My parents were Holocaust survivors. Even my brother was born in Europe. I was born 3 weeks after they came to America. In other ways, though, we were pretty ordinary. My dad worked 6 days a week, my mom watched her kids and the neighbors’ kids; my brother and I fought like cats and dogs.
The one thing my brother and I agreed on was mom’s marble cake- the best ever. Because she wasn’t familiar with American products or measurements, she created all her own recipes. As the years went by, I realized I would never be able to re-create those treats, so I asked her to measure out her handfuls of flour and scoops of sugar, and write everything down.
My mom dies 6 years ago and I inherited her cookbook, along with the magical marble cake. She had faithfully recorded the flour and sugar in cups and tablespoons. The wet ingredients, however, said “a spoon sour cream” and “a glass milk.” I still haven’t gotten it right.
This post was submitted by Fran Samuels.
Everything that my grandmother made, tasted good. I remember going over to my grandparents house for the weekend, and having coffee in my little tin cup. It was delicious!
I also enjoyed the way my grandmother made MAYPO. I found out as an adult what made it so special was she warmed the milk and poured it over the MAYPO. Delicious.
What I will always remember is when my grandmother would make my favorite cake- “German Sweet Chocolate Cake” for my birthday. Yummy! When I was about 13, my grandmother taught me how to bake that cake, and I was in cake heaven. Needless to say, German Chocolate cake became my favorite cake and everyone elses. I became the German Chocolate cake-baker thanks to my Grandma
This post was submitted by Robin Stephens.
With a name like Weinerman, one would think we had some secret family recipes. We DID NOT. The only thing my mother and grandmother made was oatmeal and reservations…..with love.
Because Weinerman was difficult for Goyim to spell, my father started calling himself Dr. Winters. He wasn’t a doctor, he just thought he could get a better table if he said that. I guess that was a secret recipe after all.
This post was submitted by Vicki Winters nee Weinerman.
Back in high school when I was 14, I accidentally used baking soda instead of flour in my first ever sponge cake baking effort….
Needless to say, the “cake” exploded in the oven – the rest of the class was spent learning how to clean the oven! My grandmother was mortified
This post was submitted by Fiona Whitby.
My earliest childhood memory of food was when my parents and I would go to Flushing on Saturday mornings to buy live crab. We would take them home and I would race them on my kitchen floor til It was time for mom to throw in boiling water.
Then we would feast on crab on top of newspaper sheets on our patio deck wooden table. Great times with family and food!
This post was submitted by Cynthia Martin.
The first time my parents left me alone with my younger brothers, my mom left food, including a cooked tongue. Remembering that I’d seen my mother take off the skin, I started cutting away- making the very smooth curved tongue, look strangely angular.
A while later, my 4 years younger brother entered the kitchen, took a look and asked what I was doing. He had a good laugh when he said “it’s off already.” No wonder I was having so much trouble!!
This post was submitted by Judith Sussman.
My mother is an amazing cook, but coveted our neighbor’s “famous” cheesecake – not so much because she enjoyed it, but because she couldn’t make cheesecake. After months of trial and effort, she finally came up with a cake that was comparable to our neighbor’s recipe.
She excitedly invited our neighbor over to sample her chef d’oeuvre. While preparing tea, my mother made the mistake of leaving the cheesecake in the dining room with our vivacious cocker spaniel. I didn’t know a 25lb dog could eat 5lbs of cake….
This post was submitted by Josh Moldovan.
My father’s mother was the consummate food snob. In fact, she was a snob about most things. She was a huge entertainer, though not a cook. For her weekly card games (I think canasta) she prepared eleven invitations, centerpieces, place cards- you name it- but would have the food catered.
After one such event, my mother came to visit as my grandmother was bout to throw the whole untouched poached salmon in the trash. My mother stopped her just in time take the salmon off her hands. Leftovers were beneath her, but not of course, my mother.
This post was submitted by Jessica Healy.
Bloomie eventually reckoned with the fact that Chelm’s Pond and Paradise were the same place, although she never figured out why. Nonetheless, and perhaps all the more, she worked hard in the diner and, as she grew older, her aspirations to become the manager and proprietor grew stronger. She felt the diner should have a clever and catchy name, like those of the more conventional eating establishments she had been impressed by in her visits to the neighboring villages. Names like the White Birch Café in Tupper Lake, or Marty’s Chili Nights, the Mexican restaurant in Indian Lake, or Custard’s Last Stand, the ice cream shop in Long Lake. And too, she wanted a name that was unmistakably and uniquely characteristic of Chelm’s Pond. Read the rest of this entry »
This post was submitted by Sandor Schuman.
How Naugahyde Helped Kitchen Chairs Stay in a Jewish Family for Generations ‘Iron’ Covering Survived Moves From Coast to Coast and Back
One of my mother’s favorite Yiddish proverbs was, “You can’t sit on two horses with one behind.” A fine observation, but growing up in Brooklyn, sitting on even one was unlikely. My own steed was the lid of a sewing machine, a rounded wooden case shaped like a covered bridge with curved corners. Heigh-ho, Singer.
As for places to sit, I mostly perched on the kitchen chairs in our two-family home on 58th Street. The landlords, my grandparents, lived upstairs and never raised the rent. The deal was that my mother would be nearby and available as her parents grew older.
There were four sturdy chairs in our kitchen, and four slightly different ones in my grandparents’ kitchen. On one of those chairs, my grandmother bent over that Singer, narrowing the legs of my dungarees and sewing aprons to be presented to my teachers as Christmas gifts, or practicing her signature on torn-off scraps of paper grocery bags. (She could neither read nor write.)
This was the ’50s. Families making the upwardly mobile leap from Brooklyn to Long Island were furnishing the kitchens in their split-levels with Formica and chrome, shiny mid-century splendor.
We stayed put and stuck with wood. “You couldn’t buy chairs like that today,” adults in my family said, at exactly the time when other people were throwing chairs like that away.
I was in elementary school when my mother brought up the notion of refurbishing the kitchen furniture. The response was certainly cool. My grandfather said that whatever was to be replaced was “good enough,” his typical rejoinder to any such proposal.
But my mother, the executive in charge of 58th Street home improvements, had clout. It had been she, after all, who had ordered the wallpapering of the kitchen ceiling, an endeavor deemed even more successful because the paperhanger had prophesied it wouldn’t last through the night. “Next morning, it was still there,” she liked to remind us.
After a few month’s discussion, my mother was taken seriously. The framework of the furniture was OK, but the wood was dark brown, mottled and rough. The seats, dark red plastic, were stretched and puckered in the middle, frayed at the corners, and dotted with cigarette holes left by a house full of smokers.
The search for someone to do the work began. The most desirable choice for an upholsterer and furniture restorer would be someone who was a cousin or brother-in-law of one of my grandparents’ synagogue pals. Such a person would be ashamed to do a bad job.
Family members, friends and even acquaintances would spread the word if the work turned out to be shoddy. A chair man — unaware, no doubt, that this job could make or destroy his reputation — was hired.
And then the most serious business of all: the materials. Various coverings were compared and contrasted. Warnings based on cautionary tales of my grandparents’ friends’ upholstery tragedies were recounted (“In summer, it stuck to her legs like glue”); utopian goals were offered (“It shouldn’t show the dirt”); and worst-case scenarios were summarized (“They threw their money out the window”).
And finally, it was decided: We were going with Naugahyde. My mother brought home armloads of sample books, crammed with patches in many colors and textures. But looks were secondary. The main qualification was that it should “wear like iron,” the highest compliment anyone in our clan could bestow, applicable to cars, shoes, kitchen appliances, wedding dresses, friendships, anything.
The restorer picked up the kitchen chairs and took them away. Impatiently, we sat around the kitchen on folding chairs brought up from the basement as substitutes.
When the chairs came back, the wood was amber-colored and glossy, the seats and backs covered in shiny forest green, stippled with wormy black lines. The seat surface looked something like avocado skin, something no one pointed out at the time because not one of us had ever eaten or even seen an avocado.
What we did eat was matzo, latkes, tuna fish, pot roast and Campbell’s tomato soup, meal after meal, year after year confirming the wisdom of the upholstery choice.
“They look like new,” it was said of the chairs.
My sister and I grew up and moved to California, leaving our parents and grandparents on 58th Street. Then my grandmother lost her memory, and shortly after that, her mind. Maggie, the aide who took care of her, sat in one of those chairs, too, having her dinner alone in the kitchen next to a forest of potted plants raised by the silent invalid who by this time never left her bedroom.
After both grandparents died, my parents sold their own kitchen chairs and moved to California with my grandparents’ chairs, because my mother thought their legs more graceful.
My father died a year after the move, but my mother lived another 32 years. She sat in one of the chairs every morning to read the newspaper, and every night to watch “The PBS NewsHour.” Her grandchildren, our sons, dribbled food on the chairs; my sister’s dogs licked them clean.
She was 93 when she suffered the stroke that left her unable to speak. She seemed happiest sitting in one of those chairs, relishing the familiarity of a shared lunch around a set table, a tangible reminder of her life in the kitchen. For a while, friends bearing bouquets and pound cakes came to sit, too. When she became both frail and volatile, they found it too depressing, and then they hardly came at all.
After my mother died, my sister took the chairs. But then my sister became ill, and late last winter, just as the first of the daffodils she had been sure she’d planted too early were pushing up, she died. Of everyone at 58th Street in the Naugahyde Era, I was the only one remaining.
My sister wanted my sons, her nephews, to have her things. So when they were in San Francisco for her memorial service, they chose what would go to Iowa, where our older son lives with his wife, and what would go to Brooklyn, where — much to the surprise of my husband and me, who spent our childhoods dreaming of escape from the borough — our younger son and his wife live.
The chairs are now about a mile from the house on 58th Street.
Just after movers picked them up, an upholsterer who had been recovering an office chair for my sister when she died, told me she’d told him that after the job was completed, she would ask him to “to recover some kitchen chairs, too.”
Among all the things that didn’t get said in time, didn’t get done in time, I don’t regret that the chairs never got recovered. Such a frivolous move, even after 60 years, would have been a rebuke to the decision-makers, who are all gone and replaced by memories of the things they said, the meals they shared.
Besides, Naugahyde wears like iron.
Leah Garchik grew up in Brooklyn and is a daily columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. She relishes occasional trips home.
Published with permission of the author. Origincally published in the Jewish Daily Forward. Read more: http://forward.com/articles/185482/how-naugahyde-helped-kitchen-chairs-stay-in-a-jewi/?p=all#ixzz2mWqWvFqv
This post was submitted by LeahGarchik.