There is a book which is titled The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. I didn't much care for it. I didn't get all the way through it, actually, but the premise was an interesting one: The protagonist in the story would feel, upon eating, all of the emotions that the person who prepared the food had been feeling. Lots of potential there, eh?
Execution? Meh. (One readers humble opinion, of course. Your mileage may vary.)
There is, though, something to the idea that different foods conjure up different emotions or feelings. I know I'm far from alone in this - there are specific foods I need to eat when I'm in certain geographical areas. There are particular foods which can evoke a certain mood. The perfect food - like the perfect song - can transport you to a different time and place. Some make you feel young, some like you're on vacation, some taste like the comfort of home. Some foods bring certain people to mind - even if you haven't thought about them in ages.
This brings me to potato pancakes.
My dad passed away just before festival season began this year. He loved a good festival - he never wanted to miss a thing. He listened to every band and tasted nearly every food. That man fested with gusto.
His favorite festival food by far was potato pancakes. He would stand in lines a full city block long for a potato pancake, lovingly made by the little old ladies of the local churches. (I feel obligated to tell you that not all of them are little and not all of them are old and not all of them are even ladies, but there is something about the phrase "little old church ladies" that appeals to me.) He always knew who had the best potato pancakes and would advise me on the best time of day to acquire the same.
Yes sir, he did love him some potato pancakes.
I visited my mother this past festival weekend, during this year of first-time-without-Dad events. As a side note, I have been personally feeling the loss of my father more profoundly this week than I have since the first days after his passing. When I call home (or home calls me) it's always Mom who does all of the talking. Twice a year, though, Dad would call me (at Mom's insistence, I'm sure, but that is entirely beside the point). Those two times would be my birthday and my adoption day. When I went to bed on the night of my birthday without having received that call - knowing that I'd never receive that call again - well - you're a smart person. You know how that played out.
We're getting through those firsts.
My mom has been unable to attend many festivals this summer, so caught up in the memories is she. As I headed out the door on Saturday, I said, "Are you sure you won't join us?"
She shook her head. "I don't want to go. But I wish", she added wistfully, "I could have a potato pancake."
"I can bring one back for you", I offered. I understood why she didn't want to go, but was pleased that I could possibly offer a treat - a consolation.
She shook her head again. "I couldn't eat one", she said, choking back tears.
I nodded, understanding.
When we passed that particular booth, Tom and Livia decided to partake. I found that I just couldn't.
Not this year.
Maybe next year.
I'll try next year.
Those little old church ladies do make a fine potato pancake.