The love for our childhood favorites lasts a lifetime.

Lorri Wilson last slathered olive butter on a sandwich 50 years ago. But she still remembers how good it tasted.

Salty. Tangy. The perfect accompaniment to peanut butter, or bologna and mustard. 

“When you’re a kid, you try anything,” she said. “That stuff was delicious.”

Wilson, now 68 and living in Hebron, has eaten all kinds of sandwiches since then. Still, she can’t help but think wistfully of the smooth brown olive butter inside the glass jar.    

“I’ve gone on the Internet and researched and can’t find it,” she said. “I did find some ‘olive butter ‘and I ordered it, which was quite expensive. And I got it and I thought, ‘This isn’t the stuff. This ain’t the real stuff.'”

Other people flash back to salt-dipped scallions eaten with chocolate cake. Straws that were used to flavor plain milk. Macaroni, tomato sauce and chili powder.

They are the foods of childhood.

Foods that usually prompt happy memories. Sometimes cringe-worthy. But all vivid.

“I think we’re almost hard-wired. Food is something that we need, we like. It elicits response in us,” said Paul Drowns, community cooking educator at St. Mary’s Nutrition Center in Lewiston and food devotee. “I think it’s logical that we would remember the first or the best or the brightest.”

Readers recently shared some of their favorites with the Sun Journal.

The good

Drowns, 63, has spent his life with food. Mediterranean, French, Italian — name a cuisine and chances are he loves to cook it, teach about it or eat it.

But his most profound food memory is of a simple sweet-and-juicy peach. 

“I must have been about 5 years old. I remember my mother, after supper and after just a short little bit of TV, takes me into the bathroom, takes my clothes off and puts me in the tub, no water, and hands me a peach. In my mind, the peach looked like a beach ball,” said Drowns, who now lives in Saco. “I’ve been looking for that peach my entire life. It was one that was perfectly ripe, perfectly good. It was just marvelous.”

Carol Hanscombe was a third-grader in Boston in 1956 when she encountered something marvelous. Flav-r Straws.

“These particular straws had a coating on the inside. There was either a vanilla or a strawberry or a chocolate coating,” she said. “It still had a hole in the middle so that when you stuck your straw into your carton of milk and sucked it up, the white milk would go past the flavor coating on the inside and you would taste chocolate milk, strawberry milk or vanilla milk.”

It was all so very good. Especially the chocolate.

“But all of a sudden, poof, they were gone,” she said.

By the time Hanscombe had entered the fourth grade, the straws had disappeared from her grocery store’s shelves. Now 65 and living in Lewiston, she still thinks about them. (For an interesting thread and news on a resurrection of the straws, go to http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/310953.)

For Linda Knight, 71, the best foods came from home: homemade ice cream, garden vegetables, meat and eggs from the family farm.

And milk. Lots of it.

“We had a farm, so had plenty of milk,” Knight, who now lives in Harrison, said in an email.

Milk with bread and molasses. Saltine crackers crumbled in milk. Milk poured over mashed bananas and bread. 

“We ate these foods a lot. We thought they were very good,” she said. “If we wanted more, we would scrape a big portion of the bananas off and add more milk. We would then do the same with another slice. We could do this a few times.”

Sahro Hassan’s food memories aren’t decades old, but they are strong and tied to family. 

“When I was a kid, during Ramadan we would make a lot of food with our neighbors when we were in the (Kenyan refugee) camp. Everyone would bring different food, like sambusa and like mandazi,” she said. “The neighbors would gather together and just share at the end of the day when the sun goes down.”

Hassan, 18, arrived in the U.S. eight years ago. Today, her favorite foods still revolve around family.

“I like making lasagna at home for my family,” said Hassan, a youth leader at St. Mary’s Nutrition Center. “That’s something that none of my family members can make, and it’s kind of special when I make it and everybody just sits at the table and eats.”

Pat Flewelling was one of 12 kids in a household that also included her parents, an aunt and a grandmother. So food wasn’t plentiful. Federal surplus commodities helped, giving the family dry milk, cheese, peanut butter and powered eggs that her father liked to scramble with hamburger.

But one of her favorite dishes was “moop and goop,” macaroni mixed with tomato sauce and chili powder — all cooked in an aluminum kettle and a cast iron skillet.

“We actually grew up loving that. So ‘moop and goop’ was kind of our go-to favorite meal,” said Flewelling, now 63 and living in Leeds. “As some of us got older, we used to cook that.”

The fourth oldest, Flewelling learned to cook when she was about 5. 

“My husband still says I can make something out of nothing. It’s because that’s kind of what we had to do,” she said. “We were fortunate enough to know how to cook, and that helped a great deal.” 

Including one night when Flewelling’s mother had only biscuits and rhubarb sauce available for dinner. It turned out to be such a hit that the family has carried on the recipe for decades. Flewelling’s granddaughter now asks for it.

“One of my sisters who lives in New York always wants rhubarb sauce and biscuits when she comes to my house. We remember it fondly. My mother remembers it with horror. She felt terrible that’s all she had to feed to her children,” she said. “But that’s a favorite memory, actually. It was like a special treat.”

The bad

Something that wasn’t so special in Flewelling’s home: her father’s “salad.”

It was made entirely of canned goods, and included tuna, mixed vegetables, shelled beans, pineapple — all mixed together.

“It was the most disgusting thing I can recall eating in my life,” she said. “My father was quite a strict person and expected us to eat these things. That was just almost too much to get down. I still have a visceral reaction to thinking about having to eat that.”

Today Flewelling can eat pineapple, tuna and mixed vegetables separately. But while she loves reproducing her mom’s biscuits and rhubarb sauce, she’s never had a yearning for her father’s canned salad.

 “It was just a total bizarre thing,” she said. “And I don’t even know how my father thought of putting those things together. He was a very intelligent man, but this was a total disaster and mistake as far as food.”

Growing up in the Congo, 18-year-old Fiston Mubalama loved beans, rice and escargot. Snails were, he discovered, less dangerous to eat than fish.

“A (fish) bone got caught in my throat. I never eat fish anymore in Africa,” he said.

The memory stayed with Mubalama for years. He didn’t eat fish again until he moved to the United States two years ago — and only then at his mother’s insistence. But she didn’t insist he eat pizza. And after looking at it, he wasn’t about to try it on his own.

“I didn’t like pizza,” he said. “I didn’t taste it. I just said, ‘I don’t like this.'”

It took a mealtime gathering to change his mind.

“We got there and it was just pizza and some Pepsi. That was it,” said Mubalama, now a youth leader at St. Mary’s Nutrition Center. “We didn’t have a choice; we had to eat it.”

Pizza, it turned out, is good.

The really . . . unusual

A military veteran who served overseas, 61-year-old Larry Marquis of Turner has eaten a lot of unusual foods. Bugs. Lizard tails. Raw octopus.

Sometimes he didn’t even know what he was eating.

It’s a taste for adventure that started when he was a child. With scallions.

“When I was a youngster I loved scallions. I’d eat them for breakfast with cereal, lunch and dinner. My favorite was with pumpkin pie or chocolate cake with white frosting. I’d dip the scallion in salt and take a bite of the cake,” Marquis said in an email. “I would probably do this today except the salt and sugar is bad for me. I eat the scallions in moderation now, or there is the heartburn to deal with.”

For George M. Dycio egg and tuna fish sandwiches were his weakness.

“As a kid I ate egg and tuna fish salad sandwiches that one of the moms in our neighborhood used to make for her three sons. . . . Apparently, they were not as fond of them as I was, and it was only when we got older that their mom discovered that I was the one finishing those sandwiches and not her boys,” he said in an email. “Afterwards, I began making them for myself even though my family thought I was weird for liking them!”

Forty years later, the sandwiches remain a favorite.

“I still make them from time to time to reminisce about my childhood days,” said Dycio, 54, economic development specialist for the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council. “I make them with two or three scrambled eggs, a small can of tuna fish in oil (keep the oil) and a few tablespoons of Hellman’s mayonnaise. You can also make them with tuna fish in water, but you will want to drain the water first as it will make the egg and tuna fish salad runny. I keep the oil when I make them because there’s something about tuna packed in oil that makes these sandwiches taste so much better!”

Wilson doesn’t have her beloved olive butter anymore (best with peanut butter or baloney and mustard sandwiches), but her “dad sandwich” will always be around.

That’s sliced boiled egg, peanut butter and mayo on toast, with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

“It probably sounds terrible to other people,” she admitted. “But it’s better than an Egg McMuffin.”

Wilson has the breakfast sandwich a couple of times a week. She loves it in part because they’re tied to the cherished memory of her father making the very same sandwich when she was a child. And in part because they’re just plain tasty.

“That’s what I ate for breakfast, ever since I was a kid. I used to call it ‘dad sandwich’ because I don’t think there was ever a name for it. He ate them right up until he passed away,” she said. “Just like I eat them.”

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