I have vague fond memories from the ’70s.
I say vague because I can only remember bits and pieces as I was only ages 0-9 within that decade.
But I do have strong memories of things such as the music that played throughout our home, the clothing that my parents wore and of course, the shag carpeting.
I recall my dad wearing lots of plaid pants and my mom wearing owl necklaces, having her long hair put up in bandanas, and lots of bell-bottom pants.
We had spider plants in macrame plant holders, we rode in cars with windows open (because no air conditioning) and listened to 8-track tapes and sat in the front seats There was much more freedom, not as much fear and it was, almost unencumbering? Is that even a word? I remember sitting on said shag carpeting and staying up late (on a school night) and watching the Roots miniseries (at the age of seven) on the television with my mom and dad, then talked about the next day around the breakfast table with my mom and dad.
And we ate casseroles, casseroles, and more casseroles.
That wasn’t the only thing we ate but casseroles were to the ’70s what organic food/paleo food/ quinoa is to 2014, currently.
The ’70s was my happy place decade because it was where I lived with my parents, brother, and grandma, and before I had cares in the world like boyfriends or clothes or peer pressures. The only cares I had was if my mom cut the crusts off the sandwich in my lunch or if I could ride my bike outside after school.
I hope I am creating the same kind of shag carpet/Dorothy Hamill/watching Roots late on a school night childhood for both of my girls.
To say the fondest memories I have revolve around food would be an understatement.
If my parents had known this upon me coming out of the womb, they could have saved a lot of money on road trips and name brand cereal.
Almost every great memory I have as I have grown up has an equally amazing recipe that goes along with it.
Christmas usually meant chocolate crinkle cookies and bacon-wrapped water chestnuts.
Halloween immediately takes me back to apple cider, homemade donuts, and macaroni and cheese fresh from the oven.
I can smell the apples being cooked for the homemade applesauce from the orchard picked produce, the tomatoes being boiled in preparation for canning for homemade spaghetti sauce.
I can hear the popping of popcorn on the stove, hear my mom and grandma’s voices talking about old memories while baking Christmas cookies, laughing about old stories while I smell the chicken roasting in the oven on a Sunday evening.
To this day, when I make waffles on a rainy Saturday morning, it takes me back so vividly I can actually hear my dad’s newspaper rustling in the other room.
Homemade food equates to security in my world.
The kitchen was the center of my Universe, even as a child. It still is.
Appetizers are one of my favorite all-time foods so a few times a year, I center an entire meal around them.
Because appetizers don’t require commitment like a ham or a meatloaf or even hamburgers on the grill do.
A dip is just a dip.
You make it, you get crackers or vegetables to dip in it and that’s it.
You don’t need to spend an entire day making it or a fortune paying for it.
Even if you like fancier appetizers, like brie, you just slap the cheese on a plate, stick a knife in it or add fancy crackers if you feel inclined (or just Triscuits, like we do) and boom, you’ve got yourself dinner.
My mom’s “famous” shrimp dip is a childhood favorite appetizer of our entire family and every time we would have a gathering, we would all ask mom to make it.
It wasn’t a party without it.
My baby shower?
Our rehearsal dinner?
Getaway weekend in Louisville, Kentucky?
Mom brought shrimp dip.
My husband and children even love it and they are the pickiest eaters on the planet.
Ella doesn’t know that there is actual fish in the dip.
AND DON’T YOU DARE TELL HER.
Every year when we put our Christmas tree up, we serve appetizers for dinner.
It is a tradition we all look forward to each year.
We sit around the table and eat all sorts of fun pig in blanket types of foods.
Some years it’s dips, cheese balls, and mini corn dogs.
Others it’s pizza rolls, chicken tenders and cheese, and crackers.
But it always ALWAYS includes mom’s shrimp dip.
For many reasons, because it is hella good, it is easy to make and everyone loves it.
But mainly because it is like she is with us while we are trimming our tree and eating our dip.
With every bite, I am transporting my little family back to our 1976 sunken family room in suburban Chicago, Illinois.
My mom, grandma, dad, and little brother are there and we are listening to Stevie Wonder singing Christmas songs and decorating our artificial tree with handmade ornaments and macrame Santa’s.
Funny how food and music can take you back.
So this holiday season, enjoy my mom’s famous shrimp dip, turn on some Stevie Wonder and let yourself go.
A special thank you to our family friend Terrie, who reached out to me to suggest writing this post.
She has fond memories of the parties my parents threw in the 70s and what was front and center?
The shrimp dip, of course.
Mom’s Shrimp Dip
1 small can of shrimp ( drained and rinsed )
1/2 C. celery, chopped fine
1/4 C. green onion, chopped fine
1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 C. Miracle Whip ( we substitute mayonnaise now)
1 small ( 3 oz. ) cream cheese, softened
Ritz crackers or Triscuit crackers
Mix all except the crackers and chill until you serve.