Tag Archives: Bakery

A Piece of Crumb Cake or A Crumb Bun Equals Love

15 Mar

Crumb cake and crumb buns, I can still taste them. Eating a crumb cake in my family is like eating love.   As the powdered sugar drips and the crumbs fall, we see and smell happy memories. I can not tell you how many important family discussions were held while we sat around eating crumb cake, but there were many. Crumb cake kept us together and talking.

My Grandpa Nat was a baker. My grandparents owned a kosher bakery in West New York, New Jersey. And among my favorite foods were the crumb buns. I say among my favorites, because I liked other items as well: chocolate chip cookies, black and white cookies and rye bread. But for my Mom, there was really just one love: the crumb buns were always the number one item for her.

She told me that as a little girl she were go down to the bakery in the morning and check out the tray of crumb buns, looking for the best one: the one with the most crumbs; the one with the biggest crumbs. And then my grandmother would cut that crumb bun out for my Mom to eat.

I would like to say that she outgrew this need. But she never did. Even after my grandparents closed their bakery in the late 1960s, my Mom still needed a crumb bun fix. When she could no longer find them in bakeries, she turned to Entenmann’s crumb cake to get her fix! Yes, my Mom was a crumb bun/cake addict.

She would share anything with her children and grandchildren, but when it came to crumb cake, she still had to choose the best piece with the best crumbs for herself. We sometimes ‘fought’ over the best piece, but in the end Mom would get it.

Mom loved to eat crumb cake on a paper towel or napkin. She would put the cake upside down on the paper, and eat the cake first. Saving the crumbs for last, she would eat the biggest crumbs first and slowly work her way to the smallest crumbs. Near the end she would fold the paper towel so that the crumbs would gather together. Then when she had picked up all the pieces she could, she would lick her finger to pick up the last crumbs. I still eat my crumb cake that way.

Her children and grandchildren learned early on that Grandma would steal their crumbs when they weren’t looking. Yes she would. If she saw a crumb on your piece of cake that was extremely large, she would just reach over and take it. In fact, sometimes we would notice that the cake in the box would be missing a few crumbs. Mom had secretly taken those crumbs when no one was around.

But the ‘stealing’ went two ways. Sometimes, after my Mom chose her perfect piece, she would leave the room for a minute. Then my Dad would pounce, and hide her cake. He would act surprised and say something like, “That was yours? Sorry I already ate it.” But she knew it was close by.   And he would give it back to her like a guilty teenager.

Finding the piece of cake with the best crumb ever was an important goal. My sister and I soon realized it was best to be up early in the morning to look for the best piece of crumb cake. But it did not matter, Mom usually beat us to the best piece.  As my sister remembers, and it is true,  sometimes the crumb cake was missing a piece from the middle!  Mom had been there first, claiming the piece with the best crumbs.

Entenmann's Crumb Cake hidden on top of the refrigerator.

Entenmann’s Crumb Cake hidden on top of the refrigerator.

The tradition took on new meaning when the grandchildren arrived. It was wonderful fun eating crumb cake together. The crumb cake, which was kept high on top of the refrigerator, would be taken down. Everyone would gather around to look at it, trying to figure out which piece they would get. The corners, of course, were the best pieces. Mom always got one of those.

In the summer time, the crumb cake tradition was not only for mornings. In the evenings, as we had our tea, someone would always bring the crumb cake down from the refrigerator. The grandchildren would come running to participate in the feast. Sometimes it was just all the girls eating with Grandma. But other times, the boys would join in as well. In my mind’s eye, I see them all giggling around the table having tea and crumb cake.

When I moved to Kansas, I was so excited to see Entenmann’s crumb cakes at the grocery store. I bought one every time my parents came to visit. But more important, I bought one whenever I felt homesick. Having a piece of crumb cake with my children, always made me feel closer to my Mom.

Even when my Mom was at her sickest, she could usually eat a piece of crumb cake. She would get a look of childlike delight when the cake would be put on the table. She still analyzed every piece, looking for the piece she wanted to eat.

For a month, when my Mom was sick, my daughter lived with my parents. My daughter told how each evening, my Mom would ask for her cake. “Find the most crumbs,” my Mom would say. And my daughter would cut my Mom the best piece of crumb cake and bring it to her. It lightened the day.

When my Mom passed away, eating a piece of Entenmann’s crumb cake became even more important. I felt close to her when I ate the crumbs from the paper towel. Sounds silly, I know. But in those first months it did help. However, about six months after she died, the grocery stores in the Kansas City area, where I live, stopped selling the crumb cake. I felt crushed. I was devastated. I no longer could have my crumb cake fix. I no longer could feel that connection with my Mom.

I can still get crumb cake when I go back east to New Jersey and visit my siblings. My sister almost always buys a crumb cake for us to enjoy during my stay.  It helps. That bond with crumb cake is part of our existence.


I actually had a lamp made after my mom died that has some of her favorite sayings on it. The Sticks campany, which makes painted furniture, will personalize their items. And so I had something made in memory of Mom. On one side, I had them engrave, “Crumb cake ❤ Love.”








Woodstock Memories: A Walk On West Shore Road

30 Jul
The hoards of people walking towards Woodstock toward Hurd Road on West Shore Road. The hoards of people walking towards Woodstock toward Hurd Road on West Shore Road.

How does one write about the Woodstock Festival of 1969? Forty-five years have passed, but when I close my eyes I can see the chaos of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people on roads not made to carry them. I can hear the music and the constant noise. I can feel the vibration of the ground of the bass drums. I hear the loudspeakers telling people what is happening. I smell the rain and the pot.

I was 14 when Woodstock came to me.  It was a weekend that I am unable to ever forget.

I worked at the bakery in Kauneonga Lake. Located next to the Post Office, it was only opened on the weekends usually in the mornings. But sometimes I worked till 3 pm. This weekend was to be like all others. My Dad drove me to work, as the store was about a mile and a half from our bungalow, and I was running late that morning as cousins had come to visit the night before, and I had to be at work by 8 am.

However, the day did not progress as normal. More and more people were coming into town. And then the woman I worked with said, “Someone has paid for all the food in the store, so we can give it away for free to all these hippies.”

And there were lots of young people, who looked like hippies. I always thought it was strange that the food was paid for, and then a crew with a camera came into the store to film as hundreds of people tried to come in and get free food. It was chaotic. We were working like crazy to give the food away. Put it in bags. I turned away from the camera.   It was hectic and somewhat scary for me. It was not a big room, and people were squashed inside against the display cabinets. And I was very shy.

When the food was all gone, and the people emptied out. And the camera crew left. We put a closed sign on the door and locked it. I called my Dad. “I can’t come and get you. The roads are a mess. You will have to walk home. Be Careful,” my Dad said. “Stop at the colony if you need to.”

The bungalow colony my grandparents owned was about two-thirds of the way to our bungalow, which was further up West Shore Road, one of the two main roads that led to the Woodstock concert held on Max Yasgur’s farm on the corner of West Shore Road and Hurd Road. I had relatives staying at the bungalow colony. I knew I would be safe there, if needed.

After I got off the phone, I looked outside. Cars were just stopped in the middle of the street. The center of town was overrun. People were abandoning their cars and walking, walking up to Woodstock, to Yasgur’s farm.

A few moments later there was a knock at the door. A black man from town, whom we all knew, said,  “I am going to walk you home. You cannot go walking alone in this mess.” I think my Grandpa must have called him, because how else would he know that I needed to walk home? So off we went. He was holding my hand and guiding me through the throngs of people.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I will get you home.”

I know everyone talks about how wonderful Woodstock was and how it was the peaceful event that brought together music, love and drugs. How everyone lived in harmony for three days. But on that walk, I saw an ugly side to Woodstock. Sorry, but this is my memory.

As we walked down the road people were yelling at each other. The town people who wanted the cars to move. The people in the cars who wanted to move their cars. Then there were also the hordes of people who were just walking and laughing. They seemed to be having a somewhat good time.

I was calming down, until we came upon a little Volkswagon ‘beetle’ car. Inside a white man was punching a white woman in the face. They were probably in their 20s. Blood was running down her face. The man with me, pulled open the car door and grabbed the man’s hand. And he yelled at the girl, “Get out of the car!”

“But it’s my car!” She cried.

“It is not going anyway,” my now hero yelled. “Get out of the car.”

We were right in front of my grandparent’s bungalow colony. I saw my other grandmother and aunt among the women standing there. They opened the gate, and grabbed the young women, towel in hand to wipe the blood off her face and stop the bleeding. “Come with us.” I remember them saying. “We will call your parents.”

People walking from Kauneonga Lake. My Dad is with the camera.

ordpress.com/2014/08/woodstock-toward-town.jpeg”> People walking from Kauneonga Lake. My Dad is with the camera. I made it home.

My grandmother called

[/caption]My grandmother called over to me. “Are you okay? Can you make it back to the house?”

I nodded yes and pointed. “He is going to walk me home.” She nodded in return. “Okay, I will call and tell them you are on the way.” I think she was a little shocked about who was walking with me.

We continued walking toward Woodstock and home: up the hill past the White Lake Estates, Finks and Top Hill. To my grandparent’s private home, where our bungalow was located.   My Dad and Grandpa were waiting for us at the end of the driveway. They shook my companion’s hand.

“Thank you,” my Grandpa said. “Come up to the house for something to eat and a schnapps.”

The big metal container is what we filled with water. This is our driveway. My Dad let some people park along the sides of it.

om/2014/08/woodstock-our-driveway-woodstock.jpeg”> The big metal container is what we filled with water. This is our driveway. My Dad let some people park along the sides of it.

Our property looked different. G

[/caption]Our property looked different. Grandpa and Dad had let four cars or campers park along the driveway. They had run a hose down from the house to the end of the long driveway. It ended in a large aluminum basin. A sign said, “Free Water.” Cups floated in the water, when they were not being used by the people walking by.

“Where are their mothers?” My Grandpa said while holding his head and staring at the endless line of young adults walking by. Some of the girls looked very young.  It was these girls that brought on my Grandpa’s lament, “Where are their mothers?”

Then he walked back to the house for lunch and schnapps with my Dad and my walking companion. My Grandpa really needed a libation that day!

I remember much more of Woodstock. I remember sitting on our front lawn and just watching the people go by. Woodstock itself was another mile or so up the road.   I remember listening to the music. We could hear it from our home.  I remember that the noise went on all night long.  We heard either the sound of music or sounds of people in the usually still Catskill’s nights.

My brother and his friend; my cousins and many others I knew walked up the hill to the concert. I did not. My parents said no!  My brother, who was a year older was allowed to go, but not me.  It did not really matter, in a way we were in the middle of the concert anyway.

And then you know, the rain started. My brother talked about sliding down the hillside. My cousin took all the food my mom packed, not realizing my brother and cousin would never be able to meet up at the concert. We always teased my cousin about ending up with the food! The blankets disappeared into the mud of the hill. The humans did not disappeared, but when they came home Sunday night/ Monday morning, they were all muddy messes.

For weeks after,  the cleanup continued. Poor Max Yasgur, he became a pariah – a scapegoat in town. There were lots of very angry people.

The view from the Hurd Road Woodstock Monument. Looking toward West Shore Road.

598.jpg”> The view from the Hurd Road Woodstock Monument. Looking toward West Shore Road.

Woodstock. It was something special for many peo

[/caption]Woodstock. It was something special for many people. I changed after that weekend. I saw the world in a different light. I saw the worst in people, as the man beating a woman; yelling and anger.  I saw the best in people, as in my companion on the journey home. I learned the color of skin meant nothing. The person inside is the most important. A lesson I have carried with me my entire life.







How World War I Saved My Family or My Grandpa Was A Draft Dodger

25 Jun

World War I changed the world! One hundred years ago, Europe became a place of desolation and devastation. Young men from both sides were killed. Millions perished. From all I have read, it was horrible. The use of gases so horrific that laws were later passed banning the use of these and all future chemical weapons. We know that sometimes they are still used. But the world peoples are united against them.

For my family, World War I actually saved my branch of a family. My Grandpa Nat, you see, was a draft dodger.   As he would explain it to me, Jews in Galicia did not really have a chance in the military. They were often put in the worst positions, meant to die. And if they survived, they were conscripted for 25 years. So they never were able to live a Jewish life or return to their families again.

In 1918, when my Grandpa was about 18, his life changed; he received the dreaded notice that he was to report for military duty. It sent his family into action. Nissan, as he was known in Europe, had to be smuggled out of Galicia to save his life.

Thus began my Grandpa’s two-year journey to salvation and survival. He left his home in the middle of the night with just those things he could carry and wear. His intention was to get to British Mandate of Palestine and join the efforts to create a Jewish homeland. But his first goal was to get to his cousins in Belgium.

He wandered through Europe during the battles of 1918 and the aftermath of the war. Slowly making his way to Belgium. He had no real passport. Instead he was using the passport of a dead cousin.

Eventually he made it to Belgium and his cousins. Their reaction to his wish to travel to Palestine was, “Why go to Palestine? It is a desert! Go to the United States, to the Golden Medina. You have an Uncle there. He will help.”

So my Grandpa contacted his Uncle Julius, known as Uncle Yidel to us all, his mother’s brother. Uncle Yidel agreed to sponsor Grandpa to the United States.  But he had one problem, he had been robbed along the way and had to work to earn the money to pay for his trip to the United States.  But finally, after about nine months, the last leg of his journey began. Fortunately for him, his uncle did sponsor him, because when he arrived in the port of New York City, and the immigration site of Ellis Island, he had just a nickel. Without a sponsor he would have been sent back to Europe.

Grandpa often would tell us that we could be whatever we wanted to be. “Look at me,” he would say. “I came to this country with just a nickel in my pocket. And look at what I have.” So we learned early on not to complain to Grandpa and to never give up!

I tried finding my Grandpa’s immigration information from the Ellis Island sites, but could find nothing. My Grandma’s was easy to find. So I often wonder what that passport actually said. And how old he was supposed to be? But in 1920, immigration procedures were not as intense and documentation was not as precise as it is now.

Tanta Molly and Uncle Yidel

Tanta Molly and Uncle Yidel

Uncle Yidel and his wife, Tanta Molly (also known as Malchik)  welcomed Grandpa.

Growing up in Europe, my Grandpa had been a yeshiva brocha, a student of Torah. He had a beautiful singing voice, and perhaps might have been a cantor. But instead, somewhere along the way, he learned to be a baker. When he first came to New York, he worked two jobs. One as a butcher, the other as a baker.  But it is as a baker that he prospered in America. He and Uncle Yidel started a bakery eventually owning a building in New York City. (My Grandma told me that when Grandpa proposed he told her he had a place. She thought he rented an apartment. She did not realize he owned the building!)


Grandpa in his bakery in West New York, New Jersey, 1942.

Grandpa in his bakery in West New York, New Jersey, 1942.

They separated the business after my grandparents married, and Grandpa and Grandma opened a new bakery in Linden, New Jersey.  But in the early 1930s, when my grandmother took their children to Europe for six months, Grandpa sold the bakery in Linden and opened a new bakery in West New York, New Jersey.  He kept this bakery for over 35 years.

Grandpa had many cousins in the United States. His parents were first cousins. So he was double cousins to many of the family. They helped him settle in. But Uncle Yidel was the most important. Uncle Yidel and Tanta Molly were always a part of our lives. They had one son, Ezra.

Whenever we went to see them, we were welcomed in Yiddish. Tanta Molly would come running out to hug us. She would call out our Jewish names: “ Tovaleh, Fagaleh, Chavaleh!” I asked my Mom, “Why does she put an ‘aleh’ on all our names?”

“It means little,” my Mom replied. “Well that did not make sense, Tanta Molly is littler than us!” Was my response. “It means she loves us,” Mom laughed as she said that. Later I found out the ‘aleh’ did mean little, but really was an endearment.

My Grandpa always missed the hills of Galicia. He often told me that he bought his property in the Catskills because it made him think of his home and his childhood. Many years latter when I traveled to that part of Europe, I saw he was right. The rolling, low mountains and hills do look like the Catskills.

My Grandpa forever missed his family. World War I did save him. He came to the United States. But his parents, siblings, and many aunts/ uncles/cousins stayed in Galicia. They all perished in the Shoah.

My Grandpa Nat was a draft dodger, but he never stopped fighting for the right to practice his beliefs and to protect his family in the USA. He loved America. He never traveled outside of the United States. When asked, his reply was always:

“Why would I ever want to leave here? It is the best place in the world.”

Bakery Aromas Bring Back Delicious Memories

1 Feb

There are bakery aromas that help me time travel in my mind.  Until I was 3 ½ years old I lived with my parents and brother in an apartment above my grandparents’ bakery, Amsterdam’s Bakery,  on Palisade Avenue in West New York, New Jersey.  I do not remember much of those days. But I remember the smells.

ImageEven though we moved to North Bergen, my brother and I alternated weekends at my grandparents.  They were wonderful adventures.  My younger sister’s birth was the reason we moved, as well as the reason we were sent off to my grandparents.  It gave my mom a needed break.

Staying with my grandparents was the best.  They lived in the top floor of a three-story building.  The bottom, ground level was the bakery. Above it was two smaller apartments. And the top floor was my grandparent’s home.

I loved going to sleep at night, knowing in the morning I was expected to get up on my own…get dressed and make my way to the bakery, with those glorious aromas.

I loved walking into the store area.  Grandma would be behind the counter.  The moment she saw me, her eyes would light up.  Breakfast would soon be coming.

Between the bakery shop and the store was a narrow room with a small kitchen, bathroom and the candle-ing room for the eggs. (My grandfather had a kosher bakery, so all the eggs had to be checked before use.)  Here I would get my warm breakfast of eggs and toast.    Grandpa would often bake me a little loaf of rye bread.  I loved the crust. I did not like the inside.  I would scoop out the inner part and give it to grandma, then eat all the crust with butter. YUM

When done, I would enter the bakery!  Grandpa and Uncle Leo would be busy.  But never too busy to forget to give me my dough, raisins and some chocolate chips to make cookies.  I would knead my dough and make round cookies.  These would be baked and given to me to take home for my parents.

After I finished my baking, I always returned to the storefront.  Now was snack time.  All that work in the bakery made me hungry.  It was time to forage along the case and decide which of my favorite treats I should eat.  A crumb bun, a chocolate chip cookie, a linden tart, a black and white cookie?  Oh there were so many choices.  But these were my favorites.   Usually after breakfast, I would have a crumb bun.

There is a special way to eat it.  You put it on a napkin upside down.  Eat the cake first and save the crumbs for the last.  Delicious!  Great with a cup of tea!

My chores were not over of course.  After that snack, I always worked behind the counter.  There was a wooden milk carton to stand on to help the customers.  Grandma and I would work together.  But I got to put the money in the old cash register and give the change.

Our lives changed in 1969 when my grandfather sold the bakery.  No more early morning deliveries of bread and cake to our front door.  No more weekend baking expeditions.  My mother went for months looking for a bakery that met her expectations.  She finally settled on Hill Top, although it was not the same as my Grandpa’s baking, it was a wonderful second best.

But my grandfather did not totally stop baking. He moved some of his equipment:  giant mixer, baking trays, cooling racks, bowls, whisks and more, to his home in Kauneonga Lake, New York.

This began another adventure in baking.

Grandpa had all this equipment moved to his basement where he set up a little bakery.   He would make cookies, challah, cakes and pies. And we would help!  I learned many ways to braid a challah, among other skills.

I remember one time he made so many plum cakes.  Someone gave him a bushel of plums. We baked for an entire day. He made it into trays upon trays of cakes that he gave to Beth El Synagogue in Kauneonga Lake, for a Shabbat oneg.

Every year for Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur , he made dozens of round challah. We did not eat them all, so he must have given them to his friends.

Even though he was retired, he still would bake for Katz Bakery on the weekends. When my brother was old enough, he started baking as well and working for Katz, with my grandfather as his teacher.  My grandfather’s attitude was that learning a skill was important.  My brother became a chemist….perhaps all those recipes helped him learn formulas later on.

My grandmother and I worked at a Katz outlet in Kauneonga Lake. We were only opened on the weekends. But it was my first real summer job. I was only 14. There was no baking there, just a storefront to sell the cakes, cookies and breads.  I worked there for two summers.  It was very close to the post office; and friends would come and visit me when they got their mail.

I loved working there because it brought back memories of my grandparents’ bakery, but it was not quite the same. My Grandpa’s chocolate chip cookies were still the best.  His basement bakery was the source of many care packages sent to my brother and me in college.  Whenever the box of chocolate chip cookies arrived, my roommates and friends would line up for a sample.

To this day, when I enter a bakery, the aromas take me back in time.  I see my grandparents, I smell the bakery, I remember working with them and sharing precious time.  I am once again a child waiting for a favorite treat.