My earliest food memories were of foraging, fishing, and hunting in the woods with my father, as well as farming, preserving, and baking with my mother, grandmother, and great aunts.
I grew up on the Eastern European side of the railroad tracks in a tiny coal mining town called Swoyersville, PA. Picture Greenpoint, Brooklyn, without the city. The street I grew up on was Poland street, which was next to Warsaw street, followed by Kossack street. You get the picture.
Every single property had their own food garden and competed for best vegetables. Everyone hunted, fished, foraged and preserved their foods. Breads were baked, homemade wine was on the table. There was a sauerkraut club, an actual thing, but likely also an excuse for the neighborhood men to get drunk in a garage.
I earned the penny candy wage of 25 cents an hour on my great aunt’s farm to pick vegetables, clean the coops, and harvest wild ingredients to make root beers and jams. Later in the evening my money was gone and back in her change jar after a few rounds of playing cards at the kitchen table. My card playing skills never improved.
My friends from school had a reality much different than mine. There were a lot of Hot Pockets and chicken nuggets. My friends would come over to our house in the winter and see deer hanging in the garage, meats curing in the basement, food from a “can” was in glass Mason jars preserved from the summer. There was always a barrel of sauerkraut. (The sauerkraut club was to a degree, productive...)
I was considered the “weird food house”.