My Oma’s apple pancakes — and why they never taste the same without her

In Marcel Proust’s book In Search of Lost Time, the narrator famously reminisces about tasting a madeleine dipped in tea. We all have these moments, perhaps not as eloquently recounted, but nevertheless indelible in our minds. But did our madeleines really taste that good, or did the lens of time blur reality into a prelapsarian food idyll — before globalization made us more “sophisticated” eaters?

I prefer to think some things really were that memorable, or else they wouldn’t take up so much mental space.

In the summer of 1976, when I was 10 years old and my brother Stephen was 8, we flew unaccompanied from Washington, D.C.’s


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