If You Can’t Eat It, Hum It!

February 29th, 2012 § 2 comments

“Shrimpers and rice are very nice. Hold tight. Hold tight. Hold tight. Hold tight. Foo-doo-racka-sacka. I want some seafood Mama.” Yes, the inimitable Fats Waller sang the great Sidney Bechet masterpiece, “Hold Tight (Want Some Seafaood Mama) with brio. There are plenty of great food related songs because, well food and music go together like chicken and rice.

HG’s late, beloved father had a favorite performer on the Yiddish vaudeville and musical stage: Aaron Lebedoff (sometimes spelled “Lebedeff”). He was famous for his rendition of “Roumania, Roumania.” In this bravura piece, Aaron extolls the virtues of mamaliga (a Roumanian version of polenta), karnezelach (cigar shaped hamburgers containing abundant chopped onion and garlic) and Roumanian wine. The singer describes Roumania as “ah lahnd a zeeseh, ah shayneh” (a sweet and beautiful land). Forgotten is the fact that this “sweet” land was the site of the terrible Kishinev pogroms in which scores of Jews were murdered.

HG has always been bemused by the fact that once Jews arrived in the United States (The Goldeneh Medina) they looked back on the blood soaked Old Country with misty eyed nostalgia. “Odessa Mama,” “Beltz, Mein Shtetele Beltz,” are just two of scores of immigrant songs celebrating various Old County cities and villages. Even HG’s normally clear eyed father could go on at length about the splendor of Odessa ice cream and the physical beauty of the Belarus countryside.

When HG accompanied his father to the Lower East Side to purchase little HG’s winter wardrobe of corduroy knickers and a heavy tweed mackinaw they often lunched at restaurants that advertised “Roumanian Broilings” in Yiddish and English signs. HG was (and is) very fond of the karnezelach and chicken fat fried potatoes he devoured there. Inevitably, the restaurant sound track had Lebedoff singing his signature song. There were many Roumanian restaurants on the Lower East Side. Only the schmaltz soaked Sammy’s survives. You can hear Lebedoff singing “Roumania, Roumania” on YouTube. Helluva performer. Helluva song.

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§ 2 Responses to If You Can’t Eat It, Hum It!"

  • peter hellman says:

    DEAR HG,
    I COULDN’T LOCATE THE SONG YOU MENTIONED ON YOU TUBE, BUT I DID FIND A STIRRING RENDITION BY LEBEDOFF OF SHABES NUCHIN KIGEL. BUT, BASED ON THE PHOTOS OF THE SERENE COUNTRY TOWN THAT GO WITH THE RECORDING, I HAVE TO SAY THAT I BELIEVE THIS SONG, AND THIS PLACE, ORIGINATE IN CENTRAL OHIO….ANOTHER WORDS, THIS IS BSK’S CULTURE, NOT YOURS, YOU POSEUR!!!
    PH

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