A collection of student food memoirs


Anna Frazier

Anna Frazier’s quest for the perfect white bean successfully ended with this delicious soup.

Food. An absolute necessity for human life and a cornerstone for functioning as a human being. Sometimes, giving your body nutrients is reduced to just that: simply a necessity and less of an enjoyable/memorable/exciting/fun experience that food can so often provide. When you stop to think about what you eat and when you eat it, it can bring all five of your senses back to a specific moment in time, whether that’s sitting around the table sharing a meal with family, shopping for special beans with your mom, or even back to bartering for the good snacks at the elementary school lunch table. 

This semester, students reflected on those memories for a food and wine writing class. Now, walk down memory lane with those students with this collection of pieces. Do you have any prevalent memories you connect with food? Share with us in the comments. 

The smell of a memory–Maddie Loverich 

Sometimes, a particularly memorable smell can bring you back to an exact place. For me, the smell of Cincinnati chili brings me right back to my grandmother’s kitchen. Back to the dinner table surrounded by my family, and back to the treasured memory of my late great-grandfather. 

My Grandpa Peep’s memory might have differed a bit from mine when he tasted the sweet, slightly spicy, and–what most would call bizarre–mix of chili and spaghetti that made up his favorite dish. 

He would have remembered his birthday celebrations every year surrounded by the family he loved so deeply, but he also would have vividly remembered the dish as a staple meal during his childhood in Cincinnati. 

The making of the dish that defined his relationship to his happiest moments and younger years couldn’t be easier to prepare. A special mix of spices, tomato paste and lean ground beef make up the chili topping that is then served on a warm bed of spaghetti noodles. 

The dish can be personalized with a variety of toppings. Tradition suggests adding kidney beans, grated cheddar cheese and freshly chopped onions, but my family members would insist you thicken the dish by adding a little bit of sour cream, as well. 

Once people that are unfamiliar with the dish hear the description of that combo, the reaction is typically a questioning head-tilt or a scrunched-up nose. Most have come to believe that chili belongs only on a baked potato, and noodles should be enjoyed exclusively with marinara. Grandpa Peep would have passionately objected to that notion. 

He brought his childhood adoration of the dish to his children and grandchildren as he lived an adventurous life with his beloved wife, my great-grandmother. 

Nanny and Grandpa were constantly exploring and moving to continue their passion for finding new great places. They raised their children in Matawan, N.J., and moved out to the west coast when they heard of the exciting and quickly-growing city of Seattle. They built a life there, two of their three children moved to the area, and then the couple eventually settled in the quaint nearby town of Poulsbo, Wash. 

Their address might have changed frequently through their years, but their connection to their family was unwavering regardless of where they called home. 

What else was consistent for them through their travels? A collection of packets of Cincinnati Chili spice mix. Not just any mix–but a very specifically iconic blue and yellow packet from a company called Skyline, Inc. that is not easily obtained at grocery stores on the west coast. To get the coveted product, one had to order the packets online. 

The spicy and slightly sweet spice blend includes paprika, ground cinnamon, salt, onion powder and chili powder, along with a few preserving additives, of course. 

It was this mix that kept his favorite dish consistent through the years, wherever they were. “It’s the most authentic,” he would tell us. “It’s the closest thing to what it tasted like back home.”

The packets aren’t cheap–they’re currently running for about $3.50 a piece on Amazon. Personally, that feels like a lot for a few spices. But, I’ve been told its the perfect amount of those ingredients, so it’s probably worth it for authenticity sake. 

The resulting chili isn’t similar to a Texas-style chili, but actually a descendant of the Greek dish “pastitso”. The layered pasta, meat and cheese dish has a similar flavor profile. 

When a six-pack of the spice packets were gifted to me by my grandma last year, it was like a transfer of precious metals. I was told to use them wisely, and it was a lot of pressure on my cooking skills. 

If there was one thing I learned from my great-grandpa, it was the importance of expressing your love, and expressing it often. When he loved, he did so deeply, whether that was his family or his favorite meal. 

Food has a unique way of bonding people together. The smell of the kind-of-weird-sounding-but-incredibly-delicious chili my grandpa loved so much makes my mouth water from hunger, but it also brings up treasured memory of a man that loved us steadfastly until the day he passed away.


It’s bean quite an adventure–Anna Frazier

“Do you want any appetizers to start with?”  

The waitress’s question snapped me out of my reverie. My mom and I’s weekend getaway plans in Washington had almost been ruined by some canceled flights, but by the end of the night, I was triumphantly weaving my way through Seattle rush hour traffic, Linda squarely in my front seat.  

It was late, we needed some food. I told my mom to pick and she settled on a Greek restaurant at the edge of town– “I haven’t had Greek food since you were a baby and we were living in Florida” –and filed into the near-empty dining space.  

“Anna, do you want anything?” my mom prompted. “I know you’re starving.” 

My eyes glazed over the appetizers, dishes I’d never heard of. One was simply called yigantes–the description told me it was beans in a tomato stew. I’m not a picky eater, but after driving hours in the dark, with many more to go, I blurted out “yigantes” since it was the most familiar thing. 

The waitress stalked off. My mom told me about a Greek restaurant near where I was born in Florida that had the best moussaka ever and about how excited she was to try hers tonight.  

I nodded along, distractedly. I still didn’t really get what it was but I could tell she was excited. Nearly all of my experiences with Greek food were of heavily feta’ed pizzas with Kalamata olives thrown on top or sad, greasy gyros made alongside other sad, greasy sports bar foods. 

I didn’t regret agreeing to this restaurant, I was just totally out of my league here. Little did I know what was about to come next. 

Our yigantes came out at the same time as my mountainous gyro and her moussaka–but, wow, the beans stole the show. 

My mouth dropped open and a little gasp escaped. Beans, the size of dominos. In a thick, ruddy sauce gleaming with oil. A sprinkling of fresh herbs and grated cheese topping it like a blanket of powdery snow. 

I pushed my gyro aside and pulled the yigantes towards me. I fished a bean, as wide as my thumb, off the plate with my fork and took a bite. My teeth sunk into the creamy, hot flesh. It filled my mouth like buttery mashed potatoes–surfing down my throat on waves of garlicky tomato sauce. 

My mom took a bite too and I knew she was having the same experience. How could mere beans in a tomato sauce taste so good 

We finished our meals–I did my best to reserve a few bites of the yigantes for my mom but I definitely ate more than my fair share. As we paid and left, we talked about the beans and agreed it was better than the other items we ordered. 

“I wonder if I could make it,” I asked aloud. The yigantes looked tantalizingly simple. 

“Well, let’s try to find some giant beans,” my mom replied. 


We had three days on the Olympic Peninsula for our weekend trip. When we initially planned it, all we wanted to do was “hang out,” as sort of an early birthday present for her. Mother-daughter time, an excuse to get away, etcetera. 

Now, our trip had a mission: find giant beans. 

Obviously, we still enjoyed our girls’ trip. We went shopping and exploring and all that–but the sight of a family grocer or a natural foods store or a co-op sent us careening off the highway, screeching to a halt in their parking lot, and hurdling to their dry goods section. 

Yet, again and again–no dice. Or, no giant beans. Navy, great northern, cannellini–plenty of white beans. Some small little tablets the size of a fly, some edging onto thumbnail-sized territory. But none that made me want to sink my teeth into them.  

Until, at long last, I heard my mom’s excited yell over the grocery-store din of Central Market in Poulsbo.  

“Anna! Come quick!” she cried. I tossed aside the finely-ground semolina flour I was admiring and rushed over to the bulk foods dispenser she was pointing at. 

There, nestled among paltry, regular-sized grains and things, were the beans of my dreams. They gleamed like monstrous pearls plucked from clams the size of a human. 

My eyes slid down to the price. Almost $7 a pound. I sucked my breath through my teeth with longing–sure that the price was just too high. Most dried beans are normally around $1 a pound. 

“Well, get some! I’ll pay,” my mom said through my protests. I filled the bag as carefully as I could, trying to measure with my eye a reasonable amount. 

As we paid and left the store, I marveled over my shiny beauties. I pictured myself biting into their creamy, mashed-potato-flesh, glazed with a tomato sauce of unspeakable delicacy.  

I thanked my mom profusely, of course. 

“We need to come back to this store for more giant beans in the future,” she said, swatting me away as we loaded our groceries. 


The weekend ended. My mom and I went our separate ways. Her, back home to Alaska, and me, back down to Oregon for school. The day after I returned, I went grocery shopping at WinCo. 

For fun, and partially out of habit at this point, I gravitated to the dried beans in the bulk food section. 

My stomach dropped and an icy feeling crawled across my scalp as I turned the corner. There, nestled among paltry, regular-sized grains and things, were the beans of my dreams. Their white satin shells glinting at me like monstrous pearls.  

My eyes dropped to the price–$1.80 a pound. Guilt twisted my stomach. I felt like I made my mom waste her money on some silly, too-luxurious beans. 

mum… please don’t be mad,” my texts started. I explained that there were cheaper giant beans at my local grocery store–trying not to be too specific on the price and downplaying their largeness. Surely, the beans we paid an arm and a leg for, and went to so many stores for, were far better quality and more humongous than these beans… right? 

Why would I be mad?” She replied. “I had fun on our grocery store tour.”

I love you.”


Remembering Grandma’s holiday spaghetti–Julien Sears

Every Christmas Eve for as long as I could remember was spent at my great-grandparent’s house. There were a few constants for each of these seasonal get-togethers: endless laughter, McDonald’s gift cards for the great-grandchildren, and the delicious smell of my great-grandmother’s spaghetti coming from the kitchen. 

My great-grandmother Marian was a phenomenal cook. When she was younger, she tackled all the big dishes during the holidays. This is partly because she liked to cook, but I also think she didn’t trust anyone else to do it. 

She was a character. She wasn’t one to mince words, she stood her ground and, honestly, she could be a tad judgmental. But, she was also quick-witted and held her good sense of humor until she passed in 2020. I sadly didn’t remember spending a whole bunch of time at my great-grandparents’ house besides the holiday season. 

Whenever I visited, she was always in the kitchen cooking. All the different arrays of smell would waft out into the living room, where my great-grandfather Richard could be found watching anything John Wayne or cowboy-related on TV (unless he was sitting on the front porch watching cars drive by).  

Given the rarity of our visits, my great-grandmother and I were not very close when I was growing up. When I got older, however, we grew much closer and I really cherished the time we spent together. 

She didn’t fit the nurturing and gentle grandmother stereotype one sees in movies, because it wasn’t in her nature to stray from her slightly judgemental personality. But when she started cooking around the holidays, one could tell that she made every dish with lots of love. 

I have vivid memories of her always stressing over the special Christmas Eve spaghetti every year. As she got older, she threatened not to make it anymore given the difficulty of the preparation, but she would always break down and make it for the family. However, when it got to be too much for her, my mother, my uncle and I would take it into our own hands to make sure the tradition lives on. 

My great-grandmother got this recipe from her mother-in-law who came to America from Armenia. She and her husband came through Ellis Island in New York, and eventually made their way to Spokane where they would live out the rest of their lives. 

She would always make the noodles from scratch and I can still smell flour and dough in her kitchen. That dough was the hardest thing because it took everything I had to knead, but she did it all by herself for all those years at a mere 105 pounds. 

I always dreaded making the noodles because of the instant mess it made. If I didn’t put enough flour over the counter, the dough stuck to the countertops. Little pieces of dough got under my fingernails, which drove me crazy. 

After kneading, I was covered in flour and surrounded by trays of spaghetti noodles spread all over her kitchen. The trays were all covered with wax paper to keep fresh, since they sat out overnight. 

To cook the noodles, she brought out her old cast iron pot that looked like it was made in the Dark Ages. I can remember how the hot boiled water would heat up the whole house and I could smell the salted water boiling. 

The real special part of the tradition was the sauce. It consisted of tomato sauce, tomato paste, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano and spare ribs. It simmered for several hours, which filled the house with the smell and made everyone instantly hungry. 

I can always remember the look on people’s faces when she told them that she used spare ribs. The reason she used this unusual spaghetti ingredient is because it gave the sauce that special flavor, as she used to say. 

My great-grandmother did not always express her love verbally. After sitting down and having a meal with her, however, we would know that she did in fact love us very much because the food we just ate was out of this world. 

I like to think that my grandmother’s spaghetti was the one constant variable in our family that brought and kept us together. Lots of family members have come and passed since this tradition started. But her memory lives on in our continued tradition every Christmas Eve, when her exact recipe is used to make the meal we all came to love.


Don’t Cry Over Spoiled Milk–Kaden Gass

Most people have a love/hate relationship with food, and don’t get me wrong, I do too. But not to the extent others’ do. Some people love one food and hate another, but that’s just scratching the surface of the power that food holds and what influences it can have over a person.

Food can lead people into war; it can tear families apart. And while everyone loves to make a charcuterie board and gossip with their friends, nobody talks about the dark side of food. The side of food that causes rifts between sisters when preparing Christmas dinner; the side of food that causes yelling between parents and invokes divorce; the side of food that pushes children to complete a task so meticulously that they break down crying and are scarred forever. There’s a dark side to food and this is my story. 

You would think being the best would be a dream come true. That you’d be showered with praise and congratulated on the countless hours it took you to finally master a recipe and become champion. That was the case with me participating in the Colorado State baking competition. I know what you’re thinking. “That’s the dumbest shit I’ve heard.”

And, while I humbly respect your opinion, I have to disagree. You see, food is culture. And while some people may not realize the importance food has in our daily lives, I do. Food separates the rich from the poor; the strong from the weak. To be the best one must make sacrifices, no matter what the cost. 

My mom started to put me into baking competitions when I was about ten years old. Before I decided to come to Linfield and major in business, I had my heart set on going to culinary school and becoming a chef. I was so passionate about the work I created and how everyone said what an amazing career cooking was. The funny thing about the whole process however, was that I didn’t love food, I loved the thought of food. It drove every factor in my life. Food was an escape. 

It’s not that I was yelled at or made fun of for not being able to nail a recipe on the first try, it was more or less the frustration and disappointment that started to build over a period of time. I don’t know how to explain it, but nothing hits harder than looking in your parent’s eyes and seeing them be disappointed in the work you’ve done.

Looking back on it, it may not seem like much, you may even be thinking, “Poor little Kaden, life must be hard.” And I agree. At this point in my life, it helped me become comfortable with others’ criticisms, but to that 10 year-old boy, my happiness depended on my parent’s expectations. 

It’s funny how when people think of food, they never remember the negative feelings associated with that experience. I mean, when I look back on my negative experiences with food, I never tend to remember specifics, just how it made me feel and I tend to have a negative connotation to that food. It’s like that time I went to Costa Rica and ate contaminated shrimp at a city vendor. I spent the next 2 days vomiting my body weight in a foreign country without my parents in a rusty shack of a hospital where no one spoke English. Now I don’t remember what anyone said or how it happened, but all I know is how it made me feel. Bad. 

The point being, food is such an integral part of our lives. It’s entwined into our everyday culture and in how every person on this earth lives their life. Food, in short, is the lifeline of our body. I’m a firm believer in living your best life and remembering the memories that gave you joy. And maybe that’s why so many people only remember the positive memories associated with food.

Even though there’s a ton of shitty memories that can and have been associated with food, the happy memories are the ones that truly matter. It’s going to happy hour at McMenamins at 4 p.m. with your roommates and getting two-for-one drinks; going to Lardo and eating lunch in the Portland gardens; making chicken tacos and watching Euphoria till 1 a.m. Those are the memories that truly matter. Because life can’t be wasted on missed opportunities and spoiled milk. 


Food memories through the years–Lindsey Burns

School 1: Fruit and Flower Preschool

In preschool I was picky. I liked what I liked– fish sticks, corn dogs, chocolate, strawberries, (occasionally dipped in ketchup) – these were some of my staples. Anything green was most likely an enemy. Asparagus was the devil, beans and peas were an abomination, zucchini was a nuisance, whereas broccoli and spinach were on thin ice. I wasn’t much for trying new things, and if I did venture to taste a new food item, I expected some sort of a bribe. 

This is why I traded my kiwi for my classmate’s strawberries. The greenness was off putting and that’s not even mentioning the skin, which was prickly and hairy like dad’s face when he forgot to shave.

I did know that this is the sort of action that can get you pulled out of recess. Note to self: sharing, good. Sharing food, bad. Apparently, 4 years old is too young to trust a child with knowing their own allergies. Note to reader: neither child died.

School 2: Class Academy 

Nothing notable happened here. There was one kid who’s teeth looked like peanut butter. He had his birthday party at Chuck E Cheese’s and he wore all-white sneakers and because of him I refused to eat peanut butter for several months.

School 3: Chapman Elementary

I met my first vegan at Chapman, a little blonde- haired boy who gagged whenever I drank milk with my school lunch. His bones must have been weak. 

Chapman was also where I first encountered the true school provided lunch. Beyond a simple snacktime, they provided us with string cheese, fruit cups, personal pizzas, and baby carrots alongside our traditional graham crackers and nilla wafers. 

The majority of my memories in the lunchroom revolve around watching the “free table” where students could place any unwanted school-provided food items. The key to success was to first watch if anyone looked like they were going to approach the free table. Then assess them. There are only two real prizes: cinnamon toast crunch and chocolate milk. Leave anything else and let it serve as a distraction. If someone was to approach the table with one of the aforementioned prizes, the key was to slowly walk to the table and steal the prize as soon as they set it down. Call too much attention to yourself, and you may have too many competitors.

I wish I could say that Michelle Obama made an impact on our health and our eating habits. We just became more creative in tracking down sweets and when we walked to each of our lunch tables, we had to walk around the salad bar.

School 4: Cedarwood Waldorf School

Update: green foods are no longer scary. Asparagus is still an enemy, but other green fruits and vegetables are allowed.

At Cedarwood, we all packed our own lunches from home. Or rather, our parents did. If mom packed lunch that meant ham sandwiches with pickles cut just right with bread spread with cream cheese. Some days she’d pack me a thermos of last night’s soup. And there was always either an orange or apple. If dad packed my lunch, it meant mayo instead of cream cheese, and the type of bread that had too many seeds in it. He would almost always pack bananas, forgetting the way that they get emulsified in my lunchbox into a brown-ish lump. 

But Cedarwood always provided the best snacks on special occasions. We celebrated an odd mix of holidays from multiple religions and cultures, with a particular focus on saint days: St. Nicholas Day, Santa Lucia Day, Michaelmas. I don’t think any of the kids or teachers I knew were religious, but for Michaelmas, we pulled out all the stops. 

For weeks in advance we worked to learn songs on the recorder, we made props and costumes, we rehearsed lines, we papermached and painted our giant dragon puppet. You don’t really need to know what Michaelmas is about, but know that it culminates in a school-wide outdoor play, in which the seventh graders all get inside a giant dragon puppet and one lucky eight grade boy gets to wield a magical sword. After the play, we celebrate the glory of the fall harvest with a potlatch. My friend’s mom always made the most amazing pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, one boy brought homemade sourdough and jam, the popular kids brought pie decorated with their own cut-out designs, and one poor kid brought whatever concoction his nutritionist mom saw fit. His last year he gave up and just brought a mug full of garlic. 

School 5: Northwest AcademyHigh school was the first time I really had my own money to spend. But I hated shopping, I still kind of do hate shopping. But I loved buying food. Going to school in downtown Portland gave me everything I needed for a food education. Every two weeks or so I’d adventure out during lunch-hour to find something good at the food carts. Or if it was springtime, I’d venture to the Portland State University farmer’s market. It was $5 for a burrito, $6 for a gyro or a slice of pizza, $7 for pad thai, $8 for a full plate of Hawaiian food. It was heaven.