Memories of Melba Toast


The Christmas season is one time of the year when past memories tend to crowd into my life. Some of those memories are expected, particularly memories surrounding my dad at Christmas time. Sometimes though something very plain and ordinary brings back all kinds of different memories. Such was the case yesterday, when I purchased some Melba Toast.

Memories of Melba Toast
Buying some Melba Toast brought back all sorts of childhood memories.

I don’t know what other people’s childhoods were like, but in mine, dining out was something we rarely did. Having a family of eight certainly had something to do with it. Meals out were limited to a handful of occasions every year. We had a couple of traditions, such as KFC on Christmas Eve, or Chinese food for New Year’s Eve, but by and large, we ate meals prepared and cooked at home.

If you have any memories of extras that came along with eating out or if you have any products that were part of your childhood traveling experiences, please feel free to tell me about them in the comments. Also, please feel free to share stories of when a product brought back old memories you had maybe forgotten about.
For me, the Kraft Spaghetti Dinner is the one that stands out the most for me, in that when I started working in a grocery store some 30 odd years ago, it was still was bought reasonably frequently, but by the time I left 14 years later a case would take about six months to sell.

Even when we went on vacation we rarely ate out. Our dinners tended to consist of the trio of Kraft Spaghetti Dinner, supplemented by green beans,Swift or Burns Canned Ham,later immortalized by David Letterman as “Big-Ass Canned Ham,” or the piece de résistance, the Canned Chicken.


I’m sure there were other things that we ate, but it’s these three that stick in my memory. Most of our meals were at roadside diners, and consisted of french fries (at least that’s how the family story goes).

Every so often we would go out some place a little nicer (usually this was a place like Bonanza or Ponderosa, so you get some idea of what our standard of nice was). However, maybe once a year we would go to a restaurant that had actual tablecloths, and then we would enjoy a dinner that featured the basket of bread sticks or Melba Toast. As a kid these were a welcome addition to the meal, because they were free. An extra that wouldn’t be added on to the bill (childhood economics: If I don’t see a number on the bill, it doesn’t cost anything).

Melba Toast for Tasting

Fast forward to the present, my economic understanding has improved, as have my taste buds. However, while I was doing various bits of shopping over the last couple of weeks, I brought a variety of Manitoba made products. I thought as I bought them, that I might include them in some recipes, but found that my schedule wasn’t allowing me as much opportunity to do that as I like, and if it turned out anything like my Christmas baking did, there would be no pictures to go with the products.

Then, wandering around Safeway last night, I came across Melba Toast on sale, and thought, that’s it. I’ve got a few jams and sauces, putting them on some Melba Toast would be a great way to sample them. I could do it with bread, but then the likelihood would be I’d end up eating a whole loaf of bread in one sitting (not that I’ve ever done that…at least not in the last month).

Memories of strawberry spread
Grunthal Berries Artisanal Strawberry Spread. Sweet with just a hint of tartness.

Grunthal Berries Artisanal Strawberry Spread

On my visits to Fromagerie Bothwell, I thought I would continue down to Choclatier Constance Popp, and enjoy one of her excellent spicy chocolate beverages. Unfortunately, it was later in the day, and they were sold out (it’s very popular). So, I looked around the store to see what else I might like and came across this Strawberry Spread from Grunthal Berries.

Memories of strawberry spread on Melba toast
Stawberry Spread on Melba Toast.

One of the good things about Melba toast is that it doesn’t take away from the flavour of anything you top it with. This strawberry spread is quite wonderful. Spread is a good name because it’s not as thick as a jam, and runnier than a jelly. The strawberry flavour bursts out, and it’s sweet, with just a little bit of tartness to it.

Memories of mango chutney
A good chutney with plenty of mango flavour, and just a hint of curry flavour.

Cheeky Chutney Mango Chutney

I went to Generation Green the other day looking for gift inspiration, but I didn’t see a whole lot of new foods. I did however, run across this Mango Chutnery from Cheeky Chutney. This is a locally produced product, and it’s really good. There is a strong mango flavour with a hint of curry behind it. It sat well on the Melba Toast, and would be a good item to mix into your meal. The company doesn’t appear to have any social media, besides an unused Instagram account. Hopefully they will work on that in the new year.

Memories of melba toast with cheeky chutney.
Nice and spreadable chutney.
Memories of hot sauce from Tasty Heat
Tasty Heat’s Habanero Fruits hot sauce. A hot sauce that lives up to the name.

Tasty Heat Habanero Fruits Ghost Whiskey Hot Sauce

I’ve seen posts from Tasty Heat on the Manitoba Food Bloggers Facebook Page, for a little while now, but hadn’t got around to trying them out until the last few days. I don’t even remember where I purchased this bottle from. I remember there were several varieties in a basket, and I picked out what appeared to be the hottest of the choices available.

One of the things about hot sauce that I don’t like is that you always seem to be caught between two elements. Either the hot sauce is really hot, but the flavour is off putting. Or, the flavour is good but there’s no real heat to the sauce.

Memories of lingering hot sauce.
Depending on your tolerance for heat, you may not want to put that much hot sauce on the Melba Toast.

Such is not the case with the Tasty Heat sauce I tried. According to the thermometer on the side of the bottle, this is one of their hottest varieties, and it lived up to that. At the same time there was good flavour that would enhance rather than detract from any dish that you added it to. I’m definitely going to be trying out other varieties of their sauces.Memories of cold-pressed soybean oil

Melo’s Finest Soybean Oil

This is one that I didn’t try on Melba toast. I did try it a couple of ways. The first was I added it to some pasta and peas. Normally if I was doing something without a sauce I would just add some butter, but I add this instead, and it gave a flavour boost to the dish. However, it didn’t give me a sense of what the oil itself tasted like.

So, I decided to try some just on the end of a spoon. It tasted pretty much like I was eating crunchy chick pea snacks. I’m looking forward to the ways in which I can incorporate this Melo’s oil into my cooking.

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24 comments

  1. Making Christmas cookies takes me back to my grandma’s baking because I make the same ones she used to bake every year. I feel like she’s in the kitchen with me sometimes. The most powerful scent-related memory comes from a recipe for ginger creams out of the 1963 Betty Crocker Cooky Book. I enjoyed reading about your family memories. Your dinner descriptions took me back to my family’s eating out and home-cooked dinners. Ponderosa and Brown Derby were labeled “fancy” by the Mather family. We ate at Burger Chef usually after trying times, like a trip to the doctor. The first time I ate at Wendy’s was when my friend JoAnn invited me for a sleepover. I thought her family was rich! My mom also made Kraft spaghetti and she often used the Chef Boyardee pizza kit. My friend Cindy next door thought my mom made better pizza than delivery. Do you know those chow mein noodles? My mom used to brown a pound of ground beef, then pour Campbell’s vegetable beef or alphabet soup over it, and add the chow mein noodles for crunch. It became a lunchtime favorite.

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    • Thanks for commenting. I intended to do a post on my Christmas baking, and I still might do one in the next few days. I was using recipes out of an old recipe book called “Meals from the Manse,” which featured recipes from famous preacher’s wives. Old enough that Ruth Bell Graham was simply described as Mrs. Billy Graham.

      For some reason, pizza was never a very popular dish at our house. So, we never used the Chef Boyardee pizza mix. It does sound like we had fairly similar dining experiences growing up.

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  2. When I was a child in a small town in eastern Montana my family ate out no more than once a month. Dad was a teacher; Mom worked in the home and meticulously managed the money to make ends meet. Pay day was the 15th of the month and it meant we got to go to the bowling alley for supper. All I ever remember anyone ordering was a hamburger deluxe with french fries. I would drink Dr. Pepper and my sister had Mountain Dew.

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  3. Your post reminded me of apple butter. I loved eating apple butter with real butter on a slice of bread. I’d spread the two things on one slice (of white, soft Wonder Bread) and fold it in half. Then I started doing the same with baloney with Miracle Whip, Kraft American cheese, and Heinz dill pickles.

    That seems like a long time ago….

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  4. Eating out wasn’t something I did with my family (ever) until my friends got driver’s licenses and we would go somewhere as simple as Mother’s or Olive Garden many years ago. My dad was a fussy eater and preferred to eat at home. My mom on the other hand, enjoyed the experience and was happy to do so once my brother and I were able to drive since she never learned to drive herself.

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  5. What a wonderful trip down memory lane! My family and taste buds also had very humble beginnings. Growing up in the Deep South as the daughter of a college basketball coach, money was always tight. We rarely ate out unless it was Krystal hamburgers ($0.15) or at a restaurant called the Varsity where the lunch plate was $2 for adults and I think $1 for kids which would get a slice of meat, a mess of veggies, cornbread and a sweet tea. Most family gatherings centered around food, and the one that still amazes me is Kraft Mac-N-Cheese. I do not know what her magic mojo was, but there is no one who could make it like my maternal grandmother, Nannie. She made plenty of things from scratch, but simply seeing her Mac-N-Cheese out of a box (on the shelf) transports me to childhood every time.

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    • Thanks for the comment, and for sharing your story. You were lucky to have someone who knew how to prepare Kraft Mac-N-Cheese. My mother made it with 3/4 cup milk, and less than the called for margarine, and ours was always dry and clumpy. $.15 hamburgers sounds like a great deal. I wish I could find something like that now.

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    • Thanks, I took a look at your post as well. Our Christmases were quite similar. Except we went to church Christmas morning. On Christmas Eve the whole family would go to one of the local jails. My dad was a Salvation Army Officer working in Correctional services, so we would do a service at the jail on Christmas Eve.

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  6. My family was very poor so eating out happened very rarely. If we did go out it was almost always at a buffet because there were 6 kids! A few foods always remind me of my childhood, like off-brand cereal, nachos, canned green beans and spray cheese (on celery). A real “treat” was when my dad cooked he’d either boil hot dogs or give us spam and mustard sandwiches! Not a fan of spam straight from the can but it does remind me of my dad and I can’t help but smile. We probably ate oatmeal or cream of wheat every day for a year and to this day I still can’t touch the stuff. Awful!

    I do also have good-food memories too, such as Christmas fudge, my mom’s gravy and the special holiday meals prepared by my Dutch grandma. A lot of my memories are tied to food. 🙂

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    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. Off brands were a regular part of my life as well. When it came to cereal, it was puffed wheat in the summer and oatmeal in the winter. Our Christmas treat was the variety pack Kellogg’s cereals.

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