With our online collective stortelling platfrom, "community & memories", our goal is to use the food as a common thread to increase empathizing with each other, weave together a quilt of thought and action to bring a divided world closer together. Soon to be published in a coffee-table book format as well, we are collecting food memories from all around the world, share these soulful stories and spread a good spirit to nature and humanity. Interested to tell us a short story about your most poignant/joyful/painful/surprising memories relating to food, and be part of our growing Sumac family? Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org The more out-of-the-box, entertaining, or touching, the better! Let your inner poet shine!
food is what gets them through the door.
"Growing up as an orthodox Jew, food played a big part in how I experienced my heritage and culture. Every holiday, every milestone, every moment, good or bad, involved food. As co-director of a Jewish organization on a college campus food has become my way of sharing and inspiring my fellow brothers and sisters. My food is what gets them through the door, into our home and into our vibrant Jewish traditions. Homemade, hot-out-of-the-oven challah bread. Simmering-all-day chicken soup, complete with kneidlach (matzo balls) and mandelach (croutons). And the occasional dash of lokshen (noodles). And once they're in the door, have had a bite of challah and a bowl of soup, I know I've got them hooked. Mission accomplished."
- Zeesy Greenbaum, 34, Jewish Non-Profit Co-Director/Head Chef/Mom/Jewish Day School Administrator/Tired, Ewing/New Jersey
feeling like I was in a new world…
“When I was younger I remember going to a sushi bar with my dad. The interior was distinctly dark and designed with Japanese aesthetics. Between eating the sushi and the surroundings, I clearly remember feeling like I was in a new world. It is one of only a couple of early childhood memories of me and my Dad spending time together one-on-one. To this day I really enjoy Japanese food and culture, and in particular, I enjoy the atmosphere of a dark Japanese restaurant on a rainy fall day.”
- Paul Charles, 29, Flashy Finance Manager, New York, New York
a roasted chicken with a beer can stuffed inside it.
"Once a week, every week, my dad would put an entire chicken on top of a full can of beer and cook it on the grill. He called it 'beer chicken'. Every week we would eat that beer chicken with a side of rice, a side of ketchup, or sometimes nothing at all. God, I hated chicken. I grew up and quickly learned about all the other, complex ways one can cook chicken. Fried, baked, stuffed, smothered in sauce, as wings, as nuggets, on salad, on a skewer, you get my point. Now I love chicken as the versatile, lean protein source it is, but when I think of my father and my childhood culinary memories, I will always remember how beer chicken made me hate chicken."
- Rebecca Noto, 28, Nonprofit Professional, New York/USA
goodbyes in the form of pancakes…
"In the fall of 2014, we found out my grandma had lung cancer. The wrinkles around her mouth and the half empty pack of cigarettes that she kept around 'just in case' always sort of winked at stories she didn’t have to tell. I went to go visit her one afternoon just to be around her, to listen to her laugh. We ate watermelon at the kitchen table while she told me about the very real love she and my grandpa shared. She had made him blueberry pancakes just before he passed; they were still in the freezer. She heated them up and we ate them together, laughing at the tears that were splashing onto them."
- Stef LeoGrande, 31, Retail Manager, New Jersey/USA
experiencing the cross-section between cooking and arts.
"One of my most memorable childhood culinary experiences was learning how to cook a good cheeseburger! I was always creative, singing and playing instruments at every turn...but this was the first time I applied that creativity to food. From mashing ground beef into perfectly round circles to perfectly toasting buns and recreating my version of McDonald's 'secret sauce' with household ingredients, I was able to experience the cross-section between cooking and arts. I can still visualize the messy kitchen and the diligence I had in plating the food. The reaction my family had to my culinary creation was magic! It's a wonderfully colorful memory of cooking with my mom and siblings that will be forever etched in my memory. And to this day, I'll never share the ingredients to my secret sauce!"
- Chavon Sutton, Personal Finance Entrepreneur/Singer/Songwriter/Actress, New York/USA.
favorite romantic ritual…
"I fell in love with my ex over oysters and champagne, so it used to be our favorite romantic ritual. We traveled together and had oysters on every occasion we could."
- Valentine Aseyo, 31, SVP of Product at Bandsintown, New York/USA
secret Belarusian potatoes recipe.
“It was my grandfather who taught me my first recipe. No one else in the family was allowed near the kitchen on this occasion, for as he told me, this was his secret - his favorite recipe that he had never divulged to anyone before. After I pledged full confidentiality, the lesson began, and my grandpa took the potatoes out of the bag. He taught me the only way to properly clean them, to wash them, to peel them. He showed me the exact thickness that each slice must be cut, and corrected me when I fumbled with the knife. And when it was sizzling and popping in the pan, he whispered the secret ingredient that made those Belarusian potatoes taste like nothing I had ever eaten before. That is a secret I have never told to anyone since.”
- Dmitry Esterov, 30, Resident Physician, Woodbridge/New Jersey
from making cheese to becoming a chef…
“My interest in food began during childhood, on a Dorset farm. I used to help make sheep milk cheese, it tasted so fresh and delicious… I became a chef by accident. What first started as a summer job as a kitchen helper, I then began to enjoy myself and was offered an apprenticeship. I have been in the kitchens ever since.”
- Arthur Potts Dawson, 46, Chef, London/UK
one moment that stands out the most…
"While I may have spent countless days in the kitchen learning from both my mother and grandmother while they cooked, one moment that stands out the most to me was when I helped my grandmother create sambousek jubban, a middle eastern style savoury pastry filled with cheese. I helped her roll the dough, prepare the cheese fillings, and wrap them up. Since most people’s sambousek never taste alike, it is our cherished recipe. Another way to truly appreciate my family and its Iraqi Jewish heritage."
- Darryl Levy, 28, Quality Assurance, East Brunswick/ New Jersey
chocolate covered hazelnut-snails.
“My first major idea about food that I can remember is something like this: It was being served a vast array of petits fours in a French restaurant and feeling full and wondering why. When I opened L’Escargot restaurant in 1981 I just decided that we would have one, a chocolate covered hazelnut in the shape of a snail, which proved extremely popular. Proof that in hospitality, as in architecture, less is more.”
- Nicholas Lander, Food Critic, 66, Manchester/United Kingdom.
lamb brains with a splash of lemon for lunch.
"When I was a kid, I would have lunch at home every Wednesday, and the maid would cook us lamb brains. They were panned with a splash of lemon, and I liked that. The maid used to tell us that eating brains would make us smarter. That was until the mad cow disease epidemic broke out. Brains of all meats were forbidden, and we were told we were facing a long-term risk of contracting the disease. Smarter, huh?"
- Thibault Poutrel, 41, Art Dealer, London/UK
first things first, time to eat…
“Immediately, mustard yellow leather slippers were placed on my feet - curled toe intact - and I was shoved into the kitchen. I was on a nineteen-hour layover in Casablanca, Morocco and it was, first things first, time to eat. Saffron rice simmered alongside eggplant and tomato zaalouk in which to dip our army of fresh flatbreads. Fresh cucumber salad accompanied two arm's length fish, roasted with citrus preserved since last year. Finally, diced oranges dripping with robust cinnamon. At midnight, another tagine of roasted beef with onions. More bread. Mint tea. A new family.”
- Rose McAdoo, 28, Pastry Chef, Brooklyn, USA
paella on a Sunday morning…
"I just saw my cousin's husband, who I lived with for a year when I lived in Barcelona, and he said that he was going to make a paella this Sunday for his 16 year old son's birthday. His son was a little boy when I lived with them, and he was so sweet. He hugged me every time he saw me like he had just survived a war and was seeing me for the first time. I've seen this family since I've lived in Barcelona, they live in the same city in Arizona as my sister. But, when my cousin's husband said, 'paella', it stuck in my mind, and this morning I started thinking about the paella that Frans is going to cook."
- Caitlin Connors, 30, Digital Marketing Specialist, Brooklyn/USA
potatoes, more than food.
“I was an incredibly lucky child because I got to grow up in my grandmother’s house. Sometimes I'd ask my Nan if I could help with dinner, just to be near her, and she'd agree to let me help peel potatoes. Anyone who’s spent time in a kitchen knows potato peeling is not exactly the most exciting culinary task. But standing there next to my grandmother, me up on a stool, both of us wrist-deep in lukewarm water, she'd tell stories about her childhood and we'd laugh and it didn't matter how those potatoes eventually tasted (though always delicious) because they were more than food - they were a catalyst for storytelling and connection between me and my favorite person in the world.”
- Julia Carey, 31, Human Venn Diagram, Shanghai/China
oysters, crawfish, and a glass of wine on a community table.
"There's something really honest about sticking your hands in food with friends. Our fork and knife are no longer metal appendages separating us from each other and from what fuels our minds and bodies. We get the opportunity to bond in a deeper, more primal way. There's not a single friend that I haven't eaten off of the same plate with, and I believe this action is what separates my meaningful relationships from the ordinary ones. Sitting in a dimly lit Ethiopian restaurant, sweating together, trading finger-fulls of spicy meats and veggies while determining if we need to order more spongy bread, I feel a great connectedness. I feel the same way when I shuck oysters, peel crawfish or other fun crustaceans on a community table while looking for my glass of wine that I swore was in my hand just a minute ago! I use this rather simple primal affair to commune and reconnect to the ones I love. Let's eat together and share a meal, preferably without silverware."
- Rachel Beene, 31, Artist/Musician, Dallas/Texas
four brussels sprouts…
Lauren: "We were roommates before we were boyfriend and girlfriend. I had this extra laptop my previous roommate gave me and traded it to Çinar for seven homemade meals. He's a chef. The first meal was salmon." Çinar: "I remember you were really impressed by that. It was nice and crispy on the outside and the inside was perfectly cooked but not overcooked. Pink, but cooked. I don't remember the vegetables." Lauren: "I do. You came home with four Brussels sprouts and I thought, 'Four??? I'm gonna want way more than two Brussels sprouts.'" Çinar: "You really like my chicken too. When it's cooked. It was over those 7 shared meals that we got to know each other and started to like each other. Now we mostly grill."
- Lauren Sprechman, 31, Speech-Language Pathologist, Cambridge/Massachusetts
making food the centerpiece…
"I fell in love with food the same year that I fell in love with my husband. He taught me how to love food mindfully, artistically, sensually. As a young woman who was always trying to put food into a budget (either financial or caloric) he demonstrated eating as an experience rather than just another box to check. Our relationship was built on sharing meals, time in the kitchen, and trips to the grocery store. Making food our centerpiece is proving a strong stone to stand on as we venture through years and all the meals that come with them."
- Rebecca Thompson, 32, Doctor of Physical Therapy Student, Flagstaff/Arizona
a Bostonian's guide to fish tacos in LA.
"So check your phone. It’s 5 degrees back home. And here we are. Right?! Tuesday afternoon margaritas in the desert. Perfect. And the fish tacos! All I can say is, Yes. It’s hard for me to admit, but this place is pretty legit. I’m kind of in love with it and not just because of our huge drinks. The food here is… unexpected. I mean, these are basic tacos, but they’re so different than back home. They’re real. They’re from here. No pretense, no theme. And this place is definitely not trying to draw in tourists. It just is what it is and it rocks. I feel like we’re finally on vacation. Like, now we’ve actually arrived. Know what I mean?"
- Mike Broderick, 31, Lawyer, Boston/USA
a dessert that smell like a perfume…
“In our particular experience, it all began some way fifteen years ago when we received in El Celler a box of bergamot flowers. By that time, bergamot flowers was not a much known aroma in the kitchen. It belonged more to perfumery. We found out that it was a present, “Eternity” by Calvin Klein, also mixed with vanilla, basil and mandarin. From this aroma we decided to create a dessert that was just the beginning of many created from different perfumes.” -
- El Roca Brothers; Joan (54), Josep (52) and Jordi (40), Chefs, Girona/Spain.
chew until all the flavour was drawn out.
“When I was a kid I would hide under the kitchen table while my grandmother folded tortellini. As the flour fell around me, I would steal the tortellini she was making for us when she wasn't looking. I would pop them into my mouth raw and chew for a very long time until all the flavour was drawn out. If I had to eat only one food for the rest of my life, it would be traditional Modenese tortellini.”
- Massimo Bottura, 55, Chef, Modena/Italy
the salvation of my tiredness…
"The fruit stand on campus had the best (smelliest) durian in town. That was months before my college graduation, I got interview invitations for jobs in different cities and had to travel almost every week. What made me feel home after being 'excruciated' by interviewers is the poignant smell of the ripe durian. It is sooo strong that you could smell it from far far away. Though the smell of the ‘king of fruits' is unenjoyable, the iced mochi made from durian with cream in it is heaven. People who have obsession with durian know what I'm talking about even without themselves trying the durian mochi. The cream lightens the dense texture of durian fruit sarcocarp, unfolding the unique and agreeable sweetness, the indescribable mouthfeel is taken good care of by the icy-smoothy mochi wrap. The durian cream mochi became the salvation of my tiredness traveling across cities in those hot summer days."
- Jiemei Liu, 28, Energy Consultant, Shanghai/China
comforting, sweet, and balanced…
"When I was young, maybe four or five, I remember my mother serving me warm milk and honey as a night time treat. It’s one of those flavor memories and combinations that has stuck with me for my entire life – comforting, sweet, balanced. There’s a beautiful simplicity in it, but it has inspired what’s probably our most recognizable dish, the milk and honey dessert, that I first served at Eleven Madison Park and has since been tailored for the menus of NoMad, NoMad Truck, and Made Nice."
- Daniel Humm, 41, Chef/Co-Owner of Eleven Madison Park, The NoMad, and Made Nice, New York/USA
being thankful for Thanksgiving itself…
"Back in the 60s, my grandmother would famously announce that she was pregnant almost every year at Thanksgiving. 9 kids and more than 25 grandkids later, Thanksgiving dinner with the family happens in shifts. Before eating, the men play a game of two-hand touch while the women stay in the kitchen, preparing four turkeys and about twenty types of casserole. When I was 10, I suddenly realized the injustice in this division of labor and told my mom that girls should get to play football, too. She sent me outside with a smile. A few years later I came indoors with the women (it was warmer; I didn't feel like getting dirty) and I finally realized it - they weren't so much cooking, as drinking a lot of wine and laughing together. After dinner we each say what we're thankful for, and what I'm thankful for is Thanksgiving itself."
- Meaghan Mekita, 30, College Counselor, New Orleans/USA
the soup that served inside half of a papaya
"Several years ago, I lived in Shanghai as an ESL teacher. One student was my cash daddy; a politically powerful, mid-50s-year old guy, who loved to be remembered as such: Piper. One very hungover morning, Piper picked me up in his big ass car and said we'd have our lesson at a famous restaurant called Sichuan.... something. We began our lesson over appetizers and moved into the guided practice by the main course: bird's nest soup. The soup was served inside half of a papaya and the sickly-sweet scent and radical orange hue of this tropical fruit made me come to Jesus real fast. I prayed to anyone who would listen to deliver me from this VERY impossible eating situation and like any true atheist, when the solution occurred to me I forsook god for the umpteenth time and praised my mighty gin-logged primate brain: under extreme caution of being discovered, I used my spoon to slice long, parallel inserts into the fruit. The soup "drained" into the folds until it appeared that not a drop was left. 'Very tasty!' I exclaimed. Thrilled with genius, I could barely contain my relief. Alas: 'Very good. Now, eat the fruit.'"
- Britte Marsh, 31, Teacher, Oregon / USA
a dream that stuck…
"The hardest decision was deciding what college to go to. Cooking was still a passion of mine - so much that I thought I should consider culinary school. The idea of a regular 4-year college didn't interest me much; I really wanted to learn how to bake bread/desserts in New York! However, as the last person in my family, I felt an immense pressure to graduate from a traditional 4-year college. I knew my family would be a little heartbroken if I didn't, so I told myself that once I graduated that I would apply to culinary school after. Unfortunately, my love for photography and video along the way overshadowed that dream and I've been working in the field for almost 7 years. I still think I have time to learn to bake. I don't think I'll ever let go of that dream."
-Krystal Spencer, 28, Photographer, Philadelphia/USA
incredibly tender octopus and some Dean Martin songs…
"At the rocky end of the fishing harbor in Vernazza in the Cinque Terra is the old fort, now turned into a restaurant. Hanging off the side is a small veranda with six tables, perfectly set to watch an Italian sunset. My friend Sandra and I lucked into one of these tables, not through good planning, but in turning up soon after a late cancellation. To start we shared a platter of Hot Vernazza Seafood which included scampi, incredibly tender octopus, small, sweet mussels and prawns. The local Cinque Terra whites are light and dry and perfect for the seafood. For the main, I had the seabream with baked vegetables perfectly cooked, with the white flesh falling apart. Sandra ordered the platter of grilled local seafood with scampi, gamberoni, and fillets of local fish. By the end of the meal everyone on the little veranda was swapping stories and our waiter, Andrea, was singing a la Dean Martin. The sun dropped into the ocean. On a night like this. I feel it in the air. There's magic everywhere."
- Jennifer Menzies, 60, Public Policy Analyst, Brisbane/Australia.
love, hate, judgement, sympathy, everything…
"Food is a unique thing. It takes and gives confidence. For me, growing up overweight (mostly due to the food I was eating) and seeing the power over the body and being entirely stigmatized and bullied for it. After finally having a healthy relationship with food to maintain a body I am happy with, you see the superficiality of people and how people approach you. More than physical fitness, I've seen the power that food has over one's body and the way that humans connect based on that. We as people see others on a surface level and food is a major contributing factor to that - healthy, unhealthy. Food helps generate an outward appearance that leads to first impressions, love, hate, judgement, sympathy, everything."
- Joe Schepers, 32, Talent Manager, New York / USA