Food has always had the capacity to bring me joy. Even in Auschwitz, barely existing on the prison regimen of thin broth and crusts of bread, we prepared feasts in our minds, arguing over how much caraway goes into the best rye bread, how much paprika in Hungarian paprikash, praising the ingredients and choreographing the preparation of our favorite dishes. We were starving and cold, we feared death at every turn, yet in our minds, we were feasting, soothed by the remembered scents of spices, the flavors of vegetables, meats, fruits, desserts.
During those heated arguments, for those moments, we were back in the life of love and food. Those loved foods nurtured us even then. I pledged that if I ever escaped that hell, I would fill my home to brimming with the healing power of food.
And I have. To savor food is to savor life.
When my husband and young daughter Marianne and I moved to America, I was determined to reproduce the foods I remembered my mother preparing for our family, the dishes that had meant love and fulfillment to me as a child and that signified something even more profound as a survivor and new mother—the joy and responsibility of freedom, the memories and sensory impressions that kept my parents’ spirits alive.