A Taste of Honey by
(220 Stories)

Prompted By First Memory

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I am standing to the right of the teacher (her left)

As this week’s prompt suggests, most of my early childhood memories may have been influenced by hearing family stories or seeing old photographs, rather than being independent recollections of my own. Here is the earliest memory that I am confident is really mine, because there are no photos of it, and nobody else in the family was there.

On Thursdays we got to stay for lunch, which was very exciting - chicken noodle soup and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

When I was three years old, I went to a pre-nursery school in Nutley, New Jersey, the town next to Belleville. It was not daycare, none of our mothers worked outside the home, it was simply the first attempt to get us socialized and used to being with groups of children our own age. I thought it met every day, but the caption on the newspaper photo of our graduation says it was a “weekly story-telling hour.” I wonder if this is accurate, or if the caption-writer got it wrong. If it did only meet once a week, my memory must be from the next year, when I went to the Tena Harris Nursery School in Kearny, New Jersey, which I’m sure was five mornings a week. I don’t have any pictures from Tena Harris, not even a newspaper clipping like the one above.

Whichever school it was, I have a very clear memory that while on other days of the week we were just there in the morning, on Thursdays we got to stay for lunch. This was very exciting, because that was something that big kids did. The lunch was always chicken noodle soup with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. However, I didn’t like jelly then, so I had a plain peanut butter sandwich. (Now I wonder if I would have liked it with honey, as suggested by my title song from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.) I’m pretty sure the soup was Campbell’s, that’s certainly what it tasted like, so they must have gotten it in #10 cans, the size restaurants use. For my entire childhood that was my favorite kind of soup, probably because I associated it with those Thursday lunches at nursery school.

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Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    You are right, Suzy. It is difficult to know what is a real memory of one so young, and what we know from old photos or family stories, but this a good one. I love the soup and sandwich – classics for the era. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of peanut butter and honey, but why not? People put all sorts of stuff on their peanut butter. And chicken noodle soup is about as good as it gets (along with tomato soup with grilled cheese, but more difficult to make in large quantity for pre-school kids). Thanks for searching and coming with a bonafide story.

    • Suzy says:

      Betsy, I’m surprised you haven’t heard of peanut butter and honey, that was a common variation when my kids were young. And of course there is also Elvis’ favorite, peanut butter and banana. But I only mentioned it because I wanted to use the song for my title. 🙂

  2. John Shutkin says:

    A really cute memory, Suzy, and knowing your position as the baby in the family, I am glad that you can comfortably claim it as your own, and not simply family lore. But I am glad you have the newspaper clipping of the graduation as well. Do you remember posing for that? (I would think that getting to wear the mortarboard hats might be memorable.)

    At the least, you remember the soup. Of course, it had to be Campbell’s; what other brands did we have then? (And so nice of Andy Warhol to let you use his can.) Do you still like chicken noodle or is it just a happy childhood memory? And, conversely, did you ever come around on jelly?

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    I love that you have a fond memory of your time at nursery school, Suzy. I always hoped that the children that attended my school would at least hold some portion of the experience in their hearts, if not in their minds. A “graduate” who returned to visit as a high school volunteer told us it smelled the same — a mixture of playdough and glue.

    • Suzy says:

      Laurie, I should have known that you would relate to my nursery school memory. I loved going to nursery school! In those days it wasn’t so common, but I think both of those years were a great experience for me, as I’m sure it was for the children who attended your school.

  4. Too sweet! Love the little mortarboards, all those Mary Janes…and you with the double-strap style, you little rebel! (Oh, and nice reach with the honey connection!)

  5. Marian says:

    Great memory, Suzy, and I think PBJ and Campbell’s soup was ubiquitous as lunch for preschoolers in our day. Funny, I went to nursery school as well for the same reason as you. I think it was at our synagogue but don’t have a clear memory of it. I remember kindergarten the next year very well.

  6. Dave Ventre says:

    I was the other way around; I could not, and still can’t, stand peanut butter! Love jelly, though.

    There’s a pretty strong Jersey contingent here on Retrospect!

  7. Khati Hendry says:

    I confess to being another Campbell’s soup victim–we had bean with bacon, scotch broth, tomato, and of course cream of mushroom blended into countless casseroles. That, and jello, and bacon grease on the griddle–what a change in diet since then for me! My memory of my brief nursery school experience was mostly of graham crackers and milk, the only part I liked. I still like them.

  8. Wonderful memory Suzy, and now you’ve got me thinking about the tastes and the foods that evoke older times and other places!

    I remember as a kid eating tomatoes and lamb chops off a tin plate with embossed apples – I think it was my special plate. And I also remember loving raw peas and once dreaming I had a big, tremendous pea to eat all by myself!

  9. A special thanks for this, Suzy. Well told and written as usual, but your retelling of a nursery school experience prompted a recall of my own nursery school experience. Don’t know if it was everyday; probably was, and as for you, for me and the other kids this was purely for socialization as our mothers didn’t work outside the home. Anyway, I remember having a pretty big stuffed panda bear. Don’t know why I was taking it to nursery school but on a rainy day when I was picked up for school I dropped him in a puddle. I remember Mom hanging him up to dry by his ears.

  10. I like that you associate your earliest memories with taste/smell of foods–as did Marcel Proust, and as did I, as you will see in my own “first memory.”

  11. Such a well-preserved clipping, Suzy! And there you are, knees and all! I was struck by the deduction that you must have made a special request not to have jelly on your sandwich. Very prepossessed for a three-year-old!

    • Suzy says:

      The clipping was in the photo album my mother gave me many years ago, with my baby pictures in it. It only has pictures up to the age of 3, and then lots of newspaper clippings from every graduation I ever had.

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