Tag Archives: Daitch Shopwell

Ring Jells Addiction Started in The Catskills

21 Apr

Sometimes I read a note on Facebook that just touches my soul.  It happened now.  Someone posted about meeting a woman shopping for Passover food in a grocery store.  She was crying while holding a box of Joyva Ring Jells in her hands.   It seemed her mother passed away, and this would be the first seder without her.  Her mother loved Ring Jells, and the sight of this box made her cry.


This box is now empty.  But I enjoyed every one.

That should be my children one day.  I love Ring Jells.  While I cook my seder meals and prepare for the long hours ahead, I eat these throughout the day, to me, they are the most delicious chocolate covered sweets.   I am basically addicted to them. The taste of raspberry and chocolate together delights me. Thank goodness I only find them during the holidays.

My addiction started when I was 16 years old working behind the deli and cheese counter at the Daitch Shopwell in Monticello, Sullivan County New York.   It is here that I served the women and men who spent their summers relaxing, cutting their cheese selections and their deli orders.   I worked at this supermarket for three summers, earning spending money and preparing for the costs of college.

But it is also where I learned to love Joyva Ring Jells.  We sold them in the dairy section of the deli, along with all the cheese.  We had a large display of them. Hundreds of ring jells for sale by the pound.  I loved them.  I have to admit it, I would snack on them.  Not eating tons.  But at least two or three each shift I worked.   Eventually the manager told me to stop.  And buy some.  So I did.  I would weigh out 3-5, pay for them, and keep them behind the counter with me.  Snacking as needed.  When the weekends were busy with crazy customers, I really did need them to get me through the day.


Marshmallow twists live in my freezer.

I did not realize they were a special Passover treat.  In our house, my Mom was a Joyva Marshmallow twist fancier.  She would buy them at Pesach and keep them in the freezer all year to snack on.  Did you ever eat frozen marshmallow twists?  At first you have to be careful not to hurt your teeth, but after a bit they melt just a little and are delicious.  I admit I still have some in my freezer from last year.   Usually you had to get just plain white ones.  However, sometimes we could find the ones with pink insides!

After I learned about jell rings, I had to have those as well.  My sister and I favored them over the Marshmallow twists, which I think made Mom happy.  She would share them with everyone, but now had more for herself.

The ring jells, on the other hand, were the perfect snack.  I would take two  or three at a time, stick them on my fingers,  and get ready to eat.  We do crazy things when we were younger.

When I left the east coast for the middle of the country, I had an issue.  I could not find them in Kansas. But when my parents were alive and visiting, they would bring boxes of Ring Jells and Marshmallow twists with them. So we never suffered during the Pesach holiday.   They also brought Bartons candies, another treat that was nowhere to be found in Kansas City. Eventually these treats came out west, and  I could get them on my own.

Ring Jells are comfort food for my sister and me.  I am going to visit her the end of the week.  I sent her the following text message on the Thursday before Pesach: “So I purchased one box of raspberry jelly rings to bring to you. And one for my home. Cause I have to have some.  But I had three today and I feel better.”

She wrote back: “I bought two boxes for when you are here! LOL”

My response: “LOL I will leave mine at home.  We do not need three.  Great minds think alike.”

A number of years ago we went through a difficult time. We lost our parents and aunt in less than a year.  Five months later, erev Pesach, my sister’s husband also passed. It was a horrible time.   I did not know how we would survive that holiday.  But I have to say, our friends knew of our need and ring jell addiction.  Friends filled the house.

I don’t know how many of them went shopping. But in days we had boxes upon boxes of ring jells.  In the evenings, when most everyone had left, my sister and I ate ring jells and talked.   It was a Pesach that tried our souls.  And I hate to be trite, but the ring jells gave us a small amount of comfort in our first Pesach without these beloved family members.  (And a mighty thank you to all who purchased them for us.  I don’t know if I ever told you how important they were in this horrible time.)

Special foods bring memories and joy.  For me Joyva jell rings helped me through preparing seders and difficult times. They bind me with my sister.   I could see my children crying over them when I leave this world.  But I don’t think they will buy or eat them.  This addiction will probably end with me.

A zissel Pesach to all.




A Blueberry Patch Was the Site of My First Kiss

29 Apr

The summer of 1969 was famous for many reasons; the July walk on the moon of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the Woodstock concert in August. But for me, even though I remember those events vividly, and lived just 1 ½ miles from Yasgur’s farm, for me the summer of 1969 was the summer of my first kiss!

It happened near my grandparent’s bungalow colony in town of Kauneonga Lake. It happened on the path between the two sections of the blueberry patch that covered the ground between the bungalow colony and Cooper Drive.

Why it happened there, I do not know. But I remember it as if it was yesterday. My first kiss was very shy. I was 14, I think he was as well. Perhaps 15, but no more than that. Looking back, I realize that kissing on that path was a very poor choice. I had lots of boy cousins, a brother and friends who could have seen us. But they did not. We kissed in the middle of the path, then went our separate ways back to our respective homes.

To be honest, the kiss did not lead to dating. We were just friends. I have no contact with him, although I remember his name and what he looked like.

We, of course continued to see each other. But it was a one-time event.

There were other boys I dated in the Catskills over the years. But not one was ever serious. Usually they became my friends.

One Catskill friend took me to my high school senior prom. He was a freshman in college, so it was a big deal. Another boy I met while working at Daitch Shopwell was beloved by my grandparents. He and I remained friends for years. We both married others — not people we met at the Catskills.

The boy I loved the most in the Catskills, never really took me seriously. I think it was the age difference. I was 16 and he was 22. I was smitten. I also met him when working at Daitch. He had a great voice and would sing and play the guitar during our breaks. To this day when I hear the song, “You’ve Got a Friend,” I think of him. But to be honest, although I remember what he looked like and the sound of his voice, I cannot remember his name!

Not all Catskill summer romances end. Two of my cousins married the girls they met in the Catskills. Both have been married over 30 years and are grandparents. They and their families still come up to Kauneonga Lake every summer.  And there are many others I know who also married the love of their lives that they met while teens in the Catskills.

Although for me, the Catskills was not the place I met my husband, it was the place I brought I children to visit every summer. A place of great fun and memories.  My children got to spend wonderful times with their many cousins at the lake and in the house where I spent my summers.

As for the walk and kiss in the blueberry patch; it was not unwelcome. I still hold it in my heart. I am sure I picked some blueberries on the way back and ate them.   Although my love for that boy did not last, my love for blueberries has lasted forever.

Early Morning Fishing Expeditions Were Another Summer Joy

18 Oct

When the mist was still rising above the lake and the sun had not totally come out; when the cool air forced you to wear a lightweight jacket over your clothes, then was the best time to go fishing!

But fishing did not just happen. You had to prepare. First you had to gather the worms. We never went shopping for worms. NO! You got your metal coffee can prepared ahead of time: filled with dirt and holes punched into the plastic lid. Then you waited for a rainy day, when the worms crawled out of the dirt. Collection began then.   You had to collect the living worms, the ones that were still squiggly and crawling and pick them up and put them in your coffee can.

Success was at least 20 worms.

Next step was getting permission and finding an adult who would go to the lake with you. On the weekends, usually a dad would come along. And sometimes the dad who was up for the week would come. But we also had grandfathers who would sometimes go fishing with us. We just had to get up early, collect our gear and go across the street to our dock on Kauneonga Lake.   We would fish off the dock or stand in the shallow water next to it to fish.   This is the time before we were allowed to go on a boat.

Once the permission was granted and a supervising adult was found, then the day was selected. TOMORROW! We will go fishing tomorrow morning. You have to be up at 6 am…Ha. Perhaps 7:00 am. Usually a group of us went fishing together, carrying our fishing poles and our cans of worms. Wrapped up in a warm jacket, we made our way across the street.

I loved to fish when I was little. I did not even mind touching the worms. But I was a bit afraid of the hook. I did not want to put the worm on the hook. I had seen accidents over the years. The hook in a finger or stuck in a leg. Sometimes it got caught up in my hair. I had to wear my hair back when we went fishing. A hat was best! I did not like when the boys flung their poles to get the hook and worm further out in the water. That is usually when someone got hurt.   I liked to stand by myself a bit away from everyone else.

But I still liked it.   Oh, we also had a bucket filled with water to put the fish in that we caught. And we did catch fish. Some were too small and had to be thrown back in. But some were just perfect. And they went into the bucket. They would be dinner eventually!

Fishing usually lasted an hour or two, and then we would take our catch back across the street. Near the area when the cars parked was a big rock and wooden low wall. That is where we cleaned the fish.   When we were really little the dads and grandpas did the cutting and cleaning. But I have to admit, I was really good at it. When I was about 10, it became my job. I could cut off the head and filet the fish the best of all! I do not care what my siblings, cousins or friends say, I know I was the best.

In later years this skill became important. During high school and college I worked in a deli, both in North Bergen, New Jersey, and at Daitch Shopwell in Monticello. I was the best at filleting the white fish. People would choose their white fish and then ask that I filet it.   I very rarely left any bones in. So fishing gave me a lifetime skill.

But when we filleted the fish from the lake, we sometimes found lots of eggs inside and other interesting features. It was somewhat gross, but also somewhat intriguing. I liked to be neat and organized about it.

After the fish were filleted, we would clean them and then wrap them in white paper. This is when the moms would get involved. They had to be wrapped perfectly to go in to the refrigerator. Sometimes we had them that evening on the grill. Other times we waited for the dads on the weekend to eat our catch.

When we got older we could go out on a rowboat to go fishing. I used to go with a friend of my parents. I remember Bernie getting me early in the morning to go out on his rowboat and fish. I loved it. Bernie E and his family had a bungalow on the property that was next to my grandparents’ colony. They lived near my grandparents in West New York, New Jersey. And they bought their property because of my grandparents.

One of my cousins now owns this property along with a piece of my grandparents’ colony. He has a great view of the lake. When I see it now, I am amazed. He has one home when four bungalows used to stand. It makes me realize how small the bungalows really were!

Besides fishing, we also could collect crayfish. These are like little lobsters. They lived among the rocks that held up the docks. We never ate them. We just liked to catch them. The boys liked to play with them. During the summer you would get to recognize different crayfish because of a missing claw or a scar. Those were usually put back into the water.

I would have loved to share my joy in fishing with my children. But living in Kansas, with no lakes nearby made that nearly impossible. However, we had a chance. It just did not go well at all.

Lara fishing lake of ozarks

My husband’s Aunt Matt and Uncle Stan spent every summer at the Lake of the Ozarks, a large man-made lake, which supplied the water power that ran the hydroelectric industry in Missouri. They also owned two weeks in March of time-shares in what were known as ‘tree-houses’ at a resort called Tan-Tar-A. All the nieces and nephews in easy driving distance, those of us in St. Louis and Kansas City, had open invitations to spend time with them. My husband’s Mom died when she was only 59, and her sister, Aunt Matt, took her role as substitute grandma very seriously. So for us an invitation to visit was really a veiled command. One that we loved to obey.

When my daughter was about three, we went to spend a long weekend with them in March. Uncle Stan was so excited, “Precious (he called all the little ones Precious), Do you want to go fishing?” He said. She nodded. And his joy was immense.

The search for bait began. My husband and his uncle drove to several different bait places looking for minnows. Almost all were closed. The season had not yet started. But finally, after hours of searching, they found an open store and brought home minnows. They had forgotten that they had no containers, so they used a big plastic container. Our daughter played with the fish all afternoon. Later that evening, we noticed our daughter walking around with plastic container.   “Where are the minnows?” My husband asked.

“In the sink!” was the reply. She was done with minnows.

My husband and his uncle ran to the bathroom. Some fish were still alive. They filled the sink with water, hoping against hope it would work. No way. That chlorine wiped the fish out. There were no minnows. There was no fishing expedition in the morning. And to be honest, we never tried fishing again with my daughter.   Of course Uncle Stan and Aunt Matt were fine about it. Aunt Matt’s response was typical for her, “Wasn’t that cute?” Uncle Stan chewed on the stub of his cigar. He never actually lit it when children were around, but he did chew a lot that evening!

Years later our nephews tried to get our son interested in fishing. They lived close to Uncle Stan in the St. Louis area, and had gone fishing with him at a nearby pond. But they could not get my son interested. Sitting still and waiting for a fish to take the bait was not his idea of fun. They even gave him a used fishing pool in an effort to convince him to like it. Did not work.

It is the only summer joy that I never was able to instill in my own children. And although I wish they would have learned to enjoy fishing, my memories make up for their lack of enjoyment.


My Jobs Behind a Deli Counter: Daitch Shopwell and Butensky’s

5 Feb

Daitch Shopwell supermarket in Monticello is where I spent my summer vacations once I turned 16.  Of course I was not there all the time, but I did work 20 hours a week in the deli department.  The first summer I was assigned to the cheese section, but in later years,  I worked in the deli as well.

It was not my favorite job, but I did meet people who became close friends.  I learned how to speak to all types of people, from the nice grandmotherly types who came in for simple cheeses. To the smartly dressed summer mothers who wanted a specific Tilsit or blue cheese.

I also learned to deal with difficult people.  From those I worked with to those I had to be polite to because they were customers.  I learned that some people treat workers badly, while others will do their best to help you have a good day, especially if they see someone being mean to you.

There was Richard G. who drove me crazy, but kept me sane when things were going badly.  He had a wicked sense of humor. He also was kind enough to drive me home many times, even though I lived 10 miles in the opposite direction from him.  Rich and I became good friends and even were in touch after we married others.

I can still smell the cheeses.  Some were very pungent, others had a nicer aroma.  I got very good at judging what was a 1/3 pound, a half pound, a ¾ pound and a full pound of any meat or cheese in the counters.  It is a skill.  And to this day I can watch someone at a deli counter and tell how much is going to be on the scale.

The one thing I really hated was being on clean up duty.  The people who close up the deli counter also have to clean up.  All those knives had to be washed; all the counters cleaned off; all the trash thrown out.  Not my favorite thing to do at all. But I did it.  It is another thing I learned while working.  The bad comes with the good.

However, working at Daitch also led to my winter job in North Bergen, NJ.  Our neighbor across the street owned a deli on Bergenline Avenue between 77th and 78th  Streets.  I just had to walk up the hill from Boulevard East and I was there.  Sometimes my Dad would drive me up.

I worked for Kenny and Betty Butensky starting in my senior year of high school. Later,  I used to come home from college one or two weekends each month just to work in the deli.

So many people I knew would come into the store.  Working behind a deli counter is not just providing the customer what he or she wants, it is helping them know what they want.  White fish, sable, lox.  Corned beef, pastrami, tongue, bologna, salami.  Rye bread, challah, rolls.  So many good options!

I was the best at deboning the white fish.  This goes back to my days in the Catskills catching fish at Kauneonga Lake.  I learned very early how to filet a fish. I used those skills at Kenny’s.

I learned so much from the Butensky’s.  I learned how to make a deli tray.  I learned to cut a radish to look like a flower.  I learned to garnish.  I learned how to slice lox.  But since I was left handed that job was taken away from me, as I always messed up the angle for everyone else… Sigh.  Whenever I have a party I think of them as I prepare my food trays.

I made sandwiches, bowls of cole slaw and potato salad. There is lots of work in a deli, especially on the weekend.

I made the best corned beef sandwiches….and I had one for lunch each day I worked.  Kenny would  (‘kibbitz’) joke with my dad that he should pay me in corned beef because I loved it so much. When Dad and Kenny teased me too much, Betty would step in and stop them.

In fact when I got married and moved to Kansas, Kenny would send me a corned beef sandwich packed in dried ice for my parents to bring me.  I can still taste those sandwiches.  We do not have great delis in Kansas.  Whenever I went home, I visited the Butensky deli until it closed.

Kenny had another skill.  He was a cantor with a magnificent voice.  It was Kenny who walked down the aisle first in my wedding chanting the sheva brochot…the seven blessings for a bride and groom.   It was beautiful. I still hear his voice, even though I have been married almost 34 years.


Kenny Butensky is the shorter man standing in front.

Everything you do in life shapes you.  I was shy and quiet.  Working in the deli at both Daitch and Kenny’s taught me to be a ‘shmoozer,’ someone who can talk to anyone.  And I do.

I still see Daitch Shopwell in its prime.  The store was always packed with people.  Now it is an empty lot.  But when I go there, I see a filled parking lot.  So many memories are contained in the shell of the store.

In my mind, I see Kenny and Betty behind the counter.  There were times when it was really busy and we could not chat…just work. But then when things were slower we would chat while we worked.

These were times I can never forget.