All of a Kind Family with us, despite the fact that his sister and I shared reading duty and that it is about a family of five girls who occasionally indulge in anti-boy talk (I resisted the urge to cover his tender ears). The ethos of a big, loving Jewish family living on the Lower East Side in 1912 is what drew him to this story. It suits him perfectly. The descriptions of close family life and in particular the centrality of food resonated in his little big heart. I do believe Gabriel is happiest at home, surrounded by his family, standing on a chair at the kitchen counter, stirring and tasting away.
When I read how Charlie relished his potato kugel, Gabriel stopped me. He knew the noun relish, but not the verb. What did it mean?
Like when you close your eyes at dinner, I explained.
When Gabriel is really enjoying his food, he throws his head back and closes his eyes. He's been doing it since he was a toddler. I can imagine no greater compliment to a cook than the sight of this boy, face upturned, eyes shut, slowly and smilingly savoring each bite. When he's finished chewing, he gradually lowers his chin and then opens his eyes, looking as if he's returned to us from another planet.
Last night he "helped" me make the peanut sauce for noodles and tofu, which really meant pressing the button on the immersion blender repeatedly and dipping his fingers in the sauce to taste it, all the while soaking up the kitchen ambiance of steam and chopping and smells. At one point I saw him contemplating the open jar of peanut butter on the counter and smiling. Convinced he was about to stick a whole hand in, I asked what he was doing.
Mama!! I can't wait for breakfast time in the morning when I'll have peanut butter. It smells so good!
I reminded him he was also having peanut butter at dinner. In response he threw his arms around my waist and squeezed. (The photo of Gabriel above is from this morning, enjoying the much-anticipating morning sandwich).
We should all have one such happy sensualist in our lives, reminding us of the small joys of cooking and eating together. He'd fit right in with those five little girls around their crowded family table. As it is, I'm very glad he has a place at ours. Gabriel, by his example, helps us all to remember to slow down, close our eyes, and relish.