Years ago, probably in university, I read that when people leave their home country for a new land, the last remnant of their culture to be given up is their native food. I was surprised - my bet would have been language - but as time has gone by, I find it easier to believe. It's more than just comfort food (not that there's anything wrong with that). It's a deep connection to the past, to days gone by and traditions kept burning, all wrapped up in something delicious.
I'm seeing it a lot right now when talking to my third boy (the one known online as my Mensch), who is currently doing a six month co-op in Peru. Is he having the time of his life? Oh yeah. But his Twitter posts talk about craving bagels. His Skype discussions include mentions of dreaming about his favorite Chinese food restaurant. And even though he won't be home until August, I've been told that he's already compiling a list of favorites that I need to cook for him once he's in the house.
(And even though he won't be home until August, I'm already hoping that the list doesn't include gefilte fish. That stuff is nasty.)
This craving for foods from home has been hitting me as well. We've had an eventful and sometimes heartbreaking couple of months here at Casa Chaos. I've spent a great deal of time on the road, making many trips to the Great White North. (By the way, I didn't come up with that name for Canada. Blame these guys:)
My trips have been filled with the foods that always say home to me: butter tarts, butterscotch brownies, the kielbasa that is only made around the place I grew up. Maple syrup. Homemade pickles. And, of course, a visit or two to this fine establishment:
It's more than just the nourishment, or the flavor, or the uniqueness of the food. It's all the memories that accompany them. Sunday pancakes with my brother and sisters. Sitting around the table picking the raisins out of the butter tarts (because EW. Raisins.). Coming home from school and walking into the kitchen and smelling fresh ground cucumbers, and knowing that meant there would soon be homemade relish in the house. My brother and I polishing off a whole pound of back bacon in one sitting. My father bringing home a half dozen doughnuts, and me holding my breath as I opened the box, hoping there would be a sugar twist or a lemon filled.
All those memories. All those tastes of home.
What tastes like home to you?