Sunday, August 02, 2009

Foods of Durham Past: English Muffin Pizzas

Back in college, my three roommates and I each took a night to cook dinner for the apartment. It was a great way to save money, and eat somewhat healthier than we would if we were picking up dinner on campus. Dinners were usually tasty and none of us were picky eaters -- except on tuna burger night.

One of my roommates introduced tuna burgers to us during our junior year. Apparently it was something her mother made when she was younger. I don't remember much about the tuna burgers, but I do remember tuna fish plopped on burger buns, wrapped in foil and tossed in the oven. I don't recall ever eating one. What I do recall is my roommate Ilene warning me that something called tuna burgers was on the menu. She said she was going to the library to study and if I wanted to join her and maybe pick up something to eat elsewhere, I was welcome. I think tuna burgers revisited our dinner menu at least once more before the end of the school year.

This got me to thinking of all the strange things our parents might have made when we were younger that we were conditioned to like, either because they actually tasted good, or they were just...familiar. And what might seem conventional to us, isn't necessarily welcomed by others.

I have moments in my memory of dinner time growing up. I usually helped with dinner. I had particular dinner prep tasks, even when I was very little: setting the table, filling cups with ice, grating cheese, washing lettuce, etc. I remember we each had our own designated place at the table. Dad always had a glass of milk at his plate while we had water or maybe some other drink.

This 200th blog post of mine will mark the beginning of a series called "Foods of Durham Past." I got this idea as I sat in a restaurant in Durham, England with my parents. We talked about the dinners Mom used to make and what we liked most. Until I run out of ideas, I will be making all these dishes, photographing them, eating them, and reevaluating them with my revised, grown-up taste.

Our first dish: English Muffin Pizzas (pictured)

If I was bold enough to make these for my college roommates, they would probably place in the tuna burger category. The word "pizza" is used in the loosest sense of the word. In fact, it's pretty much a perversion of the word. The "toppings" are stirred together in a bowl and then spread on an English muffin. I absolutely LOVED these.

The most bizarre thing about this recipe is that along with the cheddar cheese, chopped olives, dried, minced onion and chili powder is the inexplicable need to hold it all together with mayonnaise. I was thinking about this as I recreated it. It would make much more sense sans mayo. I'm not sure if my mom put garlic powder in there, but I did because I found the garlic powder in the cupboard before the chili powder and it sounded like a good idea.

I haven't eaten these for over a decade, but they tasted pretty much as I remembered them. I'm sure nostalgia plays a big role in my rating, but they weren't gross and like a good girl, I ate all my dinner.

Would I eat them again? Probably.
Will I make them again? Probably not.
Would I feed them to friends? NO.


SRA said...

In my family, it was the interesting things my parents and grandparents ate but did NOT inflict on my brother or me. Pickled beets, pickled eggs and scrapple come to mind right away. Bless my parents for not causing too many of my memories of food as a kid, painful.

Kelly D. said...

Something tells me that Carter would opt for cereal on the nights that was served! I cannot see him willingly eating olives.

I'm looking forward to this feature! Great idea!

Ilene said...

Our poor parents didn't have the benefits of the frozen dinosaur chicken nuggets and burritos.

When my kids get nostalgic for mom's comfort kid food, they are going to turn to their microwave.

You crack me up.

Ilene said...

I enjoy the lettuce used as a decorative garnish.

Laura Lee said...

It's actually broccolini. I thought I should have something healthy to balance out the meal. Turns out that healthy something cost $3.89 for one serving. One serving!

Annie said...

Thank you for NOT feeding it to your friends/roommates.

It reminds me of Tuna Delights we'd have as kids and still have when we go to the family cabin. Tuna, mayo, and grated cheese all on a hamburger bun and broiled. I like it, but think you and Carri would find excuses to eat out.

carter said...

I always went to the library to study when mom made those.

Lisa Marie Trent said...

I remember a disturbing, sour taste to those.

Now I know why. It was the mayo.

Liz said...

Do pigs in a blanket next! I remember only eating those at your house, and then we made them for the Romriels (spelling?)