Not since our mothers begged us to eat our peas has food been such a hot topic. There is the issue of eating “healthier”—low fat and perhaps organic—and there are international flavors infused into our cuisine that allow us to have a more sophisticated palate. Yet, we still have childhood favorites that bring smiles to our faces and warm memories to our hearts. What is your favorite food recollection from childhood and why? Two residents from Heritage Hills answer.
Food from our childhood is a delicious topic. My mother came from Russia and cooked in the typical Eastern European Jewish way. I remember shopping for food with her on Franklin Avenue in Brooklyn. We went to the fishmonger, where fresh fish was ground up for savory gefilte fish. We went to the chicken market, where I saw chicken feathers being plucked and covering the floor. We went to the butcher and fruit market. There were no superstores in those days and shopping was done very frequently. Life was harder in many ways but far less complex.
Mom spent lots of time cooking everything from scratch. She made gefilte fish; I buy mine in jars. She made blintzes; I make crepes and buy frozen blintzes. She made kreplach; I buy frozen pierogies. She made chopped liver; I buy it from the butcher ready-made. She made stuffed cabbage, and I buy it ready-made again from the butcher. However, there are some foods that I make exactly as my mother did.
She made a terrific chicken and matzoh ball soup for the holidays and many other times during the year. I make the exact soup for the holidays. Her brisket of beef was the best and still is. I make it the exact way she did as do my daughters.
Each time I prepare it, memories of family holiday gatherings come to mind. Hopefully as our children and grandchildren eat this wonderful food they, too, will have memories of my mom’s and my holiday cooking. It is a tradition.
However, the story does not stop here. My mom also made something delicious that was not from Eastern Europe. She made stuffed artichokes in the Italian style with garlic, bread crumbs and sprinkled with olive oil. I grew up on stuffed artichokes. Nobody I knew had them as part of their normal cuisine. In fact, some people who confronted them in our home did not know how to eat them. We showed them how to pull off a leaf and slide it between their teeth to get to the meaty part of the vegetable. They loved it. But, where did my mother get this recipe? She worked in a sweat shop when she first came here. She had an Italian friend whom she met at work, and she got the recipe from her.
So I grew up with stuffed artichokes as did our children and our grandchildren. This wonderful cultural influence has worked to our culinary delight. The finale of this story is tradition and innovation work wonders to everyone’s culinary delight.
Marion Silberman and her husband, Paul, have lived in Heritage Hills for 16-plus years. They have been married over 60 years and have three married children and eight grandchildren. Marion is a Brooklyn native, having lived there as a child and a young married woman. She taught kindergarten for 30 years when she lived in Long Island.
My mother liked to cook. Her specialty was baking and her favorite cake was carrot. I think that was because it was healthy, or at least she believed it was. By today’s standards, when you add the butter and sugar, I doubt if any cake is good for you. However, based on what we knew 60 years ago, it was very healthy, especially if you had it with milk when you came home from school. You see, in those days, my mother was trying to fatten me up. Now I think she did too good a job.
My mother was at the forefront of today’s health craze. Every week she tuned in on the radio—if you remember what that is—to listen to Carlton Fredericks, the nutrition guru of the ‘50s. She fed my sister and I yogurt and black molasses before anyone ever heard of Dannon.
We lived in Boro Park, Brooklyn. Ebinger’s Bakery was two blocks away. In those days, Ebinger’s was the gold standard in baking, but their cakes didn’t have the special ingredient that was in my mother’s cake—lots of love. People have different ways of expressing their love and putting two cups of love in her carrot cake was my mother’s way.
Carrot cake was my mother’s signature dish and she was proud of it. Our friends and relatives got a chance to have a slice or two since she would take a freshly-baked cake with her whenever she visited anyone. Sunday was the day for spending time with relatives. My parents, my sister and I would jump in my grandfather’s 1939 black Ford for an outing to see our aunts, uncles and cousins. With the cake, we knew we would get a warm welcome.
My sister was handed down the recipe, but she did not inherit the cake gene, even though she is very loving in other ways. Her children, my two nieces, have inherited the gene as well as the recipe. Once again, I get to enjoy the carrot cake, with the sugar, butter and much love.
Arnold Gould has lived in Heritage Hills since 2001 with his wife Leslie Jay-Gould. He is a former member of the Society Board and chaired the Legal Committee. He is an avid tennis player and also enjoys bridge. He graduated from Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and Brooklyn Law School.