Keeping A Lost World Alive
(by Julie Salamon)
My alarm clock while growing up was the smell of onions frying and the sound of my
parents’ voices, talking to one another in Hungarian over breakfast. For them, that meal
usually was a soft-boiled egg with rye bread topped with slices of green pepper and
tomato. For my sister and me, breakfast was Kellogg’s cereal and milk. As for the
onions, they were for later.
This isn’t a story about selfish parents depriving their kids of a healthy breakfast. My
parents were immigrants; my sister and I were home-grown Americans. We were all
eating the food that felt like the right way to start the day.
But supper was family time and sacrosanct. And the food we ate was delicious and
strange, nothing like what our friends had for dinner in the small Appalachian town
where I grew up. We ate meals whose roots were in the Carpathian mountains, in a
country (Czechoslovakia) that no longer exists; the part of the country where my parents
grew up is now Ukraine.
My dad was the town doctor, a general practitioner who landed in rural southern Ohio
because of a mutual need. My parents were Holocaust survivors looking for a place to
call home—and to earn a living. The town needed a doctor.
My mother Lilly —97 and still going strong—always said that she didn’t work after she
had children, but in fact she ran my dad’s office and our family farm, schlepped and
cooked for us and our numerous pets (a dog, a chicken, rabbits, guinea pigs). We ate in