Friday 26 February 2021

Purim - a story of lost foods

My father would look away towards a place
that wasn't with us or near us
and say the names of foods
we had never eaten, never seen.
'Ah,' he'd say, 'my Bubbe made cholent'.
Cholent? What's cholent? We'd say.
'I loved cholent,' he'd say,
this time finding a place outside
to stare at,
out there in the suburb
he hated
as if it was the suburb's fault
that he couldn't have his Bubbe's cholent
as if the suburb had come down
to London's East End
kidnapped him
and brought him to this wicked place
where there was no cholent.
Mum said she wasn't going to stand
by a cooker for 24 hours cooking cholent.
If he wanted cholent
he could cook it himself.
Just because his Bubbe doted on him
didn't mean that she had to be his Bubbe.
'I'm not your Bubbe!' she'd say.
So I never ate cholent
I never saw cholent
I never smelled cholent.
I should say that this was going
to be all about hamantaschen
because it's Purim
and because he said
exactly the same things about
and we didn't ever see hamantaschen
or eat them either.
He would sit at the table
and make a triangle with his fingers
and talk of poppy seeds
as if they were an exotic fruit
that had by luck and good fortune
landed in front of him and his sister
and poor mother
stuck in a house with
people who didn't love him or them
(apart from his Bubbe and Zeyde
who, it seems, doted on him)
(after all , said his mother's sisters,
talking of my father's mother:
she's the woman
who thought
she was so clever
such a knakke
getting with that political feller
from Poland,
thinking they were too good for us,
going to America
but it didn't last, did it?
She's back here
he's stayed there
and the five of them squashing into this tiny place
and the baby dying, please god
that such a thing should happen
So she's the knakke
and she's off to political meetings
all hours bringing back
such people as can't stop talking
who've never worn a decent suit
in their lives, such shlumps
see them wolfing down our mother's
Ah, my father would say,
the cholent,
ah, the hamantaschen,
you know, if there was one festival
we should keep
it's Purim
he looked out the window again,
not here.
Not here.
So we didn't have