As I was finishing off a delicious can of V-8 this morning, I had one of those surprising memory associations assail me: one of the many reasons that I love V-8s might be that the overall taste is evocative of summers at my grandma Nellie’s house. I’ve consumed a few thousand V-8s in my life; I can say that without fear of exaggeration. To have just now made the connection between the tomato aftertaste of V-8 and being at my grandma’s house was a nice surprise for me.
One thing grandma loved to fatten me up with was plain macaroni. After cooking it, she would add tomato sauce and/or paste to the water and let the macaroni continue to soak up more water. The heated concoction would pass the aroma around the kitchen and house. Even if I had recently eaten, I would tell myself I could eat a big bowl of macaroni and tomato sauce as “just a snack,” as if an entire box of any kind of pasta is anything less than a ridiculous challenge to most people. The legend that I could consume a dozen adult portions at one sitting was no exaggeration. It was an easy, cheap food to make for me. It just so happened that I LOVED macaroni cooked this way. There were many afternoons were I would eat the entire pot of macaroni by myself, usually washing it down with Coke from a 2-liter bottle.
I drank a second V-8 later today, this time deliberately thinking about how much it reminded me of grandma’s macaroni, sitting on a rough wood floor, watching a very poor tv signal, enjoying myself as if I were a king.
It is hard to imagine anything simpler than those moments. No amount of complexity and choice would have made those bits of macaroni any more delicious.
Were it possible, I sometimes would choose to be able to go back to one of those summer afternoons, with nothing except a bowl of macaroni, a glass of coke, and a small house on a small rise in the road, looking out toward the big world with my grandma and granddad. I never noticed how scarce my tv options were and I never felt poor at their house. And I would never have thought I wasn’t well-fed.