Wednesday was my mother’s 84th birthday. The gift we got her was “a taste of home.” I went to the Hungarian Meat Center in Passaic and bought a sampling of food including kolbász, horseradish mayonnaise, hot mustard, paprika, chocolate cherry liquors, zserbo cake, and gesztenyes. These are things that she remembers eating in her Hungarian home growing up in Pennsylvania and Jersey City.
Although my mother had never lived in Hungary my grandparents spoke exclusively Hungarian when my mother and her three brothers were growing up. They lived in small Hungarian enclaves with people from the “old country.” The sights, tastes and smells of a Hungarian home were a very strong and important part of my mother’s childhood and she brought some of those tastes and smells to our house while growing up. Hungarian goulash, chicken paprikash (dumplings), chicken soup, stuffed cabbage, palacsinta (stuffed crepes), bologna spread and apricot cookies were some of the dishes and treats my mother made for us.
Sometimes my mother will call to tell me she has made a batch of paprikash, which she knows is my favorite and not only is it delicious it always brings me back to memories of my childhood home. Now, I never knew my grandfather, he died when I was one years old. I was in third grade when my grandmother died so I have a few, but not many, memories of her. I never ate at their dinner table or smelled her cooking but through my mother I have a sense of what it was like. I have a sense of the foods they ate and the smells that filled the house. I have never been to Hungary but somehow there is a piece of me that resonates with the Hungarian, gypsy, people.
But we did not have a strong Hungarian influence in our day to day lives so it is not a huge part of who I am. At least not consciously. I know Italian, Irish and Jewish people who have a far stronger identification with their heritage than I ever did or will. They are proud of their ethnicity, speak the language of their ancestors, hold their political views and gather around the pride of being Irish, Italian or whatever nationality they are. I mean, there is no “Luck of the Hungarians” that I know of; there is no date on the calendar where we go around saying: “Kiss me, I’m Hungarian” or have T-Shirts proclaiming we have the best food in the world (because we don’t!) For me, its less about the identification with a group of people and more simply about a “taste” and a remembrance of a good, simpler and warm time. When I eat my mother’s Hungarian dishes, it really is a “taste of home.”
When Jesus came to earth He brought with Him a taste of heaven and of eternal life. We don’t’ get to experience it fully but we get a glimpse. And whenever we tap into the presence of God, whenever we share in fellowship, sing songs of praise, partake in His communion, serve others or spend time in Scripture and prayer, we get a taste of our eternal existence. It may not be fully realized yet, but one day it will be.
What do you think?
How does this make you feel?