say our nose is our most memorable feature. I think the eyes but
my husband would argue for ankles.
say our sense of smell is the best memory-recaller of all our senses.
I don't think many would argue with that. Though I think literature
matches the nose. Especially children's literature.
fact, as I was scanning The Book Lover's Cookbook: Recipes
Inspired by Celebrated Works of Literature, and the Passages That
Feature Them by Shaunda Kennedy Wenger and a new online friend
of mine, Janet Kay Jensen
www.JanetJensen.com), I was moved to write about memories.
it was the pancake recipe (this one made with a tablespoon of applesauce!)
and the mention of Sambo. Sambo who was practically a staple for
me in the pantry of children's literature. Sambo who made pancakes
more than just breakfast food. Sambo of the exotic shoes with curled
up toes. Sambo who helped me understand that one finds tigers in
India as well as the Hogle zoo.
I was growing up, we had Little Black Sambo restaurants even. There
were illustrations of the story around the counter. That made me
want to sit on a stool but no one would ever let me. Booth sitting
was more our family's style.
the view was better from a booth. There was Little Black Sambo,
looking Indian, not African. And swirls of tiger butter. Black Mumbo,
his mama, with her apron strings tied and yes, her white teeth looking
very white, stirring up the batter. And, of course, those stacks
of pancakes, one hundred and sixty-nine because Sambo was so hungry
from all he had to do as the clever and courageous protagonist in
that old children's story.
course, that was before we all got politically correct. Which I
believe in, that politically correct business. But not when it comes
to literature. Literature (in this case, a story by Helen Bannerman
and the recipe book for book-lovers from these brave two women authors
who dared buck the tide against those who would have us forget any
story that has anything to do with race or stereotype including
the Tales of Old Uncle Remus). They included Sambo as inspiration
for pancake lovers everywhere!
it turns out, helps recall memories nearly as well as the sense
of smell. When it comes to literature, I simply hate PC.
like these - the ones we seem so happy to discard - give us a chance
to tell our children about the way it was back then. To explain
how big prejudices grow out of little ones, but also how valuable
it is to understand our proclivities for generalizing so we can
do battle with those baser instincts. They give us a chance to understand
our history and, yes, to remember the innocence of childhood. I
thought Sambo brave and, yes, I thought (even then) that Mumbo should
probably not eat so many pancakes.
do not recall that the story made me think that all people with
dark skin ate too many pancakes or were, mmmm, overweight. Not a
bit. Not any more than I thought that butter was really made from
a mix of melted tiger and Sambo's courage.
now. We no longer have Sambo's restaurant in Salt Lake City where
I grew up. We can't find The Story of Little Black Sambo
on the shelves or our libraries or bookstores. Unless we were clever
enough to keep one of our old copies of Sambo stashed away
in a bookcase somewhere, we don't have the books. I haven't seen
one in decades.
we do have -- and will always have -- oral tradition. And we do
have authors like Shaunda Kennedy Wenger and Janet Kay Jensen who
care more for books and tradition than they do politics.
yes. We do have our memories.
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