What was the source of this cared-for feeling I got a whiff of every time I opened the pepper?
"Going to Walmart. Need anything?” The text popped up on my phone.
“Thanks!!!!” I responded quickly because when your teen makes you a shopping offer, you have to respond within four minutes or he’s already paid for his Powerade and is back in the car.
“Plz multi grain cheerios and lens solution — can be generic brand — and black pepper.”
He walked in 20 minutes later and handed me my groceries. Oh, cute. I usually get frum brand spices that come in round containers with red caps. Tzvi had gotten me a rectangular tin box with one opening big enough for a measuring spoon and another small enough for just a sprinkle.
I stowed everything away and went on with my work.
A day or two later I was making myself an omelet. I reached into the pantry for my new tin of pepper. As I sprinkled pepper onto my omelet, I had a cozy feeling inside.
The sensation, which I can best describe as the cozy nostalgic feeling you get when you smell a scent from long ago, lingered and made my day a little bright.
It returned full force when I used my Great Value Pure Ground Black Pepper to season my potato kugel. And trickled into my psyche again when I sprinkled pepper onto my salad.
I wondered at this feeling. I’ve used pepper since I began cooking decades ago and it never made me feel warm and fuzzy before. It had always served a utilitarian purpose in my life along with its buddies: smoked paprika, cumin, turmeric, garlic powder, and the rest of the crew.
Was I just searching for a reason to feel fuzzy and comforted during the corona pandemic? What was the source of this cared-for feeling I got a whiff of every time I opened the pepper?
It hit me when I was seasoning what our extended family calls Bubby G soup. My grandmother, Bubby Goldberg, had always made this very basic veggie soup with a bag of frozen vegetables and a tomato sauce base. She served it with kneidlach and ABC noodles, which allowed us to find our names hidden in the soup. Super exciting when you’re eight years old.
As the years have gone by, each family has tweaked the soup to suit their family’s tastes. I add cubed yams, Yukon potatoes, frozen broccoli and cauliflower, and serve it with shredded cheese.
I was adding my yams to my Bubby G soup and smiling because I was actually wearing a shirt waist dress which was my Bubby Gs’s trademark look, along with her old-fashioned pink embroidered tichels. I was soaking up the aromatic memories of my Bubby serving up her soup in her old blue and white Corelle bowls and feeling… what was I feeling? Cherished, snug, comforted, cozy.
Wait. That was my pepper feeling. Why was I feeling my pepper feeling when it was veggie soup I was stirring? Aha.
I was feeling this way because all along, in the back of my mind, I had associated the tin box of pepper with my grandmother. She had a row of tin spice boxes which she kept in a little, yummy-smelling metal closet that was her pantry because she had a shoebox sized kitchen.
Unbeknownst to me, or should I say, partially known to me, was the fact that tin boxes of spices would forever make me feel loved just because they were associated with my Bubby.
Here’s what really swept me off my seat: I am a Bubby now. An amateur Bubby who is trying to find her way and discover who I am, now that my daughter has had a son.
Do I change myself? Enhance myself to fit this new role? Do I take up knitting or can I just stick to buying tiny bow ties and button-down shirts on a whim? Should I up my Tehillim saying? Should I find a Tzenah U’renah?
There are all kinds of bubbies out there nowadays. I don’t have to be exactly what my Bubby was to me or what my mom is to my kids.
And I don’t want to be exactly like them, but I sure do want to get the inner love thing right. I want to nail that. I want my love and admiration, my message of “Gosh, you are so precious” to be rooted deep with my grandchildren. I want that feeling to be so potent that it can be triggered by the mere act of opening a tin of Great Value Pure Ground Black Pepper.
In memory of Sora Leah bas Peretz
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 706)
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