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On bland blintzes and cultural homogeneity
I ended up in North York last night. It was a very Jewy evening.

We went to see a classical music concert that a family friend was performing in at the Jewish Community Centre. The kind of concert where someone behind you takes 15 minutes to unwrap a hard candy.

We stopped for dinner at a kosher dairy restaurant with the most tasteless food. Nestled in a strip-mall, next to a Bed, Bath, and Beyond, they served up plates that looked (and tasted) like 1950's cookbook pictures.

Maybe it was because she learned to cook from her Hungarian grandmother, my mother could not could that bad if she tried. Her Ashkenazi food had real flavour. Our blintzes, for example, had lemon zest in the cheese filling. The crepes were never rubbery and they were fried in butter.

But the dairy restaurant was PACKED with people who loved the bland flavors. And most importantly, they loved being surrounded by booths of their peers. And we were digging the scene, too, if not the food.

On way north, my mother (who calls it yechupitzville) loves to point at the strip malls and high-rise apartments and treeless streets and say: "God, can you IMAGINE if we lived there?" Thing is, I DID have friends who lived there when I was a teenager. And the DQ/contraband cigarettes/bad chinese takeaway/recroom culture was kind of fun at the time.

Every time we take that long drive up Bathurst Street, I remember being a young teenager going to youth group, taking acting classes, visiting my friends who had trampolines in the back yards of their split-level homes.

I know everyone has their personal equivalent of cultural homogeneity - be it New Jersey or Mississauga, or whatever suburban enclave you sometimes crave and often dread. That makes you feel that sense of all your constructed selves splitting in two. The familiarity. The contempt. A total stranger and totally at home. Am I beating this over the head?

But last night it felt like a fun, warm place to visit. I let that familiarity weave its way in with no resistance. Wouldn't want to live there, mind you. Where would I get good take-out? But the occasional pilgrimage seems important, somehow.

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