My lox and bagel sandwich made me cry the other day. My almost four-year-old patted my knee and advised me to take a drink of water. But the tears weren’t caused by a bitten tongue, or even by the significant onion slice atop the garlic bagel.
I took a bite and was transported to my grandma’s kitchen circa 1990. I smelled the kugels (sweet noodle pudding) in the oven (made just for me, sans raisins, one to take home for later), saw the big bowl of sugar-laden blueberries next to my plate, and all the lox and bagels I could ever want to eat at the table. Grandma always fed me well.
I visited her a few days before the teary lox and bagel incident. She’s not doing any cooking these days, so it’s up to me to recreate her kugel for my family and introduce the concept of a smoked fish atop cream cheese and bagel to my children (so far, this has not gone over well). She suffered a stroke a few months ago; she has good days and bad days, but even on the good days, I miss the grandma who took such great pains to prepare my favorite meal. Thus, the tears.
Food has the power to connect us to our pasts, and Jewish food in particular evokes an emotional and nostalgic reaction for me, as I believe it does for many others. Apples dipped in honey, the traditional Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) food, are another sweet reminder of holidays spent with my family. I’m looking forward to bringing apples and honey to Chicago area farmers markets and grocery stores later this summer through A Spoonful of Honey, JOI’s gourmet honey tasting program, and hope they spark sweet memories for participants.
And speaking of sweet memories, several months ago, after welcoming our second baby into the world, my mom brought over a tuna casserole. Macaroni, tuna fish, Campbell’s cream of something, and Ruffles…what could be bad? I ate it with glee, as I did 25 years ago. My husband, unfamiliar with the dish, took a few bites and decided I was insane.
Though my preschooler turns up his nose at lox and my husband disdains my beloved tuna casserole, my attempts to re-create Grandma’s kugel have gone over favorably, and they both love matzo ball soup. Next up – gefilte fish. I’d say I’m not holding my breath, but with gefilte fish, I think that’s probably a wise thing to do.
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