Memories & Smells

Braided challah for Rosh Hashanah, photo from Cindy Witkin.

Braided challah for Rosh Hashanah, photo from Cindy Witkin.

The smell of fresh baked bread is the last to pile on to the lingering smells of cooking coming from the kitchen this week. We’re preparing for a holiday, and that always takes more preparation than your normal meal – recipes with added steps, and added recipes as well.

There are overtones of cinnamon and ginger along with saffron and oil. There is the smell of apples with brown sugar and crunchy oats, and there’s smoky tomato bisque beneath it all. And then, there’s the bread – yeasty and crusty all at the same time.

With each of the smells come personal memories: fresh baked bread takes me back to my semester abroad in Venice with its bakery on the corner sending irresistibly magnetic scents into the neighborhood; cinnamon and ginger simmering with the chicken takes me to Uncle Harry’s apartment in Tangier where Fatima measured all in the palm of her hand; and baking apple crisp takes me to my mother’s kitchen in Ohio in the early fall.

As I consider my memories in the approach to this holiday of reflection and remembering, it occurs to me that the scents from this kitchen will create memories for my children. In thirty years, what will trigger their memories of tonight? Will it be the special bubbly wine that will spark recall of toasts and laughter? Will the future smell of tomato soup bring them back to this evening? Or will it be the Moroccan spices of b’stilla that trigger memories of gathering with their family?

I can’t know, as those memories will belong to my children. My job now is merely to create the smells and prepare for the gathering so that whatever is remembered is meaningful and good.

L’Shana Tovah to all!