Tag Archives: West New York

Mr Anoff and the Sardine Sandwich

11 Aug

When I think about why I love sardine sandwiches, I realize it all goes back to my childhood and one specific incident.   I must have been four or five years old. I was in West New York, New Jersey, visiting my grandparents for the weekend. They owned a bakery on Palisade Avenue around 53rd Street.   Until my sister was born, we lived in an apartment above the bakery. But in 1958, when she was born, we moved to a larger apartment in North Bergen. (See a blog about the bakery below.)

My parents were overwhelmed at times. And I think my grandparents missed us. So every weekend, either my brother or I spent the weekend with my grandparents. This must have been my weekend.

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My grandparents and the Anoffs in the Catskills about 1951.

Also in West New York lived my grandparents’ best friends, the Anoffs. Their daughter and my Mom were best friends. And their granddaughter and I became best friends as well.   Since she still lived in West New York, whenever I came to visit, I often played with her, while my grandparents worked.

I still remember the day of the sardine sandwich.   We had been playing outside for a long time, when Mr. Anoff called us in for lunch.   STOP right there. Mr. Anoff never fed us lunch. It was my grandmother, or my mom, or Mrs. Anoff or her daughter who made sure we ate. NEVER ever Mr. Anoff.   So looking back, right there something was different. Something must have been happening, but I do not what. Neither I nor my friend know why he fed us that day. I can only imagine that the women were doing something. Could it have been a shower? I do not know, but the women were gone!

In the meantime, my friend and I followed her grandfather’s instructions and went upstairs to the apartment for lunch.   I had been in the apartment before. But this was different. Mrs. Anoff was not there! Mr. Anoff was preparing a special lunch. He had out rye bread, lettuce and sardines.   He toasted the bread, mushed the sardines on the bread and added lettuce. He asked if I wanted to try it. I nodded yes. He cut the sandwich in half.   I remember eating sardines for the first time and Loving the taste. My friend did not eat it. She had peanut and jelly if I remember correctly.   (I did not like PB andJ — peanut butter and jelly.)

I ate the entire half sandwich and asked for more. I remember Mr. Anoff smiling at me and giving me another half of a sardine sandwich. It was amazing. I actually can still see the table in my mind’s eye. I can see him making the sandwich. It just has stayed with me forever.

I will admit it started a craze for me. I would often beg my Mom for a sardine sandwich, just the way Mr. Anoff made it. I think I drove her crazy for a while. Everyone else loved the normal PB and J, but not me.  I would watch her to make sure she made it just the way he did!

Honestly, I do not often eat a sardine sandwich. When they were little, my children hated the smell. So I did not eat sardine sandwiches when they were around. Now they are out of the house and I am free to do as I like. As a special treat, I purchase a can of sardines (packed in water) and make myself a sandwich.  It is a moment of memory heaven.

 

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I almost always try make it on rye bread, but since I am the only one who eats rye bread, I often substitute challah or a bagel. I always put either lettuce or cucumber on it. Just as I did when I was a child. I try to make it as much like as Mr. Anoff did as I can. I mush the sardines onto the bread and carefully place the lettuce or cucumber carefully throughout the sandwich.

I do not think Mr. Anoff ever made us lunch again.   Even in the Catskills, where we spent over two months every summers, he never made us a meal. We had mothers and grandmothers there all the time.  And even though he was almost always around,  I never remember him ever being on lunch duty again.  It was just that one magical time.

I do remember talking to him about sardines once or twice, possibly because my Mom brought up the topic. I think it was a sort of adult joke that I was still eating sardines.  I remember him smiling whenever the topic came up.

But now, most important, I almost always text or email my friend to tell her when I am eating an Abe Anoff sardine sandwich. I think it makes her feel good to know that I am remembering her grandfather, and the good times we had as children.  Mr. Anoff has been gone for many years.  But a piece of him stays in my heart and my taste buds.

 

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/bakery-aromas-bring-back-delicious-memories/

 

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The Dress Fiasco That Almost Wrecked My Brother’s Wedding

4 Aug

On September 2, my brother and his wife will be married for 38 years. Their Labor Day weekend wedding was notable for several reasons: his was the first wedding in our immediate family; he got married on our youngest sister’s 21st birthday; the drama of the dress my Mom wore to the wedding.

Why would a dress be so memorable? Here is what happened. My sister in law chose orange, yellow and beige as her wedding colors.   My mother did not want to wear beige, as she felt it was too close to the bride’s white dress. But she could not find a dress anywhere, in a color she liked. She decided to have one made specifically for her.

She chose an orange/peach color fabric, with a lace inset at the top. As a teacher in West New York, she knew many people. Someone recommended a good dressmaker.   The dress was well made, but it looked absolutely horrid on my Mom. I can still see the dress, even though she never wore it to the wedding, just tried it on for us.

My husband and I, who were engaged at the time, arrived in New Jersey about four days before the wedding. That evening, my Mom tried the dress on for all of us. My Dad, my sister and I stared at the dress, without words. Mom looked horrendous. The color was WRONG! It took all color from her face. The style was also terrible. She looked like she was wearing a nightgown to go to bed, NOT a gown to wear to a wedding.

My sister and I were stunned.  We were silent for a few minutes. We actually had no words, no way to tell her how terrible this dress looked. Mothers and daughters have a connection,  from our silence, and probably the looks on our faces, she could tell. “It looks horrible, doesn’t it,” she asked…or something like that.

Then the tears started. The wedding was just four days away. What would she do? We had a major disaster on our hands!  My sister and I were up in an instant.  We would do something!

My father was somewhat calm. “DO not worry. You will find a dress.” He was positive. But he was also insistent that she no longer tried to save money.   This called for emergency shopping, and we knew the perfect store: Gail Browns, located on 58th and Bergenline Avenue.  (Thanks North Bergen friends for this info.) It was a high-class dress shop near by. A store that we never shopped at because the prices were way too high for us. We usually went to Little Marcy’s, occasionally Corduroy Village, but never Gail Browns.

The next morning, as soon as it opened, my sister, my Mom and I went to the dress store. With in minutes, the sales lady brought over a beautiful beige dress with a brown belt. It was the same exact color as the tuxedos the men were going to wear. Mom put it on. Stunning.

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Mom in her lovely dress stands in the middle surrounded by my grandmothers, my sister and me.

Yes, there were just a few minor alterations. The hem had to be shortened; the belt loops moved; an extra snap on the bodice. But the seamstress knew it was an emergency situation. This was Friday. The wedding was Sunday. By late afternoon, the dress was complete. I believe they even dyed shoes for her!

The Dress Fiasco was over.  The discarded dress disappeared.  Never to be commented on ever again.

Mom looked wonderful at the wedding of her oldest child. She looks lovely in all the photos. There is a picture of my Mom and Dad dancing that I can still see in my mind. It was a great dress.

I missed Mom when I purchased the dress for my daughter’s wedding last year, 37 years later. She also got married on Labor Day Weekend. My Mom is no longer with us.  She did not get to go dress shopping for this wedding.

Instead, my daughter and I went shopping, and narrowed the choice to two dresses, which I brought home.   Later that day my sister arrived from New Jersey. I tried on both dresses. I took the advise of my sister and daughter who both loved one specific dress. They said it was me. The other dress, which was grey drained me of color. Another dress fiasco was averted. I wore the lavender dress that they loved.

Now my sister is facing this hurdle. Her daughter is getting married next June.   I know she realizes that I will be there to make sure that her dress is the perfect one.   There will be no tears four days before another wedding because the mother’s dress is horrendous. No more dress fiascos ever!

Another blog about shopping: https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/shopping-on-the-avenue-i-dont-mean-fifth-i-mean-bergenline/

The I Cannot Decide What To Do. Really.

11 Jan

The summer before my mother died (2010) she told me that one of her regrets was losing touch with the family of one of her best friend, Evelyn Daitch (Deutch).   She showed me pictures of the two of them together when they were young women.(I have since found out it was spelled Duetch.)

Evelyn Daitch Manowitz

Evelyn in West New York, New Jersey.  December 1945.

Evelyn married and moved to Texas with her husband, Cy (Seymour) Manowitz. Mom and she kept in touch throughout their lives, until Evelyn passed away in her 50s from cancer. And then Mom lost touch.

She asked me to find Evelyn’s family on the internet. She said, “You know how that internet works. I bet you can find them.” Also I lived in the Midwest, so she thought Dallas, Texas, is close to Kansas City.   I did ask some of my friends who were originally from Texas, if they knew the Manowitz family. But no one did.

Grandma Mom 1945

My Mom in West New York, NJ.  Same day as Evelyn. Note the matching outfits!

Then so much happened. Mom took ill suddenly died. My Dad died nine months later. There were other painful family tragedies. I did not have the energy to even remember this.

So I did not complete this mission.

But recently I have been on a roll completing things my Mom left behind. I finished two afgans she had started. My siblings and I cleaned out both homes. I gave her sewing machine to someone who loves to quilt.

So this weekend, I finally looked at the note that I kept in front of my computer with the family’s names, and went on line. Within minutes, I found Evelyn’s husband in Texas. He is 90 years old.

Should I even contact him? I have his address.   I could send him a letter with a copy of a photo of Evelyn. Or should I let this be? I have fulfilled Mom’s request. I found Evelyn’s family.

Evelyn passed away almost 30 years ago. I am not sure her husband would want a message of love from someone else who passed away.   I am not sure what his mental state is these days. I do not know him.

I have his address.   I have his name. I have at least one photo of Evelyn.

But he is not family. And I really do not want to disturb him with a piece of the past that cannot change anything. My Mom is now dead. She wanted to contact Evelyn’s family when she was alive. She did not know she would become ill.

I think finding Evelyn’s family was the last thing I wanted to do for my Mom. And it is done. I don’t think I have to contact him

But part of me cannot decide what to do….really.

Thanks to members of Tracing the Tribe, I know Seymour passed away over a year ago. But that someone with the same last name lives in his house. So I sent a letter with the copy of the photo. Another TTT member found a nephew on Facebook. So I messaged him. I hope to give this photo to a family member. Thank you all for the help.

Growing Up In New Jersey Meant Having a Cuban “Family” For Me

19 Dec

Growing up in North Bergen, New Jersey, in the early 1960s, I will tell you that I knew many people who left Cuba. For some reason a large number of Cuban refugees ended up in West New York, New Jersey, the city where my Mom grew up and where she taught elementary school.

Among my Mom’s close friends were three women who had left Cuba after Castro took over. In Cuban, two of them had lived upper class lives, with servants and large homes.   The husband of one had had an important position in the previous government. He did not come over with her, as he was imprisoned.

Our lives became intertwined with the families of these three women, We knew their spouses and children. We went to their homes. Although I never learned to speak Spanish, I could understand it as I spent time with the grandmother who never learned to speak English.

They hated Castro. They had a good reason to hate him, as he had destroyed their lives as they knew it. But the years passed. They did make a life in New Jersey, although they always talked about the cold here and the beautiful island of Cuba.

My Mom and these women shopped together, ate together, had parties together. They formed a family at school that continued when they all retired. They took my Mom shopping and always made sure she was dressed appropriately!! They were much more formal at first. And knew all the great places to shop. Gloria, Elvira and Belkys were part of our lives.

At my wedding, it was Gloria who brought needle and thread for my wedding gown. She was concerned because I chose not to have a bustle made. Instead, I had a loop to put the train over my arm. She was right. I grew tired of that very quickly. And Gloria sewed an improvised bustle to my gown at the reception.

They shared happy events and sad ones with us. I remember at my Grandmother’s shiva in 1991, they all came, “the Cuban contingency,” as my Dad called them. At the shiva was a new friend of mine, who was Chilien. I cannot erase from my mind the vision of Gloria and my friend, Vero, standing opposite each other, hands clasped, as Gloria interviewed Vero in Spanish. Thank goodness she passed. We have traveled the world together and have become family, just as my family united with Gloria’s family decades before.

My father and Gloria’s husband, Raphael, drove into NYC together for years. My Dad took his car in, leaving from our home on 78th Street near Boulevard East, and pick up Raphael who lived on Boulevard East right near the border with West New York. They were a team! A comedy team at times!

These three women had an important impact on my life. They were always there. They were at my wedding, my children’s bar and bat mitzvah.  All family events!  They were there at my Mother’s funeral and a few months later at my Dad’s funeral. Their love for my parents and for us never wavered.

So as President Obama, Raul Castro, the Pope and Canada worked in secret to change the relationship between Cuba and the USA, I wondered what they would think of all this.

Perhaps by now their anger would have disappeared. It is over 50 years. The USA has made peace with Germany, with Japan, with Vietnam with South Korea, with China. Why not Cuba?   It makes sense. The world is too small for this distancing from a neighbor who is so close.

No other country has agreed and supported the USA’s blockade of Cuba. No other country has agreed with this decision.

If you read the history of the Island of Cuba (I recommend the book, Havana Nocturne), you would learn that the mob and the dictator before Castro, Fulgencio Batista, were not better than Castro. They were destroying Cuba. Castro, not that I am endorsing what he did, had a reason for the overthrow of the existing government.

Fidel Castro is no longer at the helm of Cuba. It is his brother, Raul.   I believe from the moment he took over, Raul Castro was looking to make a change. I have a personal story that endorses this belief.

My parents went on a cruise in February of the year Raul took over the helm of Cuba, for my Mom’s birthday. My Dad had a heart condition, but was not known to follow medical advice very well when it came to eating correctly. He became ill on the cruise going into congestive heart failure.

The ship had to make a very quick trip to the Grand Cayman Islands where my Dad and Mom were taken off the ship and directly to a hospital. There my Dad was stabilized and then my parents were flown by air ambulance back to the USA. As they flew, the pilot spoke to my Mom.

“Look out the window,” he told her. “That is Havana.   We are the very first air ambulance that has ever been given permission to fly over Cuba!”

Thanks to Raul Castro’s new government, the air space over Cuba was opened for medical emergencies, and my Dad lived three more years.

It is time to make a change.

While growing up in New Jersey, I had a Cuban family! I think the USA and Cuba could form strong bonds, just as the USA and Japan, Germany, and other former adversaries have formed bonds.

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.

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Even 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.