"Love you a latke" borders the blue and white plate given to me by my dear friend Margo one Hanukkah many years ago. This year I filled it with potato pancakes, a traditional food eaten during the eight days of the "Festival of Lights, made with a group of women from the Spouses and Partners group at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They are here with spouses who are studying at MIT.
Each year I come to the group and talk about my experiences as a young mother living in Japan, in the late 1970s with my son Brad and husband Dick , who was writing his doctoral dissertation on Japanese politics at the time.
YIKES, was I really that young and thin? Just 25! Brad is 32 - you do the math!
In any case, I know how they feel--excited by all that is new, overwhelmed by all that's new, lonely for family and far from home, with babies and children. Do you believe we sent cassette tapes across the Pacific? We recorded Brad's first words and giggles. His grandparents read stories and sang songs . I told them how lucky they were with email, Skype and cheap calling cards. Guess what? We still have those tapes, but damned if we can find a tape recorder to play them on!
So besides sympathy, I share a piece of American culture or a Jewish holiday tradition (depending on the time of year) as that is my background. They scraped potatoes on graters, fried latkes and played the game of dreidel (spinning top).
The smell of potato pancakes frying in oil filled the room and my mind with memories of my childhood and images of my mom frying pancakes in our kitchen in Long Island. We all know how evocative aromas can be. We dipped the crispy circles in sour cream and apple sauce. Everyone loved the taste -- what's not to like?!
I was unprepared for what happened next. When I took my first bite, tears sprang to my eyes and I became overwhelmed, choked up, as I am now. Maybe it's because I haven't made potato pancakes in years, or pulled out the menorah given to us as a wedding present by my husband's grandmother, or I am missing my kids, now adults living in Brooklyn and Berlin, Germany.
Check out the recipe for these potato pancakes and others in Sheryl Julian's Latke layout in the Boston Globe
Thanks to Elsa Tian, my buddy in all matters pertaining to food, for taking many of the photos.