Wake Up and Smell the Latkes

I’d been craving latkes.

I’d been craving warmth. I’d been craving sweetness, and family, and tradition, and decent mandarin oranges, and every seasonal cliche imaginable.

It was the first day of wintry cold, on the eve of a snowfall that would not leave us until April. Staying home with Sister Wives, Top Chef, and Iron Chef would have been understandable if not entirely respectable.

But could smell latkes from a mile away. I could almost hear the strains of a fiddle.

Hopped on a bike, autumn’s last cycling trip. Swerved through dark streets outlined with fragile swags of Christmas lights, landed in a front of an old dowager hotel.

Arrived in a whoosh of cold air through the doors of the Gladstone. Settled into a couch, into the rise and fall of a klezmer tune and its joyful wailing lament. The Horables, a threesome of musicians playing old-time Jewish and Yiddish music filled a small room with ancient pleasure. That music is home and not-home to me, the Slavic meeting the Semitic, such rich and troubled histories there. A menorah flared in a corner, reminding me of miracles, and hope, and, of course, latkes.

The Mandolinist grinned at me. The Accordionist told me to help myself to latkes.

They were slightly chewy and slightly crispy, those latkes, delicious with sour cream and apple sauce and a generous side of music.

These are the kind of musicians who will play for a handful of bills and coins in an accordion case, just so they can share their art with others. (My brother was like that too). They do music like I do food, its meaning and quality multiplied in the company of others. Rhythm in their bodies, music in their bones.

I. Really. Needed. That. I said to The Accordionist as I was leaving. She looked so happy and relaxed, like she’d just been to a spa instead of hoisting an accordion.

So. Did. I. she said.


  1. Sounds like a groovy place. Please drop us a line or give me a call when you’re in town. It’s been ages!

  2. Rachel,

    Seems like good music inspires good writing.
    Good to see you here, drop by anytime.
    See you soon.

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