Food was very important in out lives. There were always great smells coming from our kitchen. Our table was round and when all 8 of us sat around it, there was a lot of reaching and grabbing the platters. We were 6 kids and had pancake eating contests sometimes for breakfast. There was a blackboard in the kitchen and we would keep score on it. Our Sunday morning breakfasts were legendary. There would be bagels, lox, smoked salmon, herring, kippered salmon, and whitefish.
The above describes the food my mother ate at home growing up. She grew up in a privileged Jewish household and a cook was employed to prepare meals for the family. The story about the pancake eating contest surprised me because my mother as I know her today is not one to participate in any eating contest.
The contrast between my mothers eating then (plentiful and taste-based) versus today (health conscious and small portioned) can be explained due to a few circumstances. She grew up in the 50s and 60s when health technology was not as advanced. There were a lot fewer worries about cholesterol levels, diabetes, and obesity was not as prevalent. Perhaps this is why her familys lifestyle was not that of what my familys presently is. Also, however, my mother was a child and children do not have as much sense of eating right for health reasons or aesthetic reasons. Also, the thinness that is in today was not nearly as dramatic back in those days. Fashion models were not the stick figures that they are today, but yet beautiful, curvy, and healthy looking. Finally, my mother did not have the influence of my father, who is extremely health conscious and runs seven miles a day. Instead, she had the influence of my late Grandfather who loved eating the most fattening foods and later developed diabetes. However, he lived life to the fullest and I doubt he would ever regret eating all those delicious meals.
The latter part of her account of eating is relatable to many Jewish people in the United States, if not around the world (to which there are very few). The typical ethnic Jewish foods are smoked fish and bagels. To an outsider it might sound strange and perhaps not be appealing upon trying it, but growing up with lox and bagels, as I did, makes it a delicacy for many Jews. Still today, our extended family gets together once in a while to share a meal of fish and bagels. To Jews, as it is for most ethnicities, food is an agent for bringing people together.