I don't often find myself lingering in the cookie aisle at the grocery store, except possibly when I'm buying Oreos for S. (this happens almost never) and am trying to make sense of the ten thousand flavors now available (pumpkin Oreos, who knew?). But there I was, nonetheless, perhaps looking for graham crackers for s'mores, when I saw them: the unmistakable red, white, and green package, the original Stella D'oro Breakfast Treat.
They were my father's cookie: they lived in the kitchen drawer with a perforated metal sliding lid, the one that was meant for bread but that somehow became the "cookie drawer," the one that was always filled with foreign-looking packages and European names. I hesitated, hand hovering over the package, wondering whether I needed to bring them home home. I tried hard to remember what they tasted like. Were they dry and crunchy? Were they the ones that tasted like anise?
No, I thought. Best to leave them here. I'd end up eating the whole bag, just because I wouldn't want to waste them. Even if I didn't like them. I didn't need to eat the whole bag.
But they haunted me all week, those breakfast treats.
On my next trip to the store, I gave in.
After I unpacked the rest of the groceries, I sat down and pondered the bag, wondering if I should wait until breakfast. And then thinking how ridiculous that was, given that my father never ate them for breakfast, either. Cookies were for lunch. And every meal in between.
I tore open the plastic, slid out the tray, and picked one up. I bit in gently, surprised by the give of the brown crust, and the tender almond meal interior. It melted on my tongue. They were exactly the sort of thing my father ate: dry, sweet, needing cafe con leche on the side.
With that taste came flooding back others that I haven't thought about in years: Stella D'Oro Swiss Chocolate Fudge (also kept in the cookie drawer), the Pepperidge Farm apple turnovers I made for my father every night for dessert while he watched the evening news.
I still don't know what I was trying to find in that striped plastic container, but I probably don't need to tell you that I ate the whole bag.
My daughter, recently, has taken to spooning the foam off of my lattes in the morning. The other day, she snuck a sip of the drink. "I LOVE coffee," she squealed. Then, today, like she always does, she demanded a bite of my rice cake with melted cheese, salsa, and spinach. And informed me that she might need to eat all of it.
I wonder, sometimes, what her taste memories of me will be.
What are your taste memories of childhood? If you have children, what do you think their taste memories of you will be?