Emily Halpern

 
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As a kid, I ate things no one else did: steak tartare, puffy omelets slathered with jam, heart-attack inducing casseroles of eggs, potatoes, and bubbly sour cream, raspberry pudding with milk.

Over lunches of German cold-cuts and hearty Hungarian dinners, my immigrant grandparents told wistful stories about wonderful dark bread, tiny shops that sold only strudel, and cafes with sweets so special, they sounded too good to be true.

Both sets of my grandparents were Jewish refugees who escaped Europe on the eve of World War II. They arrived in New York in the nick of time, but the relatives they left behind perished in the Holocaust, along with all the stories and knowledge about the their families' history. Wanting to forget their painful pasts, my grandparents hardly ever spoke of life before immigration, and the language of their childhoods never again passed their lips.

Only their food remained—these days, it’s the only living link I have left to their culture, and it's in their food that I find the strongest connection to my roots. 

Perhaps because my grandparents tried so hard to forget, I’ve spent my life preoccupied with remembering. I've spent years immersed in the study of food and memory, and the ways in which culture conveys stories and identity through generations. 

I created The RePast Project to celebrate and explore the ways food helps us remember who we are, where we come from, and what we have in common with one another. 

If you’d like to learn more about me and my work, head over to www.emilyrhalpern.com, check out my writing about heritage, memory, and identity, find me on LinkedIn, or just get in touch!