Cooking For Memories

Memories are powerful. Food memories are even more powerful. Well, at least I think so. When people ask me what I specialize in, I say “food memories,” among other things. I either want to prepare something that catapults you back to a particular special moment or time in your life, or create something that becomes that moment you will always remember and hold dear.

I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Cheryl and Griffin Day of Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, GA. First off, I was impressed with the name. It’s so clever. When you walk into the shop, it’s like you’ve walked onto the set of Mad Men. You are truly back-in-the-day with the tin trays, pastel colors, vintage signs on the walls, even the patchy, but artsy, wallpaper donning the walls. You obviously go there for the sweet and savory treats, but when you walk in the door you get a lot more than that. I felt like a kid in a candy store. More specifically, I felt like I had been catapulted back to my early years and into my grandmother’s house. I spent the first 15 minutes looking around and craning my neck to take everything in. Wow! What a special place. And then there is Cheryl Day. She exuded warmth and charm, and she’s as cute as a button. I just wanted to go up and hug her. (Okay, I did.)

When I finally finished looking and touching and playing with as much as I could, I turned to Cheryl and asked her about her specialties. Obviously, she thought everything was good, but she was clearly proud of her cupcakes (they have hand tinted jimmies!) and banana pudding. She also spoke of Griffin’s homemade sour dough bread with pride. Unfortunately, I was there on an off day, so I missed the bread. Based on the other things I did have, it’s worth the trip back to get one of those specialty sandwiches. Before I started eating my way through the bakery, I joined Cheryl at a table to frost and decorate cupcakes. I was fascinated with the ease and technique she used to swirl a mound of icing, perfectly dimpled in the middle. I tried my hand at the technique, but I think I needed a lot more practice. Cheryl told me mine were good, but that’s what mamas and nurturing souls do. The finishing touches were these retro plastic toys and cake toppers that were just too cute. Too cute! I’m already looking forward to my next trip down and lesson number two.

The primary reason I was at the bakery was to taste their banana pudding. When I tell you this was the BEST ‘nana puddin’ I have ever had, I’m still not doing it justice. Instead of nilla wafers, Cheryl makes her own shortbread (her grandmother’s recipe). Then she layers that buttery, sandy goodness with freshly whipped cream and a banana pudding that is so light, yet substantial, that it makes you look at her and say, "WHAT? HOW?!" This is the kind of thing you want to eat in the privacy of your own home, so you don’t disturb other diners while moaning and scraping your bowl. Let me go on the record by saying that I already had a wonderful memory of a banana pudding in my head that was hard to top, but Cheryl managed to crush that memory by replacing it with something that still makes me smile and long for more.

Okay, so after I finished the big bowl of nana puddin’, I had to try the cupcakes. In a word...YUM! The texture was that of my grandmother’s dense but moist cake that I love. And the icing is to die for. Cheryl and Griffin should be so proud. If you think I’m going on like I’m in a love fest, I am. Those of you who’ve been there can relate.

Food memories are powerful, and it’s such an honor to be able to invoke them for someone or create new ones. I wish all of you a life time full of wonderful food memories. ...and this is why you cook with love!


Carla Hall was a finalist on Top Chef: Season 5 and runs Alchemy Caterers in Washington, D.C.

- Strawberries and Rhubarb: A Winning Combination
- See all of Carla's posts here

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