December 3, 2012

Tears, Trees, and Latkes

Picking the name for my new blog was simple. I've grown to really love cooking and there's nothing I won't try. There are more than 20 food blogs I read regularly that offer excellent inspiration--I'll share many of them here because you really should be reading them too.  There are so many fearless people in their kitchens. I'm sure, as I write this, they're making something I'll want to copy very soon. Still, it's not my triumphs or failures in the kitchen that produce tears--it's just about everything else in life. I cry very easily, for any reason. You should try it. It can feel pretty good.

Yesterday, I put up my Christmas tree. I know I'm not unique in the rush of nostalgia that happens when Bing Crosby is in the background and a knot of white lights are at my feet. I hung one strand of white, one strand of red, and a combination strand of green and red. I tied a ribbon to the top and the smell of the tree, and the sound of the music made me miss my grandmother so much, I had to stop. She raised me, along with my dad, and has been gone for more than 10 years. There's no specific Christmas memory I cling to, but the overall feeling of love and safety that thinking about some Christmas in the late 1980s brings to mind  So, what should I do with a newly decorated tree, some feelings of loss, and a long Sunday afternoon? Make latkes, of course!

Me, Christmas morning, 1983

Our Christmas Tree

In addition to my Puerto Rican grandmother and father, I was also raised by a wonderful Jewish woman. This story is so long and so amazing, it deserves it's very own post, but know that I think of her as a mother too and the daughter she has who is only 2 months younger than I am, as a sister. My Jewish mamah was very present with me this past week. I was sick--my first fever in more than 5 years--and she called at least 3 times to check on me. It was that same kind of love and safety that the tree conjured up. She even lectured me about a doctor's appointment! I started thinking about Hanukkah--only 5 days away--and the wonderful duality of a childhood that included just as many Nativity scenes as it did menorahs. I started reading some Hanukkah recipes on the New York Times website and immediately zeroed in on the latkes. My lovely Jewish mother took me to her mother's house years ago: a tiny apartment in Astoria where she had lived as a young girl. I had my first latke there with my surrogate family and I remember thinking applesauce with potatoes was very strange.

My new husband has given me a Jewish surname, but I out Jewish him about 100 to 1. I mean, I took him to his first seder when we started dating! In planning for the crazy, mixed-up totally New York upbringing I'd like to give the children I hope to have one day, I attempted latkes. The results: hash browns! There's a controversy on the web about soaking the potatoes. I don't think I used the right amount of flour. Mi mamacita judia said her mother used some kind of special Jewish flour. I'm also generally a terrible fryer, but they were still delicious.

This was a long story for latkes. I feel like that should something about me, but I'm not quite sure what it is.



  1. Cheers to crazy, mixed up New York upbringings! What a wonderful story and introduction to your blog. Can't wait to read many, many more wonderful posts. The latkes look delicious!

  2. Such a sweet story!