Vintage food is not “old” food as in – past its prime; uneatable; expired. It’s not that bulging tin can of stewed tomatoes with cryptic black lettering suggesting it was best eaten before 1985. It is the food we remember like a perfect postcard of something delicious that mom or gramma prepared (maybe dad, although I only remember my father standing in front of the stove once to put out a small fire I started at age seven while making toast on a gas flame).

Fresh picked shell beans

Vintage food is a fragrant pan of fresh-baked Parker House Rolls; little pillows of smooth golden crusts, brushed with butter and brought by Aunt Elsie to every funeral reception. It’s a basket of shell beans encased in papery pink and green mottled pods. It is fat, juicy hamburgers cooked in sliced yellow onions and made from a slab of top round beef that the butcher down the street had put through his meat grinder that same day.

It is a picture of Ike and Mamie Eisenhower in the Saturday Evening Post showing them sitting behind TV tray tables with their forks poised over a Swanson’s Turkey Dinner served in an aluminum rectangle with three separate compartments for Turkey, mashed potatoes and green beans. It is Red Flannel Hash (corned beef and diced ¬†potatoes), cod fish cakes sizzling in a heavy, black cast iron fry pan, Finnan Haddie (salted cod cooked in cream) next to boiled new potatoes on a Blue Willow patterned china plate. It is succotash (corn, beans and yellow squash). It is three-layer gold cake with chocolate frosting melting down the sides in summer heat. It is Boston Cream pie made with cooked rather than instant chocolate pudding and real whipped cream.

It is my grandmother saving the snappy wrappers of Planter’s Peanut bars to line the inside of her bureau drawers. It is Ring Dings and Twinkies when they were still an infrequent, albeit artificial-tasting curiosity; not as good as desserts we made at home, but interesting – like something we might eat in outer space someday. It is boiled corn on the cob picked that morning, dripping with butter and salt. It is cow slips gathered in pastures where today a house sits on the primordial spot where I still imagine my grandmother in a long white apron leaning over to pick dewy sprigs of green to be stewed with salt pork that day.

It is spicy low bush blueberries growing along the bank of a pond. It is slow evenings of chopping, blending, baking, braising, boiling and then eating, speaking together at the table, and clearing dishes, washing, tidying up the kitchen, reading, and going to bed.