Food, life

Food = Home

I don’t normally do local stories, but this one relates to daily life, home and food, which is what I write. Not to mention that it has me feeling homesick.

home 1 wm
I grew up in this modest four-room home. Additions were made as our family grew.

Many of you who have read my blog before, know that I live in Florida but I’m not a native of this state. I grew up in the Chicago suburbs with both American and Italian traditions, which included lots of food. So, not only do I enjoy cooking, but I enjoy eating too.

When I moved to Florida, none of the foods I was accustomed to were available here. In fact, there was very little quality food of any kind, even at the grocery store. Until, one day, we came across two places. One of them is right next to Busch Gardens. The only hot dog place that I’ve ever found in Florida, Mel’s Hot Dogs. They sell Chicago-style hot dogs (Vienna beef) and Italian beef sandwiches (click on links to see photos).

Mel's (595x458)

The other place I found was an Italian store on the complete opposite end of town from Mel’s (to the south). The type of store I describe in my memoir anthology.

Wikipedia photo
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

I nearly cried when I breathed in the familiar scents of home in that Italian store down here in Florida. Barrels of cheeses, shelves of Giardiniera (a Chicago-Italian hot pepper relish), rows of authentic Italian round bread made with semolina, and all of the salty cold cuts like capicola, prosciutto, mortadella, salami, sopressata. I was home again, even being 1,200 miles away.

I don’t indulge in this type of food often, as I try to moderate my intake for healthier foods. So, the last time I’d been to the Italian store was about six months ago. Two weekends ago, my husband and I decided to treat ourselves. As we pulled up to the parking lot, we noticed it was empty. Did they close on Saturdays? Nope. They closed permanently!

Not only was I disappointed to lose the Italian store, but I couldn’t believe that a 120 year old establishment ceased to exist! 

Mel’s hot dogs, the only place to find a Chicago (Vienna) hot dog is still there for now, but it’s up for sale.

Food helps me feel connected to loved ones lost, like my grandparents. Helps me feel close to my parents 1,200 miles away. It feels like another goodbye, not only to the food, but it brings up memories of leaving home, where all of my family still lives.

castnpizz (474x337)One’s home is like a delicious piece of pie you order in a restaurant on a country road one cozy evening – the best piece of pie you have ever eaten in your life – and can never find again.  After you leave home, you may find yourself feeling homesick, even if you have a new home that has nicer wallpaper and an … efficient dishwasher …  ~Lemony Snicket

10 thoughts on “Food = Home”

  1. I still live relatively close to the neighborhood where I grew up. I remember wanting to get away so badly, but now when I see businesses closing, ones that have been around since my childhood days, it makes me sad. I know how you feel.

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    1. Hey, Linda! Oh, you mean the photos where we lived as mere babes. We lived 15 miles away from each other but didn’t meet until we were 21 years old. Thanks for coming by and checking it out.

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  2. I can imagine the wonderful aroma of Castellano’s. I have no Italian or close family European heritage that would account for my affection for this type of food but I love the smell that greets you when you walk into a good deli. It takes you by the hand, and says it’s fine, everything is fine, eat, eat 😉 It’s sad they have closed. It’s happened to me also, and you wonder, what if I’d gone there more but it’s never any one thing. At least there is still Chicago for you. Take an esky.

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    1. Yep, you said it perfectly, EllaDee. “It take you by the hand, and says it’s fine, everything is fine, …” except my family might say “mangiare, mangiare.” Eat, eat.
      I’ll be in Chicago in a few months.Thanks so much for reading and your wonderful comment.

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  3. That was sad that your Italian store had closed …. Happen to me a couple of times, great shops and then just gone. Thanks for a great chronicle about you home and yours growing up. I have to try one of those hot dogs next time I’m in Chicago.

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    1. Thanks, Viveka. Like I said, in Florida there are very few places with good food. When I find one, I cherish it. I’ll be heading home to Chicago in September. Guess I’ll have to wait until then to go to a good old fashioned Italian deli. Thanks for reading about it.

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