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03

The first "meal" I learned to cook was cinnamon toast. It was the late 1960s and I was five or six years old. I loved to watch a PBS program called "Zoom". I wasn't much of a "Sesame Street" kid, I liked "Electric Company", but I grooved with "Zoom". I don't recall much about the show except I enjoyed the how-to demonstrations. I would become mesmerized, intent on whatever was being taught--how-to fold clothes, how-to make your bed, how-to brush your dog... Of course, I'm making all of these how-tos up now because I have scant memory of "Zoom" other than I liked it and learned how to make cinnamon toast while watching it. 

I used to pretend I was on the show. I started each "episode" singing the theme song. "C'mon and zooma-zooma-zooma-zoom, we know you want to give it a try, yadda-yadda-yadda-that's why...". Okay, I don't recall the words, but the melody is clear in my head. I think.

Perhaps "Zoom" was the start of my fantasy life. Not that kind of fantasy, but the one where I make a difference in people's lives. As I would do things around the house I would pretend to be on "Zoom". I would look at an imaginary camera and instruct pretend viewers on how-to tie shoelaces with a double bow (I hadn't mastered the single bow yet), how-to (poorly) do a cartwheel, how-to jump a curb on your bike (I was good at that one). Recreating my cherished episode on how to make cinnamon toast was-in my mind-the fan favorite. I would take out two slices of bread from the refrigerator, put them in the toaster, get out the butter... Well, you know the rest. 

To this day I keep cinnamon and sugar in my cabinet. Two-parts sugar, one-part cinnamon, mix until it's tawny in color. Perhaps that is where I got my middle name. I rarely use the cinnamon and sugar except around the Jewish holidays when I sprinkle it on matzoh brie or potato pancakes. I cannot think of the last time I had cinnamon toast but I always have the ingredients (bread, butter, cinnamon and sugar) in case of emergency.

Now, amid stay-at-home orders and social distancing, there is a new Zoom that has become a comfort. It's not a gastronomical one but an emotional one all the same. A short-term panacea to our lock down. The converse of social distancing. Call it social joining or social gathering. I've joined my sister and nephew in Maine at their Sunday family dinners, now happening via Zoom. My other nephews in New Zealand and North Carolina were there, along with my brother and sister-in-law. Mom Zooms. We're having a weekly cousins Zoom get-together. My writing group meets via Zoom too.

When I started writing this blog I was tempted to go on-line and google "Zoom", the TV show I remember so fondly from the 1960s. I'm sure there's a ton of stuff on the Internet about it, probably You Tube videos, definitely the theme song I cannot recall today. But I decided against it. I like the memory I have of the show and how it taught me to make my first "meal". I remember going back to my high school decades after graduating. It was much smaller than I had recalled, dingy and gray. I remember thinking these were not the same hallways I would run through to get to my next class, and not the same lockers where I kept my books and winter coat. For sure that wasn't the gym where I played kick ball and was never able to dunk a basketball. No way was that the same football field where I would do donuts on my moped. No, I won't be searching the Internet to reminisce over "Zoom". Why ruin a perfectly good memory?

The present day social joining Zoom cannot replace the memories of my childhood "Zoom" but it offers much of the same comfort. A place to gather, a place to learn, a place of respite. Perhaps this will be one good memory of this time, how we continued to connect via Zoom despite the Beast that has beset upon us. In the meantime, and until this is over, I'm going to make some cinnamon toast. I suggest you do the same. Let me know if you need an instructional video.

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Joanne Lewis Blog