Tag Archives: food

Drinking a Glass of Tea is a Family Tradition

5 Mar

Every evening, some time after dinner, I have a cup of hot tea. Each evening I ask my husband the same question as I prepare my tea, “Hey do you want a cup of tea?” Nine times out of ten he answers, “No.”

That was not the response in my home growing up. My parents always had a cup of tea together after dinner. That is when they would have some cookies or dessert. They would sit in the kitchen with their snack and have tea together. It did not matter if they were in our home in North Bergen or our bungalow in the Catskills, When they got older the tradition continued in their apartments in Cliffside Park and in Florida.   Wherever they were, after dinner they had to have a cup of tea.

Perhaps that is why I love tea.

Although they usually drank Swee-Touch-Nee tea (which I always called sweet touch me tea), when they came to visit me, they tried other teas as well.

photo (13)

I keep mint, chamomile, English Breakfast, Constant Comment, and all sorts of herbal teas in my home. For them I always bought some Swee-Touch-Nee tea, including some green tea. Whenever they stayed at my home, I always joined them in drinking a cup of tea after dinner. This tradition sometimes drove my husband crazy.

An example, we took my parents to eat in their first fast food restaurant when we lived in Michigan. We had to be somewhere at a certain time, and were eating along the way.   My Mom wanted a hamburger, cooked medium. That was the first indication to my husband that this was a bad idea. But Mom accepted that all the burgers were cooked the same.

It was when my Dad wanted tea after we ate that my husband lost it a little. “Dad,” he said. “We are here at a fast food restaurant because we have to eat fast. We really do not have time for tea.”

I promised that when we got home later that evening, I would make tea for them. And I did.

In fact, whenever we went out to dinner, Dad had to have tea before the meal was finished. We all learned to have something to drink along with him. It made the waiting easier. When my parents drank tea, they almost always shared a teabag.  Mom liked her tea really weak. As my brother remembers, five dunks of a tea bag were enough.  Dad liked his tea strong.  He would let the tea bag sit in his mug for a while.

Drinking tea had another tradition: the snack!  Some might call it dessert. But in our house it was a snack.  And, of course, having a piece of cake or pie with the tea made it much more enjoyable. Especially when we were at a restaurant and Dad needed his cup of tea.

When my children were growing up, they also liked to have a cup of tea with their grandparents. My son especially wanted to sit with his Grandpa and have tea. When he visits now, he often has a cup of tea with me.

Although I drink my tea without sugar, my son is a sugar addict. He makes me think of my grandfather, who he is named after. “Papa,” who was born in Europe drank his tea out of a glass cup and he often would put a sugar cube in his mouth as he drank it.   Although my son does not put the sugar directly in his mouth, he loves his sugar as his great grandfather did. We often accuse him of drinking some tea with his sugar.

My daughter also likes to have a cup of tea. She seems to like to put honey in hers, especially when she is not feeling well. When she was away at college, I would have honey sent to her for Rosh Hashannah. She and her college friends called it “Holy Honey,” They decided it made the feel better when they were sick. By the time she was a senior, I think I was sending honey to her and about four of her friends.

Drinking hot tea after dinner is not a seasonal event in my family. Tea is perfect throughout the year. It is a good way to end the day. To sit quietly and think about what has happened. A mug of herbal tea calms me.

Each evening as I ask my husband if he wants tea, I flash back for a minute to my parents. I still hear my Mom asking my Dad. I still see her preparing the tea. And I still see them sitting at the table discussing the day. I am so glad that drinking a cup of tea is part of my family tradition.

The Turning 60 Blues! Or the Best and Brightest Blue Ever!

25 Jan

January 23 was not a date I was looking forward to reaching. I usually love to celebrate, and I love my birthday. But this year was different. This year I was turning 60. Somehow that age bothered me. I do not feel sixty. I do not act 60. To me being 60 meant I was not just an adult, I was old…a sage…a mentor, not a doer.

And I have been a doer my entire life. Was this going to change me?

I was having the turning 60 blues!

My angst really began to hit me in November. On the 23 of November I was getting ready to fly from India to Israel to visit my daughter. And it hit me that in two months I would be 60. What was I doing flying around the world by myself. I was almost old!! I had just spent 10 days in India with my husband. And now I was planning to spend another 8 days in Israel. Was I crazy?

No I was not. But I was really two months away from this terrible date.

When I got home to Kansas in early December, the dread continued. I started talking about my age at meetings. I was seeing things differently. At many meetings I was among the oldest women in the room, instead of one of the younger ones.

At one meeting of an executive committee I am on, I even said something about turning 60 and having a difficult time with it. The ladies were very nice. “You don’t look a day over 45!” One said politely. Another, who knows a bit better, said, “and you act like you are 12!” (Is that good? I wasn’t quite sure.) “A little older than 12!” I responded.

The president said, “Don’t worry, you are good at any age. “ And she is older than I am. So perhaps this would not be so bad.

A truly long-time good friend, one of best friends, asked if I was planning a party. Not really. I had thought about. But decided “No.” In January the weather is so iffy. No one would come. I was not in the mood. But she continued to bug me. She can be quite forceful at times.

When I told her I could not find a good place. She found a place. It was less than three weeks before my birthday. I went to the bakery/luncheonette and realized that it was a great place for a party.

But then I remember Miss Manners said that people should not throw a party for themselves. It was egotistical and unsightly, or some such words. And as for saying ‘no gifts,’ she considered that was rude as well.

Too bad! I decided to throw a party for myself, and say no gifts. But directed people who really wanted to do something to make a donation to a scholarship fund I had started in memory of my parents.

I started sending out email invitations, when my email was hacked. Which created an avalanche of aggravation. All my contacts were lost for two days till I learned how to recover. By then I had lost track of whom I had invited. So I had to send out groups of invites and individuals till I got everyone covered.

I sent out 50 invitations. The room only held 40. But 12 people lived out of town. So I was safe. To my delight two ‘out of towners’ were able to attend.  In all 36 people said they would come.  The only No’s came from people who would be out of town for the weekend.

The hearts I made for my friends.

The hearts I made for my friends.

I set myself some goals. I decided to make a crochet heart for every woman who came to my birthday tea. Each one of the people I invited had a place in my heart.   I decided we would all wear hats and just visit. No big plans. But I would introduce everyone from my different parts of life with a story.

And I had a moment of inspiration! I love the color blue. I love teal and turquoise, royal blue, navy blue. Any shade of blue makes me happy. So why was I thinking that turning 60 was giving me the blues in a bad way? Turning 60 should give me the blues in a good way.   Here I am! 60!

So I bought blue napkins and ribbons and decorations: None of this stupid over the hill stuff or tombstone stuff. I am bright and cheerful and happy to be alive.

IMG_4587

I decided that I would also have a cake for my family. I asked the woman at the bakery to make me a cake to share with my family that would have enough blue flowers so that everyone could have one with each piece. She made me the most extraordinary birthday cake covered with flowers and she made it look like a lovely spring hat. I love it!

I went back into celebration mode. I went out with my ‘mirthday’ (mirthday = middle of our birthdays) buddy. Her birthday is two days and one year before mine. We always celebrate with a lovely lunch and a shopping trip to Chico’s. The tradition continues.

I met another best friend and went to a local favorite, Andre’s. It was delicious and fun. She surprised with a lovely sculpture of a writer. It sits happily on my entrance desk.

And I went out with my husband and son for dinner and home for cake and gifts. As a family we accomplished a great success constructing the rebound trampoline I got for my birthday.

I might be 60. But last week I walked almost 70,000 steps.

I might be 60, but I still play a pretty sharp ‘Words with Friends.’

I might be 60, but I still work part time.

I might be 60, but I can still travel the world.

I remember when I was in my early 20s. I was visiting my aunt and grandma. My aunt said, “I went to bed a young woman and I woke up an old lady.” She handed me the newspaper. And there was a little article circled. It said, “Elderly man, 59, falls to his death.” My aunt had said she was 39 for years. So my response, “No Aunt Leona, what are you talking about ! You are only 39!” We all laughed. But that article has been haunting me.

Setting up for the tea party!

Setting up for the tea party!

The room for my party looked wonderful with all the brightly colored napkins and flowers and hearts displayed on the tables.  I even asked the bakery to make all the sugar cookies iced in teal!  I had only my favorite flavors for the desserts: lemon, raspberry and chocolate.  Everything looked and tasted wonderfully!

Lovely turquoise cookies and other goodies.

Lovely turquoise cookies and other goodies.

So today, to prove I am not elderly I have planned an exotic and eccentric tea party outfit to wear to my 60th birthday party. I am, of course, wearing blue: Blue dress, blue shoes, blue hat, and a lovely blue, turquoise and green sparkling and lightly beaded caftan-ish long jacket.

I am ready to meet my sixties without feeling blue…but being the best and brightest blue ever!

The Chicago Marathon as a Spectator Sport

12 Oct
The non-elite runners lined up to start the Chicago marathon.

The non-elite runners lined up to start the Chicago marathon.

My husband is running the Chicago Marathon for the 8th time in ten years. When he turned 50 he decided he wanted to run a marathon. So he started training and at age 51 ran his first full marathon.   Over the years he had to miss two Chicago Marathons due to travel or injury. But he continues to train. And this year, at age 60, he is running again. I also prepared, for my role as a marathon spectator.

This year was different. In January my husband herniated a disk in his spine.   It was at the most inconvenient location, but with the miracle of surgery, he was able to have a microdiscectomy and recovered. However there were some issues he had to battle. First with no exercise for eight weeks, his right leg muscles had atrophied. He battled to get his leg back into shape. Even with all he did, that leg is still a bit weaker than it was before and his training took a bit of a hit.

Second he is a drop slower than he was before. As I watch his progress in the marathon on text message alerts, I can see that he is running about 20 seconds a mile slower than he did last year at the beginning of the race. Not a major difference, but when you are going 26 miles…that adds minutes. And as the marathon progresses, I know he will slow down. So I am a bit worried in my role as spectator.

I do not run marathons. I do not run. I walk. I enjoy walking. I try to walk 2.5 to 3 miles daily. Yesterday, as we are in Chicago I walked 8.9 miles all along the waterfront, in the Field Museum and along Michigan Avenue. Over 17,000 steps, but that is my limit. I have no desire at all to go 26 miles. In fact, to a degree, I think my husband is mildly insane. As is his friend who is running the marathon as well.

The night before I went online and set up text messaging alerts so I would know when they started, hit 10 k, half way, 30 k and finished. It is important as a spectator to know when these events occur. I will admit, this year the notices were much more timely than they have been in the past.

They started out together this morning. At 7:00 in the morning, they left the condo and walked to the corrals. I got up for a few minutes to take their annual pre-marathon photo. Then they left. They would start about the same time, but since his friend runs much quicker, (his starting pace was 10:41 per mile), he will be done at least an hour earlier than my husband if he keeps this pace.

They prepared for this. They trained for this. They ate their pasta dinner last night. They have their special shoes, socks, clothes, their energy foods and drinks. They want to run. But at age 60 and one week; and age 59 and 10 ½ months, the training and the running take a toll.

Before my husband ran this year, his cardiologist ran a new test. And my husband’s heart was fine. The doctor turned to me and said, “I wanted to tell him he could not run this year. But he looks great.” And that is all my husband needed. He brings me doctor reports each year to prove all is okay, because I am nervous about this 26.2 mile run. But as a spectator, I had to go along with the doctor’s decision.

I fill out the back of my husband’s number bib with emergency numbers. I go to watch to make sure all is okay. They both know not to rush and to stop if it is too much. But with the weather as nice as it is, I know they will both finish this year.

As a marathon spectator, I cheer on everyone I can. If I see someone with their name emblazed across their shirt, I scream for them. I figure if they put their name on they want the encouragement. I love watching for those who are newly married or engaged. They often wear veils or announcements on their shirts. This year was not different. I saw a couple wearing bright yellow shirts. One said “she said yes.” The other, “Newly engaged.” This year I saw someone wearing a Royals t-shirt. Of course I cheered him on. As a citizen of the Kansas City metro area, we are all Royals right now.

There were people dressed as comic book heroes, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. There were people wearing capes, skirts and costumes. There was a man juggling as he walked.

Some were running, some were walking, some were stretching, some were drinking energy drinks. All were intent on their goal.

My friend and I always wait about the 16-mile marker to cheer our husbands on their trek. This year was a bit different. Usually we are part of a crowd of their children, spouses and a grandma. This year they all could not come. So it was just my friend and I. But we kept tradition. We waited till both of our husbands ran past. We gave them extra energy food and water. We provided each with encouragement. Then we completed another marathon tradition for us as spectators and walked to Athena Restaurant in Greek town for a delicious lunch.

We had roasted lamb and potatoes. And talked about our children and our husbands. Then we slowly walked back to the condo. Along the way I congratulated everyone we saw who was wearing a medal or a silver blanket. I figured if they ran that marathon they deserved a little praise. They all responded with a “thank you.”

I took a photo for a young couple who were taking photos of each other. Of course they wanted a photo together with their medals and silver blankets, so I took it for them.

When we returned to the condo we waited. The first text arrived. My friend’s husband was done. An hour later he returned. Tired, but happy. A short time later the other text arrived. My husband had completed the marathon. With his arrival back the marathon was officially over.

They both ran faster than they had the year before and were both pleased with their run. They were tired and sore. But had a great sense of accomplishment.

Now they start the plans for next year and another marathon. And I am ready to continue my role as marathon spectator. A job I enjoy!

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.”

https://zicharonot.com/2014/06/18/our-shul-in-the-catskills/

 

 

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.

DSC03348

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.