The Taste of Home


Two words–Tofu Manicotti–were enough to strike fear into the hearts and stomachs of us Moon kids.

Long before the first Whole Foods Market made its way to Ohio, my mom bought into the 80s tofu craze and made it her mission to sneak soy into ordinarily tasty dishes. And so Tofu Manicotti was born. Other health-nutty adventures of hers were more successful. For years, she was a member of the Racoon County Co-op, which saw penny-pinching homemakers like her traveling to Cleveland’s food terminal before dawn to purchase natural foods in bulk. We got our honey from a beekeeper down the road. And Mom’s backyard vegetable garden kept us in zucchini, pepper, and tomato frittatas all summer long.

Before my mom passed away, she made each of us kids a cookbook, in which she hand wrote family recipes we wouldn’t want to forget. (Tofu Manicotti does not appear.) There’s frugal, egg-based dishes, like stratas; Midwestern standards like Ham Loaf and Dried Beef Casserole; an Italian aunt’s sauce and meatballs recipe. And so, these recipes–and memories–I can recreate.

Other dishes I have to return home for: good potato pancakes, homemade pierogi, a real-deal Lake Erie Perch fish fry.

I figured I’m not the only one who hankers for the foods of a Rust Belt upbringing. Turns out, I’m not. Thanks so much to the helpful folks in my *Fiction Writing FB group, who chimed in with their favorite hometown foods–or, in one case, the detestable food of her hometown she just can’t forget. Yep, I’m talking about you, Spam!

Did I forget your favorite hometown food? Reply here, or meet me on my Rust Belt Girl page on FB, where I muse about all things Rust Belt. Next week, I’ll feature a review of the memoir, Cinderland. Read it?

Here’s my uber-scientific survey response, below. Big winners: fish frys and pierogi; runner-up, coneys:

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*Thanks again to Daniel from Youngstown, Ohio; Chris; Amy from Northwest, Ohio; Adrian; Jules from Michigan; Dean; Brian; Dawn; Pumkin; Marguerite; and Carol, who has been through Erie, Pennsylvania, enough to adopt the local hotdog as her own.