Yom Kippur Bad Boy

September 24th, 2020 § 1 comment § permalink

Yom Kippur, “The Day of Atonement”, will be observed this month by Jews throughout the world. Basically, the day is marked by confessing the sins of the past year (and hoping for forgiveness). The body is mortified that day (sunrise to sundown) by fasting (strictly enforced). HG’s Mom and Dad were Socialists and labor unionists. Not particularly religious. However, they emulated their ancestors by the observance of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah (New Year’s). Mom was very strict about Yom Kippur fasting. The reward was a sumptuous dinner (replete with many sweets) when the fast ended. The dinner always ended with a tray of home-baked nut-and-raisin rugelach (infinitely superior to the rugelach sold in present-day bakeries and groceries). Pop accompanied the rugelach with glasses of “vishniac”, his home-brewed cherry brandy. (Little HG was allowed a few sips). One Yom Kippur, eight year old HG left the street games (no synagogue for atheist HG). Late afternoon. Famished. Tray of freshly baked rugelach in the pantry. Satanic urges. One nibble of rugelach. That’s not really breaking the fast. Hmm!! Overwhelmed by temptation, HG ate the entire tray. Mom came home. Set the table for dinner. Looked at the empty rugelach tray. Shrieked. “Gevalt!!! Call the police. A burglar stole my rugelach.” (Pantry reached the back door so Mom wasn’t illogical). HG confessed. Major league scolding (no corporal punishment in HG’s home). Pop tried hard to mask his laughter. After all, there were other sweet things on the table. Lekach (honey cake). Taiglach (nut sized balls of flour batter baked with honey and ginger). The anecdote of HG’s rugelach theft became an oft-repeated piece of family history.

Happy New Year!!!

September 23rd, 2020 § 1 comment § permalink

The Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah welcomes the new year with joy and festive feasting. This Rosh Hashanah, Marina Pipes hosted a merry supper (as the evening meal is called on Prince Edward Island. Lunch is called dinner.). Marina, a Russian, and her husband, Amram, an Israeli, are neighbors of BSK’s sister, Noel M., and brother-in-law Yossi M. (Yes, it’s a coincidence that Yossi and Amram, both Israelis, should make their homes in the same neighborhood of faraway Prince Edward Island). Amram, who farms and raises livestock on his PEI acreage, could not be present. An expert agriculturist, he is working on an ambitious irrigation project in Uzbekistan with an Israeli team. So, present at the feast were Marina, HG/BSK; Noel and Yossi M.; Marina’s Russian/Jewish neighbors, Luda and Savely Krichevsky (he was an engineer and she was a musicologist and singer in Russia ). The couple found their careers blocked for political and ethnic reasons and, under a special program, migrated to the Saskatchewan Province of Canada. Found the weather unpleasant and made their way to PEI and second careers, He is a currency expert and trader in rare coins. She is a hair stylist (cuts BSK’s hair). The supper table was crowded with good things. Roast tomatoes stuffed with ground lamb. A Russian/Iranian version of potato salad. Grated carrot salad. Roast mutton. Russian version of ratatouille. Egg salad. Platter of onions, olives and cherry tomatoes. Dessert was a Russian pie stuffed with preserved fruit. Jugs of white and red wine. (HG drank icy vodka as homage to the Russian origins of the dishes and three of the diners). With urging from HG/BSK, Luda entertained post dinner with Russian songs a capella. Beautiful voice and dramatic phrasing. Happy New Year, indeed !!!

Walker Walking

September 21st, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Another sunny, breezy day on serene and peaceful Prince Edward Island (so lucky to have an oceanfront home here). HG went for a long walk along the bluffs facing the sea and the shrub lined paths. Breathed much invigorating sea air. Signs of autumn are appearing. A few leaves have changed color and seasonal wildflowers –vivid blue Asters and colorful Goldenrod–have appeared. HG had a treat on a path–a cluster of super sweet, last of summer raspberries. There were also many purple/blackberries. HG couldn’t identify them (nor could BSK when HG later described them). Intrepid HG ate a few. Wonderfully sweet with many small seeds in the interior. They must be edible since HG has had no ill effects. Walking has been made easier for ancient HG with a thoughtful gift from BSK (always on the alert for things that make HG’s life better and healthier). The gift was a state of the art Walker (dubbed HG’s “Maserati” or “Ferrari” or “Lamborghini”). Makes HG’s strolls a pleasure rather than a labor.

Sunday Cooking With Karen Lee

September 19th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Many decades ago when living in Montclair, NJ, HG/BSK would travel to Manhattan for Chinese cooking classes with Karen Lee. HG/BSK were part of an interesting group that gathered in Lee’s small Upper West Side apartment and learned how to chop, shred, stir fry, etc. We then ate our creations. They included chicken, pork, spare rib and noodle dishes. Simple and delicious. Some of the people in HG/BSK’s group were author and fashionable wit, Stephanie Pierson; actor Peter Boyle (“Young Frankenstein”, “Taxi Driver”, etc.); actress Verna Bloom. Much laughter. A favorite dish was Pon Pon Chicken, a staple of HG/BSK’s cuisine then and now. Pon Pon is composed of poached, shredded chicken in a lush, spicy sauce of peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, Szechuan preserved vegetables, garlic, chili oil and other ingredients. It is served over room temperature linguine. As HG has noted, HG/BSK and BSK’s sister, Noel M., and her husband, Yossi M., alternate hosting Sunday dinners at their homes. Sunday (Sept. 6) at the HG/BSK oceanfront home on Prince Edward Island, the main dish was Pon Pon chicken. The group was joined by beautiful neighbor Leslie F. All expressed delight with the Pon Pon. Last night (Sept. 13) dinner was at N. & Y.’s Ocean Mist Farm. Very good local goat cheese and crackers. Sweet corn on the cob. Stuffed peppers in a roasted tomato sauce. Mixed salad. Ice cream with fruit sauce for dessert. Much wine, white and red. Tasty food. Good company. Happy time. And, HG received a gift from Noel M.: A jar of her strawberry/rhubarb jam, the best jam ever. HG puts a spoonful on HG’s breakfast bowl of yogurt. Delicious way to start the day.

Lundy’s: Triumph and Tragedy

September 17th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Lundy’s, located on Emmons Avenue in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay, had a long run: 1935-1977 (the effort to revive it in the 90’s failed). It seated almost 2,000 diners. Despite the vast size, it served consistently perfect food with efficient, swift service (by long tenured African-American waiters similar to those at Gage & Tollner, another Brooklyn landmark). In HG’s opinion, this was the best seafood restaurant in the world. It was affordable. In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, a glass of beer was 15 cents and a dry Martini was 45 cents. The “Shore Dinner” was vast: raw clams (or shrimp); oysters on the half shell; steamers; half a broiled lobster and half a roast chicken; French fries; cole slaw; lots of hot, buttered biscuits; pie (huckleberry was the best); coffee. HG would share one shore dinner with HG’s Brooklyn girlfriend. In the immediate post-World War Two years, the shore dinner cost $5.00. HG usually ate more modestly at Lundy’s. Five bucks was a splurge, so economic-minded HG often patronized the restaurant’s raw clam bar. One dozen little necks and one dozen cherry stones accompanied by warm, light-as-a-feather biscuits, dripping with melted butter. Icy Ballantine’s Ale. Nice snack and it cost in the neighborhood of two dollars. Lundy’s was founded by Irving Lundy and despite the financial success of the restaurant, the family was marked by tragedy. Early deaths from accidents, disease, and robbery-related murders.

Chock Full O’ Nuts

September 15th, 2020 § 1 comment § permalink

Chock Full O’ Nuts, the fast-food chain (at one time with 80 stores in New York) served excellent coffee and a signature sandwich of cream cheese and chopped nuts on dark raisin bread. During HG’s busy New York/New Jersey public relations career, it was a favorite stop for a quick lunch or afternoon snack (very superior whole wheat donuts among other menu items). Very efficient. Very clean (“Untouched by Human Hands” was its motto). Surly, grumpy African-American women were the servers and they used tongs to deliver the food. Jackie Robinson, after his retirement from baseball, was hired as personnel and general manager. He did his best to make the service friendlier. Chock Full was founded by William Black starting with theatrical district nut shops in the 1920’s. When the Great Depression hit, Black converted them into sandwich shops, selling the nutted cheese sandwich and a cup of coffee for five cents. Chock Full coffee was very good. When Gault Millau, French food critics, visited New York, they enjoyed the coffee and added that it was an effective laxative. Canned Chock Full was distributed in supermarkets. The singing commercial (by Black’s wife, Page Morton)–“Chock Full O’Nuts, that heavenly coffee, better coffee a Rockefeller’s money can’t buy”–was omnipresent on radio. The food chain closed down in the 1970’s. The coffee brand was sold to the Zanetti coffee conglomerate. The stores were revived in 2010 as Chock Full O’Nuts Cafes (there are now six, two in Brooklyn, two in New Jersey and two in upstate New York). The nutted cheese sandwich costs $4.95. A frankfurter, the same.

Korean Pancake Improv, Delish!

September 14th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

HG is fond of pancakes and BSK caters to this appetite with variations on the traditional “diner-style” offerings: Corn or blueberry or strawberry crispy wonders. Drenched in Canadian maple syrup, of course. A nice dinner main dish is a platter of Korean pancakes accompanied by crisp lettuce leaves. Korean scallion pancakes are offered at Korean restaurants, side dishes for bulgogi and other regional specialties. Typically, BSK adds a special twist to Korean scallion pancakes. The traditional batter is flour, a beaten egg, ice water, salt, oil, garlic, corn starch and lots of chopped scallions. In New Mexico, BSK adds chopped cabbage and jarred raw oysters to the mix. Last night, on Prince Edward Island, BSK substituted bok choy for the cabbage and sea scallops for the oysters. BSK found the scallops (frozen) at the Co-Op supermarket in the nearby town of Morell. (15 minute drive from HG/BSK’s oceanfront home). Surprisingly good. BSK likes Bulldog Sauce (a sweet and pungent Asian concoction) with Korean pancakes. Not available. HG/BSK made do with Chinese sweet and hot chili sauce plus sambal oelek. BSK’s pancakes always have the right balance of crisp and fluffy. Good stuff.

Wine Gifts

September 13th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

BSK returned from Montague, Prince Edward Island, liquor store with BSK’s usual, delicious, value-conscious wines. Wine is expensive in Canada because of import duties and other taxes. However, BSK finds tasty bargains from Italy, Spain, Argentina, Chile, France and Canada’s Okanagan region. Looking over BSK’s latest selections, HG was reminded of the late Ronald Goldberger. Ron was a prominent figure in the New York commercial real estate world; first as a broker with Edward S. Gordon Co.; later as chief executive of the New York headquarters of a giant international real estate firm. He was irreverent and had a well-honed sense of humor (both verbally and in well-crafted doggerel). He was an adroit negotiator and a dedicated colleague to his clients. Some years ago, Ron negotiated a lease renewal for a Manhattan-based advertising agency. The President of the agency was a wine expert with an outstanding collection of the greatest and rarest vintages. Ron did a bang-up job, saving the agency much money. In recognition, he was gifted with a case of top echelon French wines (Chateau Lafitte, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Rothschild, etc.). Ron protested. It was against his company’s policy to receive gifts from clients but he would accept if he could reciprocate. On the next day, the agency received a case of wine from Ron. It contained Wild Irish Rose and similar bottles of undrinkable plonk.

Celebration

September 11th, 2020 § 2 comments § permalink

Twenty-eight years ago, HG wrestled gently with SJ and SJ discovered a lump on HG’s neck. Visited doctor who ordered CT scan. Bad news. CT scan showed advanced throat cancer. Miracle surgery by Dr. Victor Schramm (and 10 person team). Radiation. Uncomfortable year of recuperation. With that unpleasant history, HG showed concern last week when Prince Edward Island doctor ordered a CT scan of HG’s lungs. Hmm!! Possible lung cancer? Had 50 years of Marlboros and Punch maduro leaf cigars (all inhaled) caught up with HG again? The results of CT came in yesterday. HG lungs are blemish-free and in relatively good shape for a 91 year old man (in November) with CPRD. So, there was a happy celebration dinner last night of Blum’s sweet corn (last of season) and gently sauteed halibut with a side dish of PEI yellow beans. HG began the celebration with a large dry martini. Hey, it looks like HG might stick around (hopefully) for a few more years.

Jews. Chinese Food. Welcoming China.

September 9th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, Jews are very fond of Chinese food. Some believe that affection started at the time of the great 1900’s migration of Jews to New York from Eastern Europe. The lower east side neighborhood housed the incoming Jews in tenements and Chinatown was a short walk away. Chinatown food was cheap and tasty. Jews were not disdained because of their struggles with English. The Chinese were having their own problems. When HG was growing up, every neighborhood in the boroughs had Chinese restaurants. Chow mein and chop suey (heavy on the corn starch) were featured. HG and teenage Brooklyn girlfriend would feast on chow mein after a movie date. Dinner (Won Ton Soup, Chow Mein, Almond Cookie dessert, much tea) cost 50 cents. Mimi Sheraton, the distinguished food/restaurant writer, has recalled with nostalgic pleasure the comfort of celery, onion and bean sprout chow mein during her young Brooklyn days. HG/BSK’s first date more than 57 years ago was, of course, at a Chinatown restaurant: BoBo’s. The very good restaurant (long closed) was owned and run by a beautiful Chinese actress. Recently, HG discovered another reason for the Jewish affinity for Chinese food. In Simon Schama’s magisterial book, “The Story of the Jews: 1492-1900”, the historian traces the hundreds of years presence of Jews in China (Marco Polo, in 1286, commented on Jewish traders in China). Schama writes that there was a community of 2,000 Jews (with a synagogue, Torah, etc.) in the city of Kaifeng during the 1600’s and before. These Jews adopted Chinese names (along with their Hebrew names) and worked at scores of occupations (there were some prominent Jewish military leaders). Jews (and the Torah) were sympathetic to Confucian teachings while retaining their own identity. The Ming Emperors welcomed Jews to their land. Schama writes: “In China, Jews were not subjected to violence and persecution, not demonized as God killers. Their synagogues were not invaded by conversion harangues. They were not physically segregated from non-Jews, forced to wear humiliating forms of identification on their dress. They were not forced into the most degraded and despised occupations, not stigmatized as grasping and vindictive, and portrayed neither as predatory monsters nor pathetic victims.” A Seng emperor welcomed Jews with these words: “Come to our China: honour and preserve the customs of your ancestors, stay here and hand them down through the generations.” Can the Jewish love of Chinese food be linked to the unconscious memories of Jewish life in a benevolent China? Possibly.