Ask me in six months, though, and I’ll tell you how much I love the summer and sitting outside with my iced coffee
Did you know that smell is one of our strongest senses, especially when it comes to memory? Even a faint smell can transport us to another time and place. When I was young, my mother made the same French roast for Friday night every single week. The Shabbos table wouldn’t have been “it” without it. It was a recipe we’ve all seen countless variations of: equal parts honey, ketchup, red wine, and soy sauce, plus the regular spices: paprika, garlic, salt, pepper. (Ed. note to Esti Vago, production manager: Watch our inbox for the millions of requests for this non-recipe. ;)) Today, I don’t make or taste this recipe often, but when I do, it takes me back to the house I lived in when I was little, and specifically to an Erev Shabbos scene. Somehow this scene also includes me snipping the ends off of string beans; that was my very first Erev Shabbos job, and memories are a packaged deal, it seems.
None of this is unusual; everyone has very strong food-related memories. What’s interesting is that we might not remember anything else that was going on in the room at the time the memory was implanted in our minds. Our minds are selective, and our brains often choose to remember only the good parts, especially the final moments of the good parts. That’s why when you end an experience on a high, the memory is likely to stay that way. Think of all those last-nights-of-camp; they color the entire memory of the experience.
I see myself doing this regularly. All year long, I look forward to my relaxing summer, having plenty of time to sit outside with an afternoon iced coffee, watching my kids play peacefully, remembering at 5 p.m. to throw something on the grill and call it a very happy end to a blissful day. When in truth, maybe that idyllic afternoon was only 5 minutes of quiet time outside surrounded by many more minutes of normal daily hecticness, half melted coldish drink in hand. I can only tell you that now because summer is not yet history. Ask me in six months, though, and I’ll tell you how much I love the summer and sitting outside with my iced coffee.
As we enter a new round of Yom Tov prep, try to keep the memories of frenzied but lively Erev Yom Tov moments to frame yourself. Yes, it’s hectic; yes, the list of things to do seems to double from moment to moment, yet somehow we’ll all make it to the finish line. And along the way we can consciously highlight the good parts that’ll stand out as what we want our minds to hold onto. Take a mental note of the funny cooking disasters, the shared smiles, and the cozy Succos togetherness.
As you’re preparing for Yom Tov, whatever you manage to pull off, remember that all of your efforts are going towards the memory bank, and it will all be deeply appreciated. Not just now, in the moment, around your Yom Tov table, but as the memory develops depth for years to come.
Food Editor, Family Table
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