Hungry Gerald Followers

March 25th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

HG’s post “Bronx Slavery” used some information garnered from a book about The Bronx’s Grand Concourse by Constance Rosenblum (NYU Press, 2009). If you share HG’s fondness for Bronx history, good and bad, you will find this book invaluable. Yankee Stadium, Loew’s Paradise, Ascot Theater, Lewis Morris building, Arthur Kober, art deco, Roosevelt Gardens, Andrew Freedman home, Concourse Plaza Hotel, CO-OP City, Kingsbridge Armory, Bronx Park, Poe Park and more, very much more, are some of the topics covered. Buy it and enjoy. Nostalgia for older folk and insightful urban history for the younger generations. For HG: Bittersweet memories.

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Bronx Slavery and Mom.

March 23rd, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

“The Bronx Slave Market.” That’s what African-American journalists called it when they called the issue to public attention. A shameful period in Bronx history. During The Great Depression of the 1930’s and ending with the USA’s entry into World War Two (brief rebirth from 1947 to 1950), “Bronx Slavery” was a disgraceful fixture in the Jewish neighborhoods of the West Bronx. With unemployment disproportionately high in Harlem (and other African-American enclaves), African-American women would line up on Bronx street corners to be hired by Jewish women for a day’s housework. Top pay was 75 cents an hour (went down to a low of ten cents an hour). Many of the workers were viciously exploited and cheated. Marvel Cooke, an African-American journalist, went undercover to line up with the day workers in 1935 and wrote a fiery article about it in the magazine, “Crisis.” Harlem photographer Robert H. McNeill photographed the Bronx “slaves” as they waited for a job on a bitingly cold day. There were many outcries about the injustice from left-wing whites and African-American activists. But, the “slavery” continued. In 1939, ten-year-old HG was old enough to hate the “slavery” and tried, to no avail, to arouse HG’s friends and classmates to action. That year, there were five in HG’s family living at home: HG, Mother and Father; late sister Beulah Naomi (working during the day and attending CCNY at night); late elder brother Bernard (studying to get his optometry degree at Columbia University). So, lots of work for Mom including hand scrubbing and clothesline drying of laundry. Bernard insisted that Mom hire a Bronx “slave” for a day. The family protested but Bernard insisted. Mom was a socialist (liked Trotsky, hated Stalin), a militant trade unionist (friends had died in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire). Finally, Mom gave in and hired a worker. But, first, Mom cleaned the house (“Don’t want her to think I keep a dirty house”). The dignified African-American woman arrived and polished “company” silverware and washed a light load of shirts and table cloths. Worked a few hours. Mom made her sit down and have a lavish lunch of tuna salad, lettuce, tomatoes and scallions plus rugelach for dessert. Mom paid her five dollars and emptied much of the refrigerator and pantry for the woman to take home “For the kinder (children)”. That was it. Never repeated. One “shandeh” (shame) was enough.

Park Plaza

March 16th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

The Bronx has a cluster of handsome art deco apartment houses on the southern portion of Grand Concourse (plus the “moderne” Bronx County Courthouse). Some need restoration and others, including the renowned “Fish Building”, with its glowing mosaic of an aquarium, are still looking good. The first art deco apartment house built in The Bronx (1931) is Park Plaza at 1005 Jerome Avenue (no elevated on this portion of Jerome) and W. 164th Street. Designed by architects Horace Ginsbern and Marvin Fine, Park Plaza is an eight-story structure divided into five sections. It contains 200 apartments ranging from one room to five rooms. The most prominent feature of Park Plaza is its facade embellished with magnificent art deco polychromatic designs. Developer Bernard Noonan was so impressed by Park Plaza that he commissioned Ginsbern and Fine to design Noonan Plaza some blocks north (HG recently did a nostalgic and admiring post about Noonan Plaza). Park Plaza and Noonan Plaza are both designated New York City Landmarks. The late Julien J. Studley, who created one of the country’s largest and most innovative real estate firms, was also intrigued by the elegance of Park Plaza. He bought it in the 1970’s knowing that rent control had done much damage. HG is quoted in The Studley biography, “Shaping the Skyline” by Peter Hellman: ” ‘Julien thought he would make a better world by being a caring landlord,’ said Gerry Freeman, his press agent-cum-confidant.” The tenant response to such caring was a destructive rent strike. Julien was forced to give up Park Plaza. Said Julien: “That was my first taste of total failure.”

Noonan Plaza

March 10th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Growing up during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, young HG would walk from the family apartment at 1210 Woodycrest Avenue, The Bronx, to elementary school, P.S. 11 on Ogden Avenue. HG would always pause and look into the courtyard of Noonan Plaza, the art deco apartment complex masterpiece which occupied most of the square bounded by W. 168th Street, Ogden Avenue and Nelson Avenue. The courtyard was magic. It contained a pool inhabited by swans and fish. There was a waterfall and the pool was crossed by rustic Japanese bridges. Noonan Plaza consisted of eight and six-story white brick buildings containing 281 apartments ranging from studios to three-bedroom units. Designed by Horace Ginsbern and Marvin Fine, architects, with much Mayan/Art Deco ornamentation on the buildings’ facades. It was built and owned by Bernard Noonan, an Irish-born real estate developer who built many apartment houses in the Highbridge section of The Bronx. Noonan Plaza opened in 1928 and was immediately occupied by upwardly mobile Jewish families fleeing the Lower East Side. Besides the design and the “moderne” bathrooms and kitchens, Noonan Plaza buildings were sited so each apartment received a maximum amount of sunshine and fresh air. Fortunately, HG’s beloved late sister, Beulah Naomi, had friends who lived in Noonan Plaza, so HG had many opportunities to visit apartments and stroll in the courtyard. It was HG’s dream to live in Noonan Plaza someday. It reminded little HG of Hollywood movies. As The Bronx decayed in later years and the middle class fled to the suburbs, Noonan Plaza did resemble a Hollywood movie.. A horror movie. It was occupied by drug addicts and drug peddlers, squatters, vagrants, etc. Much was destroyed as addicts ripped apart and sold anything that could be sold for drugs. As vandalism increased, at one point only five apartments were occupied. The last owner abandoned the complex and The New York Savings Bank, the mortgage holder, took over. Architect Frederick Ginsbern, the late Horace’s son, was dismayed at seeing his father’s masterwork destroyed. He was gratified when the bank contacted him and asked whether he had the architectural plans for the complex and would he design a restoration. It was difficult to find a builder who would do the job. Finally, Glick Construction signed on. It took two years to bring back Noonan Plaza to glory. A garden has replaced the pool. There are security gates and a manned security station. When it reopened in 1982, there were 2,000 applications for the affordable and rent-subsidized apartments. It cost $9,000,000 to reconstruct Noonan Plaza. Today, almost 20 years later, it would probably cost upwards of $100,000,000 to build a complex of this size. Noonan Plaza was designated as a New York Landmark in 2010.

The Perfect Steak

February 24th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Fish, chicken, ground turkey, eggs, yogurt, rice, beans, lentils, cheese, vegetables of all kinds, avocados, pasta. These are the basics of HG/BSK’s diet. Very little red meat (boneless leg of lamb, lamb chops, pork chops occasionally). Steak is a rarity. About two times a year. Never have filet mignon. Mushy. Tasteless. BSK finds rib steak too marbled with fat. So, the HG/BSK choice is New York Strip. Whole Foods had a steak sale and BSK bought a big, juicy New York Strip. BSK’s skills are limitless. Among them is the ability to cook The Perfect Steak. Here’s how Wonder Woman does it. Dusts the bottom of cast iron pan with sea salt. Turns the heat on high in order to sear the steak on both sides. Lowers the heat a bit. Using tongs, cooks the steak by turning it over every thirty seconds. By some mental alchemy, BSK knows when it has reached the perfect point of rare (but not raw or cold in the middle) juicy perfection. Lets it rest on a heated platter for a few minutes. Tops it with a bit of butter. The result: The Perfect Steak. Serves it with two salads: A leafy salad of lettuces and a chopped salad of Kumatoes, sweet onion and endive. Roquefort dressing for both salads. Brings back memories of Christ Cella, the long-closed New York steak house. It was the best steak house in the world.

Farewell Salt Cod

February 20th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

When HG’s children, Lesley R. and SJ were very young, BSK made many dishes with well-soaked salt cod. Brandade, garlic laden and creamy, was an HG favorite. The puree was also good for breakfast when fried as pancakes and topped with a sunny side up egg. Little Lesley R. and SJ hated salt cod. Hated the dishes made from it. On one occasion, while vacationing in Nantucket, the stealthy kids liberated a wooden box of salt cod from the pantry and buried it in the garden. BSK made a fish stew last night using salt cod, fish stock, white wine, onions, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes and many herbs. The rich broth and the vegetables were delicious. But, HG discovered that HG no longer liked salt cod. HG determined that any dish that used salt cod would be better with fresh cod. However, if you’re sailing around the world in a wind-powered boat, follow the lead of sailors of yore. Take dried salt cod (bacalau) along. Good source of protein.

HG at 12: Girdle Ads and Nude Olive Oyl

February 13th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

At age seven, a contemporary told HG how babies were made. HG punched the boy for accusing HG’s Mother and Father of doing a nasty thing. Yes, with time came acceptance of physical truths: By 12 years old, young HG began noticing a rather stimulating difference between young women and growing boys. When HG was 12, there was no exposure to porn. What existed was very “underground” and not something a 12-year-old boy could stumble upon. Yes, there was a widely circulated booklet featuring comic strip Popeye doing the naughty-naughty with Olive Oyl. Young HG was not aroused. Much more exciting to HG were the numerous bra and girdle ads in the New York Times Sunday Magazine and the “intimate apparel” displays in storefronts along the Bronx’s Grand Concourse. Ah, innocent days.

Jerome Ave

February 11th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

That’s the title of a very moving photo book published by the Bronx Photo League. The book was a gift to HG from Gifted Daughter Lesley R. The elevated subway train (Number 4 Line) still runs above gritty Jerome Avenue in The Bronx. The photos depict some of the 3,700 hard-working people who work in the South Bronx section of Jerome Ave. They are immigrants from Mexico, Africa, South America, and the Caribbean. This stretch of Jerome Avenue contains every conceivable type of auto repair shop (engines, body-work, brakes, etc.). People from all over New York City go there for repairs (cheaper and better than mechanics in the suburbs and gentrified city neighborhoods). In addition to the repair shops, Jerome Avenue teems with small businesses — bakeries, hair stylists, clothing and food shops plus a storefront church are there. It’s a busy and active area that supports thousands of families both in the neighborhood and abroad. It’s being threatened with rezoning. All part of the process that is pushing low-income people out of the city HG once loved.

Thin

January 31st, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

A very useful bread is Pepperidge Farm Thin Sliced White Bread. HG does not like standard sliced bread or thick slices of whole loaves. Whatever the use, most sliced bread is simply too much for HG: Too much bread for a sandwich and too much for cheese (HG prefers an English water biscuit with a runny brie or camembert); however, the thin, inoffensive Pepperidge product creates the perfect ratio of carbs-to-veggies-to-proteins for the type of BLT that HG desires. Lightly toasted Pepperidge Thins, smeared with organic peanut butter and good jam, make for a worthy companion to breakfast coffee. At lunchtime, HG uses it for a sardine sandwich: Portuguese sardines (sourced from the great Portugalia store in Fall River, Mass.). Thinly sliced onion. Lemon juice, Mayonnaise, All the lusty flavors come through. Here’s some nostalgia. In the 50’s and 60’s, a number of New York stores (Caviarteria, etc.) sold great caviar at modest prices. HG and pals would gently warm Pepperidge Farm thins, butter them and heap the slices with abundant Beluga caviar. The beverage was Polish vodka, Wyborowa. HG eyes go misty at the memory.

Anchovies

October 20th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Growing up, HG ate lots of anchovies. HG’s late Mom, in her blend of Yiddish-English, pronounced them “anchowees.” Mom (and HG’s late father) were very fond of them. They thought of anchovies as another form of salty schmaltz herring. HG ate them on slices of buttered rye or pumpernickel bread. When in season, they topped juicy slices of tomato. A squeeze of lemon was obligatory. When very young, HG accompanied the snack with cold tomato juice. At the age of ten and thereafter, HG drank beer. HG’s Mom and Pop didn’t consider beer to be a dangerous alcoholic drink. When HG began dining at Italian restaurants, HG usually began the meal with anchovies and roasted peppers. (Best version was at a long-closed eatery on E. Houston Street). These days HG eats anchovies with BSK’s roasted and peeled peppers or jarred Spanish peppers. A favorite use is cooking anchovies with olive oil, sliced garlic, parsley and fiery red pepper flakes. Poured over spaghetti, the sauce creates HG’s favorite pasta treat. (Romans like it late at night after a bout of carousing and drinking). The best anchovies come from Italy, Spain and Portugal. The very good ones are usually jarred. Anchovies, of course, are necessary for a well made Caesar salad (One constructed with raw egg yolk, good olive oil, some lemon juice, capers and a shower of ground pepper. No croutons.) BSK uses anchovies to enhance broccoli sauce served with penne. When making vinegar chicken (a bow to Joisey “Stretch’s Chicken”), daughter Lesley R. used an entire tin of anchovies as part of the sauce. None of these uses of anchovies adds excessive saltiness and there isn’t a bit of fishy flavor or aroma. A benefit is the fact that anchovies are one of the world’s most nutritious (and low cal) foods. (Oddly, there are folks who hate them).

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