Tag Archives: food

Oh How I Dream About Ice Cream in the Catskills… In the Summer

7 Oct

Sometimes I dream about ice cream. I know that sounds crazy, but since I became aware that I am lactose intolerant, I stopped eating ice cream about 20 years ago. It has been difficult.

When I dream of ice cream, I am always in the Catskills. It is summertime. I am standing on the side of the road by our dock and the Good Humor man comes by, and I get my favorite treat, a chocolate sundae. I am in ice cream heaven.

For years the same ice cream man came by my grandparents’ bungalow colony. Since it was situated right on West Shore Road, we would run up to the gate when we heard that ding-a-ling bell. There would be the big white Good Humor truck. Sometimes we were at our dock across the street. One of the Moms always had money to treat us. It seemed he came every day at the same time.

One year, when I was about 6, a new ice cream man was on the truck, as our ice cream man retired. But I was not forgotten. He had sent an chocolate sundae just for me. I do have to say, I was adorable with the cutest lisp when I was little. And chocolate sundae sounded like “ouclate undae. “

Ice cream treats were always the best. But it was not just the Good Humor man who made us happy.

When we moved up the hill to the new property my grandparents purchase, it had both a winter home and a bungalow, we were very close to Fink’s Kauneonga Park Bungalow Colony.   There was a small grocery store on the property, and sometimes my Mom would send us there to pick up milk or some other essential. She almost always gave us money for ice cream as well. I loved looking down into the freezer to chose a treat. I liked the cone with vanilla ice cream covered in hard chocolate and nuts.  Oh Yum!

We often got an ice cream treat at the Casino/Clubhouse at the White Lake Home Estates when we went to play bingo. And another favorite ice cream stop was Newman’s. There was an ice cream fountain there, and you could order a sundae, or perhaps a milk shake with two straws, or maybe a banana split, or a malted. Newman’s was extremely yum. The year we came up to the Catskills, and it was closed, we were devastated!

When we got older we often went to Poppy’s in Parksville. That was excitement. Usually a group of us drove there after a movie. The weirdest is that we once ran into our parents there having ice cream. We never saw them there again. I think they started going somewhere else. It was embarrassing to be out with a group in our late teens/early 20s and have our parents there. But I think they were embarrassed as well. They could not let go with their young adult children watching.

Lonely me sitting in the car watching everyone else in line to get Candy Cone!

Lonely me sitting in the car watching everyone else in line to get Candy Cone!

But the best of the best in Kauneonga Lake and White Lake is and was and always will be Candy Cone. Sitting close to the intersection of 17 B and Route 55, near to what was the Ritz Theater and across the street from El Monaco’s, Candy Cone is a Catskills dream come true. To this day, a trip to the Catskills is not complete without a stop at Candy Cone.

On the weekends my Dad would drive us up for a treat. There were so many cars waiting for people to buy soft serve ice cream. Sometimes we would get big containers to take back to the bungalow. But really the best was buying the cone you liked. I always wanted vanilla soft serve with chocolate topping. I loved how it froze and became solid on the ice cream. My Mom’s favorite was chocolate ice cream with sprinkles.   Everyone had a special.

During the week, and before we could drive, we often walked the two or so miles to Candy Cone. I will say my friend and I got in the biggest trouble on the way back from Candy Cone once.

Actually we, “D” and I, had walked around the lake, a seven-mile trek up to Happy Avenue then to 17 B then to 55 and Candy Cone and then back home!  I often made this journey with one or two of my friends. We were tired on our way back, even with the ice cream stop! I think we were about 15/16 years old. So we decided to try to hitch a ride. We stood on the side of the road and put our thumbs out to hitch. A car stopped. It was my Dad. (He was up a day early, having been on a business trip.) As we quietly crawled into the car, my Dad said, “If I ever see the two of your hitching again, I will break your thumbs.”

I honestly do not think he would ever do that, because my Dad yelled, but that usually calmed him down. My friend appreciated that he never said anything to our Moms. “Your Dad was cool,” she recently told me. “We could have been in really big trouble.” Which is true. If our Moms knew that we tried to hitch a ride, we would have been grounded, as we knew that hitching was forbidden.

Candy Cone is such a big part of our lives, that even though I cannot eat it, I still go. There is something special about sitting in the car watching everyone eating an ice cream. It brings back so many memories with our parents. In the back of Candy Cone there is a large deck to sit on. When you walk that is the best place to sit. I have been there many times with friends and cousins.

This past summer my brother, sister, nieces and I were up there. We went one time with my brother. And I thought we were done. But as we left on Sunday afternoon, and we were supposed to be on a rush to get home because my niece had to see someone, we stopped at Candy Cone.

“I hope you don’t mind,” my sister said. “ But I promised.”

And how could I let my sister break a promise to her daughter. So we had to stop. They enjoyed every bit of their cones!

There was something special about eating ice cream in the Catskills. It is no surprise that I still dream about it: that cool enjoyment of a swirl of ice cream in my mouth. Oh, how I dream about ice cream in the summertime!



Sweet Remembrances of Rosh HaShanah in Kauneonga Lake

20 Sep

From the time I was seven or eight we spent every Rosh HaShanah in Kauneonga Lake, Sullivan County, NY. Unlike most people who left their summer bungalows to return to the ‘City’ on Labor Day weekend and did not return until the next summer, we always came back to celebrate the holiday.

My grandparents owned a small bungalow colony in Kauneonga Lake. This meant that after the season ended, the bungalows had to be closed for the winter. Water drained; windows covered; everything locked up. My Mom and Dad would help my grandparents perform many of these chores. And when we got older, my siblings and I would also help out.

Since my grandparents owned a ‘real’ house in Kauneonga Lake, we always had a place to stay. The house was sub-divided into four apartments by the woman who owned it before my grandparents. After they purchased it in 1962, my grandparents returned it into one home, with four bedrooms, and lots of spaces to sleep. There was also an attached apartment that they remodeled.

Over the years the house has seen many additions and upgrades. But the most important part was that it had heat and was livable all year. So for Rosh HaShanah, the five of us always went to stay with my grandparents to celebrate the holiday and the start of a sweet and wonderful year.

Our home was located about a mile and a half from the synagogue, Congregation Temple Beth El. This meant no heels for my Mom or Grandma. It was a long walk in a dress and nice shoes. We had to make our new finery stay in good shape as we walked. Along the way we often met up with others who were going to shul.

When the holidays were close to Labor Day, there were many more who stayed to celebrate. Some even kept their boats on the Lake for the extra weekend. It could be very warm when it was early in September, but sometimes, later in the month, it could be extremely cold on Rosh HaShanah.

Going to shul was a treat and fun. Everyone knew my grandparents and, of course, us. The shul was full. Men sat downstairs; women sat upstairs in the balcony, except for the few elderly women who sat in the two rows of seats behind the mehitzah on the first floor.  (See blog below for more about Beth El.)

I liked it when I was very young and could sit with my grandfather in the main floor, and he would cover me with his tallit. But eventually, that ended. My Mom, sister and I would climb the narrow staircase, and sit with the other women.

My Cousin took this photo from the women's balcony, at least 26 years ago. My Grandfather is standing on the right, walking away from the bima. My Cousin took this photo from the women’s balcony, at least 26 years ago. My Grandfather is standing on the right, walking away from the bima.

It was different in the balcony. We could see everything that was going on down below. We watched the men with the torah and listened to the chanting. I loved to watch when the Cohanim went forward to do the dukhanen, my grandfather among them. While upstairs, we did pray, but we could also chat and visit. As I got older, I began to resent being upstairs. But it was I tradition I was so used to that I never argued.

We went both days of the holiday and stayed till about 1 pm. Then would come the long walk back to the house after the Kiddish. I could not wait to get home. There was always fresh raisin challah baked by my grandfather. I loved eating the raisin challah for breakfast schmeared with cream cheese. YUM!

For lunch there always was warm soup made by my grandmother. Grandma was not a great cook, but her soup was wonderful: chicken soup, with delicious chicken feet filled with fat immersed in the brew. And if it was mushroom barley soup there were always knee bones to thicken the broth.

Grandma and I were the ones who loved to nibble around these items!

My Grandma made the best homemade egg noodles as well. She would put towels on all the chairs and hang the cooked noodles on them to dry. These were usually for Pesach, but I begged her to make them for Rosh Hashanah as well. I loved making them with her.

When I became a teen, and my friends were up for the holidays, the routine changed.   We often walked to shul together. One stayed at the Indian Lake House for Rosh HaShanah. Her family rented a bungalow from my grandparents, but by the holiday the bungalows were all closed for the season. So her family rented rooms at this bed and breakfast on West Shore Road. The other’s grandmother lived on West Shore Road, and his parents had a home in the White Lake Estates. We would visit on the terrace of the synagogue before services.

After services and after lunch with our families, we would meet. If it was early in September, the one friend always had his family’s boat for us to go out on. We would bring our homework, and take a boat ride to Camp Hi Li’s raft. We would sit on the platform raft doing our homework on the lake. What a great place to study!

As my grandparents aged, they could no longer walk all the way to the synagogue, so my Grandpa would drive most of the way. He would park his car across from Sylvia’s S & G, ‘shlock’ store. I remember saying, “Grandpa, why don’t you just park at the shul? It is just over the hill!”

He looked at my like I was crazy. “You walk to shul on the holidays!” He said. He was from Europe. And traditions were very important. Grandpa was a Cohan. He had rules that he had to follow and obligations that he had to keep.

When I was very young, there was a deli, Elfenbaum’s, almost directly across from the synagogue. We would stock up on special treats there. It closed when I was about 10. I still miss that deli. I remember going there on Sunday mornings with my Dad during the summer and then right before Rosh HaShanah to have delicacies for the holiday.

We usually spent Yom Kippur at our synagogue in New Jersey, unless the holiday was very early in September and on a weekend.   Then we would go back to the Catskills. But Yom Kippur was much more strict. Although, we, the children, were allowed to eat, I always felt the sadness of this holiday more when I was with my grandparents. Of course, when we were older and fasting, that walk back home seem to take forever!

But still I loved going to the shul on the hill. We loved sitting outside on the terrace before services began, or coming outside to take a break when it got too hot upstairs.

I see myself standing in the balcony. And as I am leaving the synagogue, as it empties, I call down to a friend. It is only the two us left. Every one else is out.   Rosh HaShanah is over.   “See you next summer. Next year in Kauneonga Lake.”




Remember The Corner Candy Store; It Was Not Just for Candy

30 Aug

Children of today are missing out on so much fun due to parental fears and lack of neighborhood stores. But one of the most important things they are missing is the corner candy store!

From the time I was 3 until fourth grade, I lived in a three-family home on Third Avenue in North Bergen. It was great living there, but most important the owners of the house also owned the candy store on 85th Street that I passed every day one the way to and from school.

I lived on the second floor.  The owners also owned the corner candy store on 85th Street.

I lived on the second floor. The owners also owned the corner candy store on 85th Street.

Every afternoon I stopped into the store with my treat money. You could get many different penny candies: candy buttons on a paper strip, licorice, sugar water in waxed bottles, candy necklaces and so much more.

These candies bring back so many good and gooey memories. The candy necklaces would get wet and slimy around your neck as you ate off pieces of candy. The button candy on the paper was difficult to eat without eating some of the paper. One of my childhood friends remembers being yelled at by her mom for eating too much paper.   Pixie Stix were a favorite. They were straws filled with flavored sugar. I delighted in eating those!! The little mini bottles of wax with the sugar water came in many colors. I liked to mush the wax into balls after drinking the water. My sister remembers eating the wax and getting into trouble for that action. She also squashed the used bottles into shapes. We had hours of fun with penny candy!

An extra special part of going to that candy store was that the owners knew us so well that often they would give us some extra candy to eat on the way home. Some times they had candy behind the counter for us: items that came in with a broken wrapper or some little flaw. My sister would stand on the step stool, an old wooden milk carton, sometimes to look over the counter to see if anything was there! We would chose our candy and the store owner would put the prices on a brown paper bag and add them up to tell us what we owed.  Then we would put the candy in little brown bags and snack on the rest of the walk home. We usually had enough to eat that we had some left even when we got home.

When I was in third grade, I started going to religious school in the afternoons after finishing Horace Mann. Before going to the synagogue, Temple Beth Abraham, for religious school, we found the candy store a very popular spot. I always would first go to the candy store for a snack and would meet many of my friends in there also getting something to eat. We always needed a snack between school and religious school!

Besides the candy, the most important part of the candy store for me was the comic books. I think every candy store had a comic book section. Each week new comic books would come out, the cost five or ten cents each. And sometimes there was a special one that cost a quarter. I loved getting the comic books. I loved browsing through them. Some of the boys loved to buy the baseball cards as well.

When we moved away from Third Avenue to 78th Street, I was desolate, partly because of the lost of the candy store. But I found out I really had no worries. Even though I did not know the owner at first, I did find another corner candy store to walk pass on my way home from school. It was on either on 77 or 76 and Broadway, if I remember correctly. It also had all the penny candy and the comic books. The only thing missing was the free candy I used to get.

But I did not totally miss out on free candy. My grandparents owned a bakery on Palisades Avenue in West New York. A few doors down from them was a corner candy store. Sometimes when I spent the weekend, my grandma would give me a dime and send me to the candy store….not for food. We had lots of candy and bakery goods at the bakery. But I could go buy a comic book. Yay Grandma! She knew I loved to read them.

There was no candy store within easy walking to our summer home in the Catskills. Oh, wait, I take that back, when I was really little there was a small store that sold candy and ice cream across from the lake on the way to town on the corner of West Shore Road and 55. It closed when I was very young. Now there is a private home where the store used to be.

But we had substitutes. We could walk into the town of Kauneonga Lake, to a small grocery store, Vassmer’s; or to the pharmacy, Newman’s. In one of those stores we could either get candy and comics, or go to the fountain at Newman’s and get ice cream or a soda. It was fun! I remember when I was a teen, I walked into Newman’s one day and there was my brother with his girlfriend having a milk shake…if I remember correctly there was one shake and two straws.

Next to the Ritz Movie Theater in White Lake was a candy store as well. Before we would go into the movie, we would go to the candy store to pick out our treats. How wonderful was that? Very wonderful!

Children today do not have the joy of going into a little corner store by themselves and choosing any little candy or comic. Now you have to drive to the supermarket or a convenience store. The neighborhood candy store seems to be gone forever. And I miss it! Going to a corner candy store every day was a part of the daily routine. And forget penny candy! I do not believe it exists anymore!

I thnk going to the corner candy store also taught us about money. There was only so much you could spend. Would it be a comic book or candy? How much did you need to save from your allowance to get exactly what you wanted? You could plan. The candy store owners knew you! They would hold back your favorite comic, knowing what you wanted to read each week. And if you did not have enough money, they would wait till you came back.

The corner candy store was a gathering place for children and adults. It was a community space, a place for neighbors to visit.  Penny candy and comics gave us so much joy.  I think that is why the corner candy store was so important in my life.

There actually is still a store there: https://www.google.com/maps/place/North+Bergen,+NJ/@40.806574,-74.007579,3a,75y,199.76h,96.03t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s0C9V1gOMRYvBYne8nYQNwg!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x89c25804d4293b57:0x5efe2629bb9f9381

My Dad’s Sunday Morning Challah French Toast Feast

3 Apr

My Dad loved to make challah French toast for us on Sunday mornings. He would make a big production of it, even wearing a chef’s hat for this important event. He mixed his secret formula…it wasn’t just a dozen eggs in his batter; heated his cast iron skillets…the best to make French toast; prepared the bread…cutting it into thick slices; and getting the bowl ready to receive the finished toast…it had a lid so that the toast was warm so we could all eat at once.

Making French toast made him happy! It took him to a joyful place!

My parents and Aunt and Uncle after a healthy French toast breakfast.

My parents and Aunt and Uncle after a healthy French toast breakfast.

We would set the table. Putting out all the needed accessories. In our home we put sugar on our French toast, but when others came to visit there was also syrup as well. And there had to be cut up fruit: cantaloupe, berries, watermelon, honey dew. These were important side dishes to have along with the toast.

Once it was ready, we would all sit down to eat together. It still is my most favorite meal. I could eat French toast all day every day.

When we were done, it was time to clean up. Of course my Dad never cleaned up the mess he made. And it was a mess! That was the job of my Mom, my sister and me. But I did not care, I loved this meal so much!!

In the Catskills my father held a Challah French Toast Feast Sunday once every summer. He planned it to be on a weekend when I brought my children to New Jersey and New York for our annual vacation. My cousins, who had summer homes in Kauneonga Lake, were all invited. Sometimes other relatives and friends came up for the weekend. It was my Dad’s French Toast Feast and all were invited.

For weeks he would tell my cousins the exact day and time they were expected to arrive. It was always in the mornings so it did not interfere with time on the lake, because we would all be going to the lake later in the day. In fact part of the breakfast conversation was to plan events for the rest of the day.


My Dad after an exhausting morning of cooking French toast.

My Dad was in his element. He lorded over the stove top. He would buy extra challah each week and put it into the freezer to be ready for this big event. He spent hours slicing bread and preparing his batter, calling my cousins to remind them…over and over. He loved the chaos of all the people talking and sharing and eating.

My cousins would arrive with their children and anyone else staying with them. We would put up extra tables. My Mom would get out a supply of paper plates and plastic utensils. (Don’t worry, we washed the utensils and used them again and again. We were environmentally sound before it was popular.)

We had orange juice, milk and coffee. Sometimes my Dad would call one of my cousins, because he forgot something. They would have to make a grocery run for him. And because he was worried there would not be enough to eat, there was always bagels, lox and cream cheese as a side dish.

It was always a special and crazy breakfast.

One year in particular was wonderful. My Dad’s brother and his wife came up along with two of their daughters and granddaughters. They usually were not in the Catskills…they were Hamptons people. So this was extra special. We took lots of photos. But cooking all that French toast wiped my dad out. He actually fell asleep immediately after eating, with his chef’s hat still on. (To be honest, that was not so unusual, my Dad could sleep anywhere, and often feel asleep when people were over.)

I loved our Sunday morning French toast breakfasts. When I became a Mom, I would make challah French toast on Sundays for my children. And when my husband was out of town, I sometimes made it for us as a special treat for dinner. YUM.

French toast at my home.

French toast at my home.

I still make French toast on many Sunday mornings, even though my children no longer live with us. However, my son still lives close by. I often text him a few days in advance to say: Making French Toast on Sunday? You coming? The response is almost always ”What time?” He always is on time for French toast.

I am happy to say that I have passed the love of challah French Toast onto the next generation.


Always Missing My New Jersey Diners

20 Feb

There are some things about New Jersey that I miss more than others.  At the top of the list is the wonderful New Jersey diner.  There is nothing in the world like eating at a diner.

Okay, perhaps the food is not the best…but there is a lot of it.

Perhaps the décor is a little outdated….but it is fun!

The wait staff might sometimes be a little gruff, but they can help you decide on the best meal ever.

There is nothing like a New Jersey diner.

Typically owned by a Greek family, a diner’s menu usually consists of both American and Greek food.  Of course you can order matzah ball soup and deli sandwiches as well.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner can be ordered at any time of the day. And on Friday, they usually have challah.

The best thing about the food in the diner, is that everyone can find something to eat.  Because the menu choices are so vast, no one can complain.  A great value when you take children out to dine.

And diners are family friendly!

There is nothing in the Midwest that can compare.


Mom and Dad at the Diner the summer 2005.

When my parents were living, every time I went to New Jersey, we had our first meal at the River View Diner on River Road in North Bergen.  It was my parent’s favorite.  Tom, the owner, would greet my parents with a big hello.  He was always happy to see my children and me. ( One comment, although named the River View Diner, and located very close to the Hudson Rive, you cannot see the River from the eating area of the diner. )

We would meet my sister and her family there.  In fact, the night before my sister gave birth to her daughter, we ate at the diner. My husband, children and I had flown into NJ for Passover.  For our ‘last’ meal out, we ate at the diner.  My sister was already at least a week past her due date.  It was obvious that she was ready to have the baby.

The next day, my niece was born.  Although I would like to say that diner food helped speed her along to giving birth, I cannot not.  My sister really did not eat much that evening.

Whenever my parents said, “Let’s eat at the Diner,” we knew exactly where they were talking about.  There was no other diner for them. And as they aged, their dining at the diner increased.   In fact, after they both passed away, my siblings and I, along with some of our children, went to the diner to eat.  It seemed right.

When I was in New Jersey to clean out my parents’ apartment, my brother and I again went to the diner on River Road, for the memory of our parents. Tom’s children now run the diner. They have updated the outside and inside décor.   It looks really nice. But the menu is still the same.  Thank goodness.

However, one diner visit was not enough for me.  Since I was staying in Tenafly with my sister, I was able to convince her that eating at the diner in town was important as well.  There are a multitude of good restaurants in Tenafly. But somehow we ate three meals at the diner.

To those who have never seen a diner, the outside is always somewhat the same: a sort of metallic, (usually)  rectangular box with windows.  And the word, Diner, must be included in the title.  Tenafly Diner, River View Diner…. Nothing fancy.  There are lots of booths in a diner, with formica table tops.  The booth seats must be covered in vinyl…red, blue, grey.  The color does not matter that much.  An important element used to be the little jukeboxes at each table.  But in many diners these have been removed.

Desserts were also important when having a diner meal.  Besides filling up on the enormous amounts of food, you have to save room for a pastry or a cookie.   I loved the chocolate chip cookies at my parent’s favorite diner.  I would check out all the cookies they had and pick out the perfect ones. Mom and I loved them.  No one else really did.  We didn’t care.  We always ordered one or two to bring home and then would eat them with our tea each evening.  We shared a cookie each night.

Recently my daughter revealed a secret to me.  She actually did not like eating at the diner. I was shocked.  How could my daughter feel that way?  But I realized she was brought up in Kansas.  There were probably too many choices  on the menu for her.  And what did she know of good diner food?

She did not know what she was saying!  But for me…I will always be missing my New Jersey diners.

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.

Blueberries Bring Back Catskills Memories

29 Dec

I love blueberries.

Almost every morning I add them to my breakfast menu.  Some days I have them for a snack in the middle of the day.

When I eat blueberries I feel joy.  When I eat blueberries I travel back in time.  I am no longer sitting in my kitchen in Kansas.  No I am now sitting at a table with my Mom, sister and brother.  It is summer time.  Cool in the mornings, warm in the afternoons…the perfect weather even when it rains!

Blueberries bring me back to the Catskills at Kauneonga Lake, BethEl Township, in Sullivan County, upstate New York in the 1950s and 60s.


My entire childhood, we spent the summers at a small bungalow colony owned by my maternal grandparents.  Situated on West Shore Road, just opposite Kauneonga Lake, the bungalow colony was the home to all four of my grandparents, some aunts and uncles, cousins, other assorted relatives, and close friends.  We spent 10 weeks together every year.  The happiest times were there.

We biked, we swam, we played.  It was in the Catskills that I stayed up late to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.  And it was there that I watched the hundreds of thousands stream into town for the Woodstock concerts.  In the Catskills I spent time at the Firemen’s Festival, shopped at Newmans and Vassmers.   Worked in the town’s bakery.  I lived for the summers.


 We were watched my five grandmas: Grandma Thelma and Grandma Esther, were my true grandparents.  Grandma Rose was my cousins’ other grandma.  Nana, or Mrs Anoff, was my friend’s grandma.  And Aunt Minnie was also Grandma Esther’s sister.  They ruled the roost.  When they wanted something done, it happened.  There were moms, dads, and grandpas as well. But the eyes of the grandmas were always alert.

Sometimes, when we got too bored or in too much trouble, the buckets would come out.

“Go pick some blueberries!”  One of the moms or grandmas would say.

And heaven opened.

Next to my grandparents’ property was a blueberry patch.  As a child I never thought about it.  But this patch was not just a few wild blueberry bushes growing on the side of the woods, no this was over an acre of blueberry bushes.  Someone at some time had to have cultivated it and planted the bushes in the symmetrical lines.  But there it stood…abandoned.   And so each summer it provided us with wonderful free fruit.

We would grab those buckets and run to the patch.  Filling the buckets was so much fun.  Two berries for the bucket, …one berry to eat.

“Look at the size of this berry!!  I am going to eat it!!!”

We would all run over to see the biggest blueberry ever!!!

And watch as it was eaten with glee and joy.   We all wanted to find the biggest berry!

The buckets always got filled. Then we would run back to our bungalows and show off our blueberries to our moms.  The next step was to fill a bowl with salt water and put in the berries.  The bad ones, the ones with worms or the ones not ripe, would float to the top.  These we put back outside for the birds.  The others we washed and ate.  Some got put in the refrigerator for later.

They made the best blueberry pancakes. I can still taste them.

But every once in a while, we were told to bring all the blueberries to Aunt Leona’s bungalow.  And there, my Grandma Esther and my aunt would make blueberry muffins for all!!!  Oh yum!  I can still smell the tantalizing aroma; see them warm from the oven and covered in butter.  It was a special treat.

So today when I go to the grocery store and buy pint after pint of blueberries, no matter the price, I am not buying my favorite fruit. I am buying a moment to revisit a moment of childhood and remember the joy of picking blueberries.

I am buying time with my parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles who have passed.  I am buying memories that I share with my sister, brother, cousins and friends.

I loved the blueberry patch.