Remembrance of things kosher

For Proust, it was the taste of madeleines that brought back memories. For me, it was the smell of tzimmes, cooking on my mother’s stove. For a friend of mine, author Cameron Stracher it was the taste of warm jello.

I had coffee with Cam the other day and he told me about how he used to love visiting his bubbe in Brooklyn. She lived in a walk-up flat and it was three flights up to get to her tiny apartment. But he and his brother and sister didn’t mind, because once they got there, the smells of her cooking filled their noses.

Chicken Soup & Matzo Balls

And pretty soon, she would be bringing out dish after dish of her Jewish specialties; Brisket, kasha varnishkes, stuffed cabbage, and always homemade babka; for dessert. So much food!

She also served a special drink that my friend had never had anywhere else. It wasn’t until years later that he and his sister figured out what it was. Warm jello!

I laughed at his story, but then I remembered similar strange things growing up. I remember my bubbe soaking fish in the bathtub—can that be?—to make gefilte fish.

What is about growing up Jewish, Cam asked, that makes so many of your memories be about food?

Potato Latkes

I think it’s because so much of our tradition is about nurturing with food, comforting with food, and even remembering that we haven’t always had enough food to eat.

So many of us, like my warm Jello drinking friend, have stories and memories that belong only to us and to our families. They tell us apart from other people like birthmarks. Maybe it’s a simple memory, like Great-Aunt Rose standing at her soup pot, tasting the chicken soup and adding just a pinch more salt. Maybe it’s more involved, like the time Grandpa hid the afikomen and forgot where he hid it…forever!

Do you have a story or a memory you’d like to share about food and growing up? I’d love to hear about it and possibly include it on Challah Connection. Please email me your story as a Word document (no more than 500 words please and if you could spell-check it, that would be helpful) for possible publication.

Best wishes and good memories,

Jane Moritz, Challah Connection Owner

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