Reminiscence


By Leon A Smith
November 24, 2011
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One of the nice things about working in a care home for older people is access to reminiscence groups and reminiscence resources. Our wonderful new dementia unit has a wealth of reminiscence materials, be they from a 1950’s kitchen or our Morris Minor car from the 1960’s. Listening to and/or participating in reminiscence discussions can also be very rewarding. A recent discussion revolved around Jewish restaurants that were and are no more – Bloom’s in Whitechapel, Formans, Graham’s in Argyll Street and The Noshbar in Great Windmill Street. These names and recollections evoke very pleasing memories and one can almost taste the chopped liver or the fried fish!

Could it be imagination or is it a fact that somehow or the other Jewish food just doesn’t quite taste exactly the same as it did in those famous locations? This could of course be entirely psychological! In the same way that an all butter croissant in Paris is bliss to the taste buds – but an all butter croissant in London just doesn’t taste quite the same.

Tastes and smells in themselves can bring back a myriad of associations and memories. Our 1960’s Morris Minor car has the most wonderful smell of leather – a very different smell to the smell of “leather” in a new car today – a real nostalgic 1960’s smell!

Primarily these memories are pleasant and positive but I am sure if we were to think of items such as cod liver oil and concentrated orange juice available on Ration Books both during and after the War, memories would not be quite so positive.

Regular Blog readers my think that I am obsessed with food. That’s because I work in a Jewish environment and an environment where 75% of our 200 residents are female. Food is a big issue – in fact it is the the big issue.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – as is the taste of a kneidlach. Our tastes are very subjective and what may be a delicious and tasty kneidlach to one person, may not be to the next. The one thing, however, which I think everyone can agree on if not taste is texture – everybody likes their kneidlach light and fluffy

I have referred previously to the difficulties of providing a cuisine which is satisfactory to all - whereas 30 years ago Bloom’s or The Noshbar cuisine may have been all that anybody wanted, today some of our clients require something a little more than very traditional Jewish fayre. Today we have Kosher Chinese restaurants, Kosher Indian restaurants, Kosher pizza restaurants and pretty much anything else one could ever think off. One challenge is to maintain a healthy and appropriate balance between chopped liver and kreplach on the one hand and Kosher chow mein on the other – ie preferences for a traditional Jewish cuisine as opposed to a more eclectic choice of food, although the latter will increase as more and more people will have travelled extensively and/or will have enjoyed a cuisine wider than simple traditional Jewish fayre.

The choice of restaurants in Jewish areas of London has widened considerably and far beyond traditional Jewish cuisine. Historically Kosher has been associated with salt beef, gefilte fish, locshen pudding, pickled cucumbers and kreplach. Whilst all of these wonderful foods are still to be found the choice fortunately now extends considerably beyond that.

One of the frequent comments that I hear at Nightingale is that “why can’t we employ some Jewish chefs who really understand Jewish cooking”. Well the simple answer is that no Jewish chefs ever present themselves to us for employment – and of course being a Jewish chef does not in itself guarantee that the food on the plate will necessarily be pleasing and acceptable to all. Much might depend on the geographical origins of the diner – be they Polish, or Litvak or dare I say, even Sephardi!

It truly is very difficult to try and please all tastes all of the time. One thing is for sure however that food is a talking point here at Nightingale. I sometimes get asked why we don’t put together a recipe book based on residents individual recipes. The short answer is any recipe book containing ingredients such as “a little bit of this and a little bit of that” is simply not going to sell! That’s why we so much enjoy reminiscence cookery sessions at Nightingale in the specialist kitchens that we have throughout the building which have been created for this very purpose.

We may not always agree on our favourite dishes – which is a very subjective matter, but we certainly will always agree that the whole subject of food is one which is very important in our lives!

Apologies to my readers for having returned to the subject of food which may in itself have created a sense of déjà vu. the frequency with which I refer in this column to food merely reflects the interest and importance which it has in our community.

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