Foods, smells and places are triggers for memories. On Sunday, POB (partner of blogger) bought whitefish salad for my father to have on crackers as a nosh before dinner. I finished it up last night.
When I was a kid, Grandma and Grandpa always brought lox (not Nova Scotia salmon), smoked whitefish chubs wrapped in wax paper, herring in cream sauce mit [with] onion and bagels. All de vay from deVilliamsburgh section of Broooklyn, dahlink.
Mom used to freak out that one of us would choke on the bones and my grandfather would say, “It didn’t kill you! Vhy should it kill the kinder [children]?”
I always remember that the oily smell of the smoked white fish lingered in the kitchen, on my grandfather’s clothes (“vhy waste a napkin? I’m not going to no party!”) and on my hands. For DAYS it lingered. We were the light of our grandparents’ lives and even our not-so-cuddly grandpa openly adored us. These were the days before we got too cool or too moody. These were the days when we looked forward to seeing them and ran up to hug them as they walked in the house.
When Grandma and Grandpa stopped being able to come to our house, we brought the same stuff to them (all de vay from the upper east side of Manhattan, dahlink). Grandpa would say, “Don’t buy vhere you live! A dolleh (dollar) doesn’t buy much!!”
At home, my parent started buying whitefish salad and herring salad (no cream sauce). And smoked salmon from places my grandparents couldn’t pronounce. No fuss, no bother. We smelled better and it was healthier. Little random acts of assimilation.
When we go over to Dad’s house today, he still serves whitefish and herring salads (along with some tofu-I-don’t-know-what and eggplant salad) for hors- d’oeuvres before dinner. Not upper class or Episcopalian by any stretch, but well north of Delancey Street.
When I am in my father’s house, I hear, I taste, I smell those childhood memories. Some day (I hope a long time from now), I won’t go to my father’s house anymore, just like that one day I stopped going to my grandfather’s house.
What will become of those memories?
So, last night, I resolved that when I am old, I will eat smoked whitefish chubs, herring in cream sauce (ok, maybe not the cream sauce) and salty lox belly.
And I will remember.