The Smellier the Better
Learning to eat smelly food in the good old days, with a recipe
I was born in 1959, in the canyon between the Greatest Generation and the Me Generation. I feel very lucky to be born at the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation.
I grew up in Fair Haven, Connecticut, a blue collar section of New Haven. The majority of my neighbors were Italian, African American, Portuguese, East European, Puerto Rican and Irish Catholics. I am old enough to have grandparents from the old country who lived through the Great Depression. My parents, my uncles, aunts and many neighbors came of age during the post war baby boom that made up America’s greatest working class. Many dads worked in the manufacturing plants and urban factories that were thriving in New Haven at the time. Most men worked a first, second or third shift job and many women were full time or at least part time home makers. Plenty of guys came home for lunch in their dark green uniforms and blue jumpsuits. Supper was served at served a 6 o’clock sharp. Restaurants were for Saturday nights, maybe, or Sunday after church.
When I was still in grammar school, I played with my friends in the neighborhood after school, but always had to be home by 5:30 for dinner. In this working class world, dinner was served at 6 at the latest. On my late afternoon walks home, a myriad of distinct cooking aromas wafted from the apartments and small houses I passed. Some of the smells were enticing. I was especially attracted to the mysterious frying smells from Puerto Ricans and the garlicky aromas from the Italian households. Others were revolting to me. The smelly fermented aromas that wafted from the Polish, Czech and Ukrainian houses repelled me. In my mind the people living there must have smelled stinky like their food.
I flash back to a dinner at my boyhood friend Anthony Demarco’s house. His dad was Italian but his mom was Ukrainian. He worked second shift, 3-11pm, at the Armstrong Rubber factory. She was a stay at home mom. She was a tall, strong looking blonde who always wore bright pink lipstick, sky blue eyeshadow, brown high heeled shoes with large brass buckles and floral patterned knee high dresses. When she was at home, she seemed to always be wearing the same stiff, off-white bib apron with the pink pockets over her dress. She was a confusing early crush for me. She was my best friends mom, after all. Even though she always smelled of her drugstore perfume, I wondered if under it all, she also smelled like her stinky food.
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