Homage To Hershele

April 15th, 2016 § 4 comments

During HG’s young years, HG’s late, beloved father, Hershele Zvi Freimann (anglicized at Ellis Island to “Harry Freeman”), would arrive home after work in a breathless state. It was a long, uphill trudge from the Bronx’s 170th Street subway station (later the Kingsbridge station). Hershele hung up fedora and coat. Opened the refrigerator to get a piece of schmaltz (or home pickled) herring. Tore off a hunk of pumpernickel bread (Pechter’s or Stuhmer’s). Poured a substantial glass of Park & Tilford rye whiskey (tiny glass for little HG). Hershele and HG clinked glasses and said: “L’chaim !! (To Life). Hershele knocked off the big glass in one mighty gulp and followed it with the herring/pumpernickel chaser (HG opted for a small piece of bread). Yes, immigrant Jews like Hershele enjoyed alcohol. The pre-dinner drink was known as a “brumfen.” At the end of dinner, a dessert of fruit compote was served with a glass of home brewed “vishniak” (cherry brandy). Thus, HG grew up believing alcohol was part of dining. Hershele (and HG in later life) always accompanied spirits with food. HG sips bitters and soda before a meal with one or two shrimp, ceviche from the Pojoaque (New Mexico) Super Market, or a simple, salted cracker. Wine accompanies dinner and HG sips an after dinner TV-watching-snifter of brandy (or Scotch) with a sweet: peanut brittle or Belgian Butter Cookies. Tonight, HG’s meal will be an homage to much missed Hershele. There will be a bottle of icy Aakavit on the table plus dark ale brewed by New Mexico monks. Two kinds of herring: Pickled and Matjes. Gefilte fish and Jewish Rye Bread (both from New York’s Zabar’s via visiting Peter Hellman). Sliced sweet onions (from Texas). Boiled potatoes. Sour cream. For dessert: a thin slice of New York cheese cake with a snifter of brandy. HG will raise his glass of Aakavit and say “L’chaim !!. With a second glass, HG will raise it and say: “To your blessed memory, beloved Hershele.”


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§ 4 Responses to Homage To Hershele"

  • Ed McGrath says:

    To our late parents! When one writes, we relive the golden past. Have you been to McSorleys?

    • Gerry says:

      Ed: I went to McSorley’s often. Beginning in 1948. They didn’t admit women. Must admit, I didn’t miss them. Loved the ale, the cheese, the onions. It had that old time Irish saloon atmosphere. Bit further north was a saloon (Conelley’s?) that served sublime open faced pot roast sandwiches. A thick slice of rye bread. Tender, flavorful pot roast. Plenty of lush dark brown gravy. Big favorite of cops.

  • Dear HG–You must be aware that nowadays, had your father poured you even a miniature shot of Park & Tilford, some busybody would have reported you to Child Welfare. And then what? You know: They would have had your father arrested and placed you in foster care. No doubt your caretaker would have been ill-tempered, maybe even abusive, and had agreed to take you in only for the money. You would only have been permitted to reunite with your natural parents when you achieved your eighteenth birthday, possibly 21st! And all because of the mini-shot of schnaps!

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