Happy Holidays & Latke Love
The holidays can be a challenging time for those who have lost loved ones, especially family members. The scents and the sounds of the season can evoke powerful memories, as they are doing for me. Last evening I was watching the Kennedy Center Honors, which was one of my mom's favorite things to watch at this time of the year, maybe even of all year. Music was always an integral part of my upbringing -- dad was as you might remember a classically trained musician and teacher. As I sat listening to the music being played, it made me simultaneously smile and tear up. Mom loved opera and as I listened to Justino Diaz's tribute it reminded me of 2 stories. The first was how my parents would go to the opera with another couple, my god-parents. While the ladies loved going, the men, including my dad, the classically trained bassoonist, never told them they hated going. Mom and Aunt Eileen would get all dressed up, go to the Met and enjoy, while the other 2 fell asleep. Dad would always say he was concentrating on the music with his eyes closed. Dad never mentioned he disliked going, he like I, preferred symphonic over choral or vocal, but he went because he knew mom loved it. The second story was when dad was a music teacher. One day he was in the band room and heard a deep voice singing in the hallway. He went to see who it was a noticed a young, very tall student singing and knew immediately that this kid had something. He fought with the basketball coach over this kid and dad won -- he wasn't going to let him get away from the potential he saw in him as a singer. Dad nurtured him and eventually groomed him to get into his alma mater, so that he could pursue a career in music. And he did, this young kid, this amazing voice, went on to become a celebrated basso profundo opera singer, singing all over the world and today heading up his own opera company. When dad died, this student paid him the ultimate tribute and sang his audition song at dad's funeral; I can still see and hear it in my mind today. Music is a powerful evacateur of emotion and remembrance. Sounds like smells or any of our senses, when touched the right way, can bring us back to a place in time, I love that.
As for the scents of the season, for me there is only one. And that is the smell of fried onions with potatoes and that can only mean latkes! As my mother wrote on her recipe index card, "Latkes are the closest thing to heaven."
With my grandmother, latkes or a giant latke which she called a potato kugel, were always on the table, no matter what time of the year. Dad and I would take the long ride up the elevator to her apartment and immediately be hit with the smell of frying onions in oil. The hallway, as we got of the elevator, was filled with the cooking smells coming from her little kitchen. Walk into her apartment and you'd be surrounded by the smell and walk out and well, you'd still smell like a latke. Dad always s