February 4, 2014 at 1:00 am

Maureen Tisdale

Let's Talk Food: Imitation crab, and what foods do you connect with certain people?

Imitation crab, the poor man's treat (Maureen Tisdale)

I just spent such a great weekend eating, preparing food and gabbing about life or as my friend Amy and I call it, Listing. (We make a List of topics we just HAVE to talk over in detail, adding and crossing out as we go; weve been doing this since college.)

You might remember Amy from a previous Lets Talk Food; shes the friend who loved hating my Bad Cookies, and was disappointed the one time I made them with fresh ingredients and they werent so bad. Shes smart and funny, and I really love our deep, philosophical talks about everything from child-raising to difficult relationship wrangling to critical thinking in politics and more.

For Christmas, Amys husband Scott gave her a trip up from Alabama to visit me so we could List, and naturally as it does in so much of my life food played a huge role.

Between when Amy arrived Thursday and left Sunday, I got her to try my roasted Brussels sprouts and purple sweet potatoes (youll be hearing about both of those upcoming, methinks), the simple banana cake Id made from a recipe we ran in the paper a while back, two dairy-free yogurts I get for my husband, a frozen-yogurt like treat from putting frozen bananas through a Yonana machine, my beloved cashew butter and rice cakes, and the infamous Tisdale fudge Id squirreled away for her in the freezer since Christmas.

We also treated ourselves to kid-free meals out (Middle Eastern, Thai and coney island) and continued to List while I batch-cooked my familys food for the next few days.

But what caught my attention most was that Amy asked if I had any imitation crab. I know this may sound unusual, but I love the stuff and keep it on hand. It freezes well (I weigh 4-ounce portions into baggies), its a great way to get a toddler to eat fish (fun red-and-white color, sweet taste, physically easy to grab), and, as it comes fully cooked, its just so easy. You can make sandwiches with it, but its delightful on its own, especially with a side of rice as a sort of poor mans Chinese food (hmm, theres another favorite I should tell you about soon).

Anyway, Amy isnt the only visitor who connects me with the stuff. My sister Mavi is always up for the pretend-lobster rolls I make with it (just a hot-dog bun and mayo, but it still takes her back to the toasted buttered rolls filled with lobster salad of our beloved Maine), so I get it whenever she visits.

This got me thinking about the mental connections we form between people and food: the goodies my Grammy would have on hand when I visited as a child, the fajitas we always do when visiting my sister-in-law and her family, the baked oatmeal I connect with my mother-in-law and the New England boiled dinner I relate to my mom.

I bet you connect certain foods to certain people, too, and Im interested to hear about them.

As for Amy, sadly, she left imitation-crab-less; Ive yet to figure out a good way to fast-defrost the stuff (in the microwave, bits burn quickly, and soaking the baggies tends to waterlog them; leaving it in the fridge overnight is the only good way Ive found to restore the meat to its tender state).

Maybe Amy missing out on imitation crab this time isnt such a bad thing if we can use that undone business as an excuse to get together and List again soon.

Do you have foods you instantly connect to visiting with a certain person? Wed love to hear about it in the comments below. You need a Facebook account to add comments, but theyre easy to sign up for, and free. Detroit News Food Editor Maureen Tisdale will respond to comments or questions in the next few days. You also can follow her on Twitter @reentiz. Join the discussion!