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Thursday, November 09, 2006

How I Discovered The Kitchen (Part Two)

At every formal or holiday meal that I have ever attended, there is always a discussion of the meals and smells and memories of some long gone event. We associate some wonderful memories with family meals, and not necessarily holiday or festive ones. I can still smell Mom’s sponge cake urging me to sneak out of the room in the middle of the night, wake up Pop, and raid the cake pan. Who cared that the next morning Mom would be screaming at us on the top of her lungs on how we had the nerve to destroy her work of art? She secretly enjoyed the knowledge that when she was done and the cake was cooling down, we would sneak a piece, or two, or three. (Once, when my sister joined us in our midnight foray we did eat the whole cake minus one lonely piece which I remember seemed to be begging me to gobble it up. Do you have any idea how scary it is to see your own mother reduced to tears of rage? “The cake was too good to pass up,” did not exactly placate her. Pop paid in full for that one.)

Not a Purim goes by when I do not remind my children and my sister of my mother’s ‘Noent’, (I have no clue where the name comes from.) It was a mixture of baked honey and walnuts, and was sticky and delicious. Last year when we went to a hotel for Passover, there was a gigantic sculpture of ‘Noent’ for the arriving guests to nibble on before the traditional Seder. I tasted a bit, declared that Mom’s was better, and basked for a moment in my normal atmospheric ponderings, remembering years gone by. Of course, I told my children about Grandma’s ‘Noent’. And of course, they heard me out and said:

“Abba, that is the hundredth time we heard all about Grandma’s ‘Noent’.

You are probably familiar with the "lets make our parents look senile" scene. Don’t you just love it when they roll their eyes and give each other the knowing look that says:

“Our father has to be locked up. He is too embarrassing to take out for his daily walk anymore.”

We can all recall such memories and tell them to our kids a hundred times. They make up our secret smiles, our hidden tears, and our closely guarded joys. They keep us hopeful, for we know that no matter what, those memories are part of us and who we are. In light of that, it does not sound so “off-the-wall” to say that cooking should become an integral part of your life. You can make those memories for your children, and one day many years from now they will be sitting around a table, grown up with kids of their own, and one will laugh and say:

“Hey you remember the time Pop made that chicken and it was all burned and tasted horrible, but we sat there and told him how delicious it was? And because we complimented him, he made it again. And again. And again, until we told him the truth!”

Or:

“When Mom started cooking you could smell the spices a mile away. I would give anything for a meal like that today.”

Cooking is not only about food or eating. It is about memories; love; caring. It is about families and people - burned chicken and salty soup notwithstanding. In the end result, that is how I discovered the kitchen. I use the kitchen and all its mystery for the uninitiated, not only as a place to make good food, but to create wonderful memories for the kids and myself.

(To Be Continued....in Part Three)
Read Part One Here

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3 Fire Comments - Click To Post A Comment:

Paula said...

Ted
You nailed it. So many memories start with an aroma. This is awesome and so needed. I love the mix of humor and sincerity. I scan through my recipes.

Cath Smith said...

Great to see this turned into a blog, Teddy. I look forward to reading the recipes.

Cath

September said...

so true....it's not just food and eating. If more families shared meals at the table, it would strengthen them.

I agree with Paula - so many memories can be associated with a song or an aroma.... the ones coming from the kitchen still trigger some of the most pleasant childhood memories I have.