My youngest cousin, Stephanie, got married this past weekend. My mother and her two siblings had, between them, seven children, and Steph’s was the last wedding of our generation. Rachel and I travelled to Winnipeg —no kids! Three nights in our very own hotel room! But that’s not what this post is about, lovely as our getaway was! — to join the rest of my family for what felt to me like the last hurrah, at least until all the bar and bat mitzvahs begin. In April.
And the wedding was lovely, but I’m not going to write about the wedding right now. Instead, I’m going to write about gathering at my aunt and uncle’s house for Friday-night dinner and for leftovers on the Monday morning after the wedding. And really, I can barely write about that because I can envision only pages and pages and paragraphs and paragraphs of beef brisket and kasha and braised chicken and eggplant salad and chopped liver and grilled vegetables and breaded fish for the kids (and grownups) and challah and carrot pudding and lox and brownies and two different kinds of pie and these strange cookies my mother used to make called kufels. And Jeanne’s cake, which you have to have grown up with to love.
(My cousin Jill saw me taking a photograph of the cake and said, “Are you going to blog about this?”)
And of course I’m not even writing about food, even though of course it was all divine. What I’m writing about is a certain kind of home. I’m writing about the flavours that have been steeped into me since childhood, but also about gathering around the same table, posing for the same photograph on the stairs, the familiarity of the cutlery (my aunt and my mom had so much of the same tableware, the same glasses, dishes), how I know where everything is in my aunt’s kitchen. I mentioned in passing that our Bodum had broken, and it was as though saying it made it so — the 1980s Dansk French press that had been sitting on the top shelf of a cupboard in my aunt’s kitchen found its way into my carry-on bag, along with matching cups.
Rachel and I exclaimed over the pie crust, and of course that led to a discussion of the fact that there are, obviously, a dozen or so pies in my aunt’s freezer — you see where you get this from now, don’t you? — and then of course you knew there was a pie in my bag as well for the flight home, along with a Ziploc baggie full of brisket. Anything else? Anything else?
This is how I learned to cook. More precisely, this is how I learned the philosophy of cooking I have today: big meals, planned weeks in advance, made ahead and frozen and fussed over. And by cooking, I mean life, obviously. The dishes themselves change slightly over the years; the menus evolve. But the flavours are the same.
“You don’t”/ “I don’t … get this very much anymore,” my Auntie Sheila, my mom’s sister, and I said to each other at the door, our words overlapping, no need to define this. We know. We both know.