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Food for Thought

My mom's usual spread.

Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, begins tonight at sundown and continues until sundown tomorrow. We fast in repentance for our sins and ask God to inscribe us in the Book of Life with happiness and health for another year. And then we eat like there's no tomorrow.

Break Fast has always been a big deal in our family, and no one does it as well as my mom, Gloria. Of course, it was helpful that our family was in the food business- my grandfather, followed by my Uncle Billy- owned and operated a kosher supermarket that was truly in a league of its own. It was called "The Crown" and is still in business under new ownership. Ask anyone from West Hartford about The Crown and they will wax poetic about the deli, the bakery, THE TUNA SALAD. To me, and to the rest of our family, it was simply "the market," which had nothing to do with stocks and bonds and everything to do with lox and bagels. The Crown was an institution; for many, it meant our first jobs... cashiers, baggers, working behind the deli counter or the bakery... and as essential as it was for basic needs, it was also the epicenter of suburban West Hartford Jewish society. If you were home from college for the weekend and wanted people to know, you simply went to The Crown. If you didn't, you avoided it like the plague.

The Crown.

For every Break Fast for as long as I can remember, Uncle Billy would show up with enormous platters of smoked fish and cream cheese and all the trimmings. His wife, Aunt Cookie, would make the traditional noodle kugel that my mom continues to make, although her real masterpiece has always been a whole poached salmon with dill sauce. As I write this, Gloria's kugel is defrosting in the fridge. I worry that our glass dining table might not be able to bear the weight of it.

You see, this is my first time at bat for Break Fast. Rich and I have traditionally done Rosh Hashanah dinner, but this year, a twist of scheduling, travel and a welcome visit from a cousin shifted that night to my parents' realm, so tomorrow it's our turn. The stakes are high, as my parents will therefore be guests and they're bringing friends, which both delights me and terrifies me. All this on an empty stomach.

Gloria and Joe, with kugel and cocktails.

My biggest issue is that there's no Crown in Palm Beach. Of course we have delis and gourmet shops and Publix and Costco- who could ask for anything more? But it's the emotional, maybe even spiritual support of The Crown that I am missing right now. I would give anything for one of those platters to magically show up. I would also like to be sixteen.

I must say that I'm pretty confident about the poached salmon. It's all done and chilling in the fridge, although there were a few harrowing moments when I tried to turn a turkey roaster into a fish poacher on a lousy electric stove, but it's all good. I'm hoping that the sauce, which is quite good, and a few hundred cucumber slices, will mask my missteps.

Our family, like so many others, looks to tomorrow night with joyful anticipation- not simply a relief from a day of hunger and soul searching- but a breakout moment when the year truly starts and the slate is clean. And if all goes as planned, there will also be kugel.

Wishing you all a Happy, Healthy New Year!

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