If we’re going to do this, we might as well start with the man responsible for this “chocolate covered memory” mess. So, we’ll drop the “we” and use a few more “blabbby” “I’s” as writer/producer (and foodie fanatic) Lee Porter attempts to interview himself and explain where the name “Chocolate Covered Memories” comes from … 😉
What are your earliest food memories?
Believe it or not, as a toddler, I fell in love with avocados. The story, as I know it, is that I craved tiny baby bites of the California turkey club sandwich at Friends cafe in the San Francisco Bay area (where I was born and lived until 3 years old). As my mother describes it, Friends’ club sandwich was loaded with the usual: roasted turkey, lettuce, tomato, mayo, bacon on toasted wheat bread, but, in addition, it also had avocado and sprouts on it. I instantly fell in love with avocados, and, to this day, as anyone who knows me can attest, I will add avocado to practically anything and everything that I make or order out.
Was food a big part of your childhood?
Absolutely. One of my fondest childhood memories is, believe it or not, artichokes. My mother would serve whole, cooked artichokes for my brother and me, usually as an after-school/before-dinner snack. We loved pealing the leaves off one-by-one, eating the “meat” off of each leaf’s tip, as we worked our way down to the heart. It was a messy “dance,” cleaning the inedible “spikes” off of the artichoke heart. I think enjoying that process as a child taught me a lot about the effort that goes into both cooking and eating, that certain enjoyments in life, come after “hard work.”
My mom is an extremely talented baker. So all baked goods remind me of my childhood, which was filled with homemade scones, cakes, cookies, most of which always featured fresh fruits, whole wheat and the darkest of chocolates. From whole wheat banana bread and pumpkin muffins to peach and/or plum kuchen and anything and everything loaded with coconut. The more coconut, the better, in my (cook) book.
Okay, and now it’s time for the biggest question, the elephant in the kitchen: Where does the name “Chocolate Covered Memories” come from?
It’s funny. Lots of people I talk to say, “My mom makes the best mac n’ cheese” or “You have to try my grandmother’s Thanksgiving stuffing.” For me, chocolate covered strawberries are the definitive food of my childhood and life. There’s absolutely nothing difficult whatsoever in making chocolate covered strawberries. All you need is a bowl, chocolate, strawberries and some space in the refrigerator to let them chill and harden. Just like anything (in life and in cooking), making chocolate covered strawberries simply requires action and effort. My mom serves chocolate covered strawberries at every holiday, party and celebration. And I always wonder why we don’t see them at other house parties. Chocolate covered strawberries always make me think of how easy it is to make people so happy and how so many people (even those who consider themselves foodies) don’t make this extra effort in their own homes. In the end, I guess that’s what this whole Chocolate Covered Memories thing is all about: an open discussion about the extra effort that fine food requires and the extra love that fine food represents.
How do you feel about the food world today?
It’s an amazing time to be in the food world. From gigantic fancy gourmet supermarkets (like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s) to TV shows (like those on the Food Network) to foodie websites and bloggers; now, foodie information, recommends and recipes are all just an instant click away.
That said, I’m concerned with where this food movement is going. We live in a world where fancy grocery stores offer prepared 4th of July BBQ feasts; where delis offer takeout Jewish New Year meals with per-person pricing; where Italian restaurants invite us to leave our homes and venture out for Christmas Eve seven-fish dinners. Heck, even national chicken franchises advertise takeout Thanksgiving meals “with all the sides.”
Where have our homemade meals gone? Where are the dinner parties that aren’t filled with store-bought prepared dishes?
They say that home is where the heart is. They say you can win another’s heart with the power of food. But where have the homes filled with food gone?
I wonder if this trend has developed because of our fast-paced modern lives or the fact that both parents are often working full-time these days. Is it because of the high cost of traveling? In the past, we would venture out far and wide to congregate with family for the holidays. Now, many people spend the holidays with local friends (often “friends” they met online) instead of getting together and eating homemade food with family.
Let’s face it, baking and cooking takes time, effort and action. In this modern techno world, are we unable or unwilling to take the time to stop and make food from scratch, to actually put effort into hosting people and treating our friends and family like guests?
In the end, the thing I love about food isn’t about how expensive food is or if the restaurant I eat at is “hot” or featured in a biased “Best Of” list or even how many stars it’s received; good food, like most things in life, is demonstrated by actions and effort. You can tell when love is put into good food, and that’s the kind of food I want to eat. I hope this modern food world recognizes that, because the “easy” trends and lack of individual effort saddens me greatly.
Any dinner party secrets?
As a guest, I recommend surprising your host by bringing something, be that a homemade dish (appetizers or desserts because a party can never have too many of those) or even just a bottle of wine (it need not matter what it is or how much it costs). As a host, I personally enjoy sending my guests home with leftovers and a token gift of some kind, be that flowers, a plant or even something fun and quirky that I bought at the dollar store. For me, the act of sharing food and hosting is an expression of love and friendship.
What family recipe do you want to share with us?
In a way, this website was set up as an ode to my mom, her sister (my aunt, Shellie) and all the amazing cooks everywhere who create the most wonderful homemade dishes on a daily basis and don’t blog about it or receive awards for their amazing culinary skills. They simply do it for their love of food, family and hospitality. I could post a million recipes that my mom cooks up: from panko-battered fried flounder smothered with lump crabmeat to homemade lobster salad; from salmon Welingtons to homemade lasagna; from peach kuchen to the most phenomenal coconut cake in the world. However, obviously, there is only one “recipe” that is worthy of the honor of being the “first recipe” posted on Chocolate Covered Memories. And, surprisingly, this is the easiest thing one can make, yet, to me, at least, it means the most: Chocolate Covered Strawberries by Bobbie Porter (Lee Porter’s mom).
At the very least, I hope this website/project encourages others to take the time out to make homemade chocolate covered strawberries for every event they host.
Thanks (for all), Mom! 😉
Lee Porter is the writer/producer of the original, comedy Web series: My Ruined Life & Wink. His comedy short/charity project fb4h raises money for the homeless. Lee “likes” eating and shrugging … and making fun of Internet addicts (even though he is one himself).