I had planned on taking a sabbatical for a few months so I could spend some time working on my book, but after conversations with a few of my readers, I have decided to take something else off my plate so I could reflect her and work on my book. To put it in food terms, I figured out how to have my cake and eat it too.
Today is Valentine’s Day, so I should be reflecting on something chocolate or the spiritual qualities of chocolate (yes there are numerous), but my heart (no pun intended) is just not there today. I have been thinking about how food can bring you back in time to memories and moments that are unique, powerful, and filled with love and emotion. It seems as if ever since yesterday I have so wanted to ask Zoe to take me to the store to get some TempTee cream cheese and smoked salmon. What started this craving was a comment by Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli on Facebook the other day when she wrote, “What's better than a warm toasted bagel smeared with cream cheese so that it melts slightly into the crevices topped with paper thin slices of smoked salmon and a little red onion? On the side, a super thick slice of beefsteak tomato with sea salt and cracked black pepper....”
As I read her post, I began traveling back in time to some very special times with my mother, who passed away in 2001. When my father and brothers were home, every Saturday morning we would gather around the table for fresh bagels with TempTee cream cheese and lox. It was one of those Saturday traditions in our family. Sometimes my mother would dress them up for she and I, with some sliced red onion and a few capers.
All that was fine and good, but when the “boys” (my father and brothers) would leave the house, she would call me –“Come Sara Bella, it is our time.” She never called me Sara Bella (my Hebrew name) unless it was going to be something special we were going to do together. Then it would begin. We would sit on the floor with our wine glasses of sparkling grape juice, plates of lox, and our own containers of cream cheese. My mother who always believed in knives and forks and napkins would make an exception on these days. During these moments, fingers were more then acceptable. We would take the lox, ice it with cream cheese and create various ways of folding it or rolling it, then savor the tastes and textures of our lox and cream cheese sushi or sandwiches. Sometimes we would just savor a slice of lox and then a finger full of cream cheese. After each bite, we would like our fingers, not wanting to leave a single memory behind. Utensils were not allowed until after we were done. Then we would stand up, lick our fingers one more time, and then we would wash our dishes, finish off our “wine,” and tell each other how much we loved each other.
This tradition with my mom started when I was about five and lasted until she lost her memory in the early 1990’s. It was one of those traditions that died with my mother. However, when I need to have that moment with her, when I need to have a Valentine’s Day brunch with my mom (which can be any day), I make sure I have lox and cream cheese on hand (has to be TempTee). I have a glass of “wine” and make my lox and cream cheese with my fingers, licking them in between each bite, and having a conversation with my mother’s spirit, who shares with me words of wisdom, which can only be shared in special moments like this and in a special way such as this. Then I will hear her Spirit say, “Come Sara Bella, I have something to tell you.” and the sharing begins.