag to take home.
Portuguese crab salad. I have been eating this since I was very young. My parents take rock crabs from the docks in Narragansett, cook them in beer and Chesapeake Bay seasoning, and then clean and break them apart. They add oil and vinegar, onions, parsley, and a few other spices, and let it marinate for hours. We then dig in, and eat with our hands, and it’s a sloppy mess of cracking shells, dipping bread into the marinade, and sucking the sweet crab meat from the tiny chambers and legs. My cousin had parsley all over his face, ended up with flying crab shells his hair (breaking the shells apart can be tricky!), and my hands will be awfully soft due to the oil that soaked into my skin while eating this.
Friends of my family visit on holidays where we’ll have this just so they can have some, I request it when I’m coming home in the summer, and there have been fights over the last bit in the pot. It’s been determined that it will be used as a test for my next boyfriend – if he can watch me eat this and still want to be with me, he receives familial approval. If he participates in the eating, and enjoys it, then he’s a keeper. That’s how important this dish is.
Clams Casino. These are clams that have been combined with linguiça, and spices, and topped with bacon and breadcrumbs. My parents cooked these on the grill, though they’ve also been done in the oven.
When I was young, my dad and I would go quahoging (i.e. searching for quahogs in the shallow waters of Narragansett Bay). We would always take lemon and Tabasco sauce, and sometimes, after finding a few, he’d open them for me right there, on the boat, and we’d eat them fresh out of the water. In case you were wondering, this should seal the deal: I am truly a coastal girl.
It was a delicious meal, and we laughed a lot, and even planned my cousin’s 40th birthday party. It was worth making the drive on Labor Day/University of Rhode Island move-in weekend, through fucktons of Jersey traffic, just to spend some time at home in a familiar place. Sorry Tom, but you were wrong. You most certainly can go home again, and sometimes, it can be really nice when you do.