Saturday, January 28, 2017

My Little Tub O' Butter

I loved my grandmother.  Deeply.  Both grandmothers, actually, but my Bayonne Bubby, my father’s mother, passed away when I was 10.  My mother’s mother, Nanny, made it all the way to my wedding, walking down the aisle in front of me, beaming in her baby pink 2-piece suit.  Nanny’s the one I’m talking about today. 

Nanny and Pop lived downstairs from us, in the Victorian house that Pop bought back in the 1940’s.  Lots of people in Jersey City lived with extended families in the era when I grew up, the 50’s, when people were coming to this country in droves.  (But Nan & Pop were born in the U.S., a little after 1900).  What I thought was wonderful—having Nanny and Pop downstairs to dote on me—was a burden for my parent’s autonomy.  I could go down the stairs to watch tv with them.  I especially loved watching The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday nights and yes, I easily remember watching the Beatles on their first performance on that show in 1964.  When Pop wanted to watch Gunsmoke or Perry Mason, I would go back upstairs to play with my Barbie dolls.  

Nan and Pop also had plenty of food available for me to eat, even if I already ate my dinner.   I remember lamb chops, corned beef from Greenspan’s Deli, potato salad, Kosher pickles and sticks of hard butter in the fridge.  Strawberries and sour cream with sugar on top on the table.  Demfleisch on the stove.  Swiss cheese sandwiches on toast with the butter not quite melted and stuck in clumps to the bread for Pop’s late night snacks.  It’s no wonder I grew up with a “food thing.”

My mother and father were average build.  My brother was skinny and truly didn’t like to eat.  I was way too interested in food and mealtime.  Pop was a big man and loved to eat, never, ever leaving a morsel of food on his plate.  He could eat a big dinner, then a bowl of ice cream for dessert.  And then the ubiquitous swiss cheese on toast later on.  He was fed by my grandmother and everyone else.  I was the chubby kid who had to sneak food.  No one wanted me to eat too much and I didn’t understand why at that time.  I became an expert at opening the cookie jar without making a sound.  Finding candy and chips downstairs and being allowed to eat it, when my mother didn’t have these things in the house.  Once eating a second dinner with Nan & Pop and promptly throwing up.  I was so embarrassed hearing my mother on the phone with Nanny downstairs who told mom that I ate dinner downstairs and never told them I ate earlier.  Ugh.  

And my grandmother used to call me her "little tub of butter."  At the time, I found it endearing.  It's now that I think of the Breakstone "tub" of whipped butter, squat and round.  But I know Nan meant it as a special title for just for me.  It was just her way to express her love to me.  

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Matzo that moves through you

I interrupt your regularly scheduled broadcast of Facebook newsfeed to bring you this very important Broccoli-Mama announcement.  I'm putting my dietitian hat on today to tell you of a new food favorite--Manischewitz Kosher for Passover Whole Wheat Matzo.  I'm really impressed with the ingredients (there's just 2: whole wheat flour and water) and the nutritional analysis.  Just 70 calories in the sheet, (the non-kosher-for-Passover variety has more.  go figure), half a gram of fat, no cholesterol, 15 grams of carbs (that word everyone says in a hushed voice these days), a hearty 2 grams of fiber and a pretty nice 3 grams of protein.  It even has a bissel of iron.  Best part though is zero, that's right, zero milligrams of sodium.  And to give it this dietitian's seal of approval, it tastes really good!  For those of us of a certain age, I'd like to borrow the Vita-meata-vegamin girl's line--"It's so tasty too."  I have a full sheet for breakfast with almond butter (unsalted of course) or will have it spread with tuna salad for lunch.  Broccoli Rob likes it with cream cheese and lox, which ups the fat and salt, but that's what he likes.

Watching our saturated fat and sodium is important for our health, helping keep our arteries flowing smoothly and keeping blood pressure controlled.  The fiber is a help to our large intestine, keeping what's in there flowing smoothly as well.  Sufficient fiber has been linked to a lower risk of colon cancer.  And you know the reputation regular matzo has after 8 days of the Passover holiday.

The Manishewitz Matzo Co. of Jersey City
When selecting any Passover item (and I admittedly don't use many Passover foods since I don't adhere to the dietary restrictions for Passover), I always select Manishewitz.  And why Manishewitz? It's the company that was in Jersey City for many years and I want to be loyal to anything Jersey City.  My friend, Ira Rubin, worked at Manishewitz during its heyday and occasionally would bring us samples of Passover goodies and gave me and my kids a tour of the facility, even letting them climb on the mile-high cases of matzo.

So, like the Vita-meata-vegamin girl, the answer to all your problems is in this little bottle (but for poetic license, we'll substitute "little box").  Get some Manishewitz Kosher for Passover whole wheat matzo today. Wink at camera.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

My Jersey City life

I grew up in Jersey City and I’m proud of it.  Jersey City is home to Ellis Island (and you thought that it was in NYC), so lots of immigrants conveniently came up the hill after their long sailing to start their new life in this country.  Jersey City was teeming with immigrants when I was young.  My maternal grandmother, Ruth (I called her Nanny) was born in Jersey City, as was my mother.  My maternal grandfather grew up there, coming over from New York, and met my grandmother in childhood when they lived in the same apartment building in downtown Jersey City.  My dad was born in the next town, Bayonne, but when they married, my parents settled in Jersey City, in my grandparent’s home, to raise my older brother and me.  Back in the mid-fifties, when I was born, the world, and Jersey City, was a different place than it is today.  It was safe for kids to go outside to play.  My brother was on our street, Harrison Avenue, playing touch football, stoop ball or stick ball and there were loads of kids on the block to play with, starting with my cousin Charlie, who lived downstairs. I didn’t do sports, but outside I was, playing jacks, hopscotch or jump rope.  I had a bike, but my mother wouldn’t let me ride it off the sidewalk and she wouldn’t let me ride it around the corner either, so it was pretty limiting just going from my house to the corner and back by bike.  Barely enough room on the sidewalk to make a u-turn.  Around the corner was the bank, the post office, a little grocery store where we kept a running tab in a composition book, the dry cleaners and the best place of all, Sol’s candy store, which also had ice cream, comic books and small toys.  I was proud when my overprotective mother finally allowed me to do some household errands and let me walk unescorted to these stores.  I had a happy childhood in Jersey City, living upstairs from my doting grandparents and having loads of family and friends in the area.

But the world changed in the 60’s after JFK was assassinated.  There were racial riots, civil unrest from segregation and unsafe streets.  Jersey City, like many urban areas, had white flight, though my family stayed as my family had a business in Jersey City.  My high school, Lincoln, was in a geographically segregated side of town.  And though I had no problems in high school, I was in the minority and in those days, we were taught to stay with our own kind.  But I have good memories of Lincoln High school as well of the Jersey City Jewish Community Center where I made many friends from different schools in Jersey City and Hoboken. 

My parents eventually moved to Bayonne in 1972 and after my grandparents passed away, the house on Harrison Avenue was given to my cousin Charlie.  Charlie and I lost touch 30 years ago when our mothers had a falling out, but I believe when he sold the house in the 1980's, he didn’t get much for it citing the decline of Jersey City.  The house was an old Victorian from the late 1890’s.  Originally a one-family home when my grandfather purchased it in the early ‘40’s, Grandpa had it divided into a 3-family, with my family on the second floor and Mr. & Mrs. Campbell, long-time renters on the third (illegal) floor.  Illegal because it had no stove--the Campbells cooked on a hot plate!   

I visited Harrison Avenue this past summer and viewed the ol’ homestead from the outside.  It’s been updated and it seems to have a basement apartment now too.  (I used to consider the basement a dungeon because it was soooooo cold and scary.  It also had a bulkhead cellar door to get into the basement from the backyard and I'm sure that's been updated).  I’m happy to know the home is in good hands.

my Jersey City childhood home on Harrison Avenue with the green shingles now replaced by vinyl siding

NOWADAYS, Jersey City is the hot place to live, mostly in the Newport, “waterfront” area, but also elsewhere near the PATH train entrances.  I remember the first luxury apartment being built along the waterfront decades ago and thought “Why would anyone want to live near the Holland Tunnel?”  Boy, was I wrong.  With New York City, Brooklyn and Hoboken (a story in itself) being overcrowded and overpriced, Jersey City has become "little Manhattan."  My older daughter, Broccoli Baby and her new husband (now given a cruciferous moniker), Dr. Kale, looked for a rental in Jersey City recently.  Even though I know Jersey City is popular with the young, hip crowd, I was astonished that my kids were brought back to the place of my youth and for that matter, my mother’s youth and my grandparent’s youth.  Though Broccoli Baby and Dr. Kale didn’t settle on anything yet, it’s still pretty cool to know that Jersey City could potentially be the home of my grandchild, keeping our Jersey City heritage going strong.   I'll be brushing up on my jump rope skills!! 

Saturday, November 29, 2014


Wow, so I haven't blogged in 6 months.  I'm always thinking about topics for the next blog, but somehow get myself all finger-tied (as opposed to tongue-tied) when it comes to putting the ideas stirring in my head on to the keyboard.  Too much thinking and not enough doing.  

My mother-in-law, Helen Wachtel, passed away in September.  She and I were civil to each other, but in a way, we were rivals, both vying for Broccoli Rob's attention.  I always lost that battle.  Helen was a difficult person to begin with and I'm not here to trash her like I used to.  She lived to be 92 and was in fairly good shape until a few weeks prior to her demise.  I can't say she was a happy person, but as an outsider looking in, I didn't think she had it so bad.  But anyway, she once told me of how she left Hitler-occupied Germany when she was 12 or 13 years old and I thought I should let that information go forth.

Helen, born in 1922, grew up with her younger sister, Ellen, in Worms, Germany.    She spoke fondly of her family, especially her grandparents on both sides.  We have some lovely photos of her childhood in Germany and it's a shame no one can name many of the friends and relatives in the pictures anymore.  But my mother-in-law, who grew up Jewish (but not observant), said that one day she was forced to attend a Catholic School.  She was young, but she was aware of the indignities around her.  Her father, who must have been very clever, decided it was time for the family to leave Germany.  This was the early 30's.

As Helen once told me, she and her family lived next door to a Gentile family, a wife, an alcoholic husband and a child.  Helen's mother had befriended the wife in that family and would be especially helpful when the alcoholic husband was, well, alcoholic.  The child of the alcoholic grew up to work in the passport office in Germany.  Voila!  The child didn't forget that Helen's mother was a good friend to her own mom and was able to process all the passports to get the family and one set of grandparents to safety in the US.  (The other grandparents must have already passed away from old age).  

So, my mother-in-law and her immediate family were able to sail to America with all their belongings--furniture, clothes, dishes.  I thought that was pretty amazing, as my own grandparents/great-grandparents, came here from Minsk with the little that they had to their name.  When I first got married 30 years ago, Helen gave me some of the furniture that she sailed with.   She didn't want the items anymore as she wanted new stuff.  I like the old stuff anyway.  And to think of the history that came over on that trip.   

 Look at this old buffet from Germany.  It's a bit scratched up on the bottom (from the vacuum cleaner), but still functional and beautiful.

 These are the dishes my mother-in-law's parents brought with them to the US.  Service for 16, but not all the salad plates survived.  I proudly use this set every Thanksgiving.  Haven't broken a piece yet.

This wooden armoire is still in great shape.  I still have the original skeleton key to open the doors.

So these beautiful old pieces of furniture remain with me, from their start in the days before Hitler-powered Germany.  A lot of history here and, quite frankly, some nice pieces of homesteading that I've put to use.  Thank you, Helen, for these items.  Rest in peace.  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mother of the Bride, Part I

I'm an MOB, a mother of the bride.  My older daughter, Broccoli Baby, will be getting married later this year.  Small-ish, fancy-ish affair for mostly immediate family and the betrotheds' friends.  Broccoli Baby has nice taste, is a master at party planning and pays attention to detail.  She's making all the wedding arrangements herself and I predict all will be perfect. 

As the MOB, of course I’ll need a new outfit for the affair.  (Broccoli Bob insists on wearing one of his, ahem, better suits, and we're just hoping he gets it altered in time.  He's no fashionisto).  This past weekend, Broccoli Baby came over for the sole intent on shopping with me for my MOB outfit.  I have in mind what I'd like...palazzo pants (back in style, thankfully!), a colorful, flowing jacket and pretty flat shoes.  I also know what I don't want--no spanx, no high heels, no pantyhose, no matronly dress and probably not any dress at all.

Broccoli Baby is fine with my ideas.  She, being the daughter she is, wants me to be comfortable and agrees with my decision to wear nice pants to her Saturday evening affair.  She knows that:         
  1. I haven't worn a dress in ages. 
  2. I don't do pantyhose.  I consider them tortuous to women without waistlines.  I gave them up a long time ago when it was clear that I wasn't getting a waistline back post-partum.  Being on the short and squat side, pantyhose can only fit around my waist if the legs are about 20" longer than they needs to be.  All that tucking under the toes and cramping the nylon into the shoe is way behind me.  I stand firm on no pantyhose.  Ever.  
  3. Haven't worn any footwear with a heel in ages either.  That has naturally happened after years of walking around hospitals and years of comfort in sneakers.  When I first started working as a dietitian, I was able to wear gorgeous peep-toed high heels to work without pain.  Now, I can wear cute flats, but they're only worn for beauty, not comfort.  
  4. Spanx.  see #2 regarding tortuous women's apparel.  
  5. Oh, and I don't wear sleeveless, so that needs to be added to the "what I know I don't want" category.  Those with thick waistlines often have wriggly upper arms.  There I am.

Broccoli Baby and I go through the entire mall looking for my MOB outfit.  Lots of strapless gowns, plenty of matronly long dresses with sparkly shoulder padded jackets (not me!), loads of too-young-for-me outfits.  But wait.  Sak's has a pair of black palazzo pants with a beautifully designed stripe up the sides.  I try them on.  No exaggeration--they're about 15 inches too long.  And they're (no exaggeration again) $1195.00.  Yup.  1200 bucks for a pair of pants.  (All the clothes in my closet right now don't add up to $1200).  Broccoli Baby and I carefully slip out of the Sak's dressing room before the saleslady returns.  (But at least they fit in a smaller size than I expected.  Now that’s priceless).  

Next to Nordstroms, where Broccoli Baby has arranged a personal shopper for me, and he is waiting, with bottled water, and clothes already hanging in a lavish dressing room based on the “rules” Broccoli Baby phoned in.  What's there but:
  1. A sleeveless cocktail dress.  (Can you picture me in this?  What a laugh).  To boot, it’s creased.  The least he could have done was steam those lines out.   
  2. The aforementioned matronly dress with a sequined, shoulder-padded jacket.  And to boot, it ties at the waist.  Didn't I already say I didn't have a waist?  
  3. A horrible, really horrible, gold jacket with dolman sleeves with a stretched out buttonhole.  
this isn't me, but you get the picture, don't you?

So this poor personal shopper is feeling badly for me.  I tell him that I’d like pants, so he goes back out and brings back, ta-dah, the exact same pair of pants I tried on at Saks.  And the price tag is still $1195.  He brings in a white (sleeveless!!) sparkly top and a black sparkly jacket and they’re obviously not a matching set.  Even though I tell this to him, he insists that they match.  I see Broccoli Baby from the corner of my eye shaking her head “no.’”  See, I’m right.  They don’t match.  But I try them all on anyway, the $1195 pants, the $200 white sleeveless blouse and the $600 mismatched jacket.  Pants are too long, blouse and jacket too baggy.  They don’t fit.  They don’t match.  They’re schlumpy and hideous.  I stand on that little platform in from of the tri-folded mirror and pronounce…”FOR TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS SHOULDN’T I LOOK BETTER THAN THIS.”   Loehmans...come back.   

Friday, February 21, 2014


Cute name, huh?  It’s the name of my childhood piano teacher from Jersey City.  Nat Glatt (I had to address him as Mr. Glatt, but when I referred to him otherwise, it always came out as the melodious sounding one-syllable "NatGlatt") came to my house every week to hear my horrible piano playing.  The piano was beautiful however.  A Wurlitzer ‘living room grand’ in the turreted alcove of my grandparent’s apartment on the first floor of the house we shared with them.  The piano was bought in Newark by my grandfather and presented to my mother on her 16th birthday (1942) in that same apartment.  My mother, to my knowledge, barely played it, but can still play “I love coffee, I love tea” if she’s in the mood. 

Wurlitzer living room grand piano, in of all places, my living room.

I loved that piano but, as most kids of age 10 or so, didn’t want to practice.  I used the excuse that I couldn’t practice because I had Hebrew School right after school, and after that, in the evenings, my grandparents were in the living room watching tv, so how could I practice?  Come to think of it, that’s a pretty good reason.  I guess I could have made more of an effort on the weekends, but nah. 

Nat Glatt as far as I was concerned though, was renown in all the Jewish piano-playing homes in Jersey City for his great knowledge of Broadway show tunes.  I still have the enormous book of ‘show tunes’ piano music that Nat Glatt said was used by weddings bands of the era.  That book I loved!!  Words and music for all the hit Broadway and pop tunes of the 1960’s—‘Blame it on the boss nova’, 'Mame,' 'Sunrise, Sunset,' etc.  It’s the reason I knew all the lyrics to these songs, though all my friends were listening to the Beatles by then.  I still have the book and had put reinforcements on all 470+ pages!!  I certainly had time to lick reinforcements, but didn't find the time to practice the piano.

We only had to pay $10, not the $75 that's printed!!
Nat Glatt's instructions penned in
The best part though--besides the Wurlitzer living room grand piano--and besides the big book of show tunes, was my Aunt Jane singing from the kitchen whenever Nat Glatt or I was playing from the show tune book.  Aunt Jane was my mother’s sister who came back to live with my grandparents after her divorce.  Aunt Jane had a fabulous voice and even studied vocal performance in college (for the one year she was there).  She could have made a living as a singer, but she said she had 'mike fright.'  But boy, could she sing in the kitchen when no one was looking!  I swear she sounded just like Barbra Streisand!  

I think it was Aunt Jane’s accompaniment that got me as far as it did with playing the piano.  I was done with the instrument by age 13, though I'm still a show tune nerd.  My mother presented the piano to me as my college graduation gift, big pink bow and all wrapped around it, and I taught myself a couple of Scott Joplin rags on it right after that.  It had a place of honor in my first home after Broccoli Rob and I got married and it’s still with me, here in the living room of my condo, kinda hidden behind the couch. Years go by without a note being played on it’s very-out-of tune keyboard.   A few weeks ago, after seeing “Saving Mr. Banks, a movie about P.L. Travers and the making of the movie “Mary Poppins,” I came home and immediately opened my 1964 easy piano book to “Spoonful of Sugar” and played.  Those few left-handed chords came back to me natch.  Nat Glatt would be proud.

Just a buck!

Friday, December 20, 2013


Broccoli Rob and I finally got around to having our bedroom painted.  We wanted a nice, soothing color and researched some feng shui-ey websites to get the right shade of calmness and serenity, appropriate for sleep.  Normally, I'm pretty color-challenged.  I like bold, bright colors, whether they're in fashion or not.  Give me primary colors and keep the pastels.  My kitchen is orange.  My dining room is red (already red when we bought the place, and I think the red walls solidified the deal).  My kids may say the colors I like can even be obnoxiously loud, but I like 'em.  Even my personal trainer had to look me up and down in disbelief because I matched my hot pink workout gloves with the same color sneakers.

But trying to bring in a well-liked color into a peaceable-to-be bedroom can be a challenge, especially because Broccoli Rob and I have very different tastes.  Add to that, Broccoli Rob's devotion to spirituality and I was afraid I was going to say "just make the walls white" to the painter if I got frustrated if we couldn’t agree on a color.  So we go to youtube to check out bedroom feng shui colors and find that yellows are too bright and energizing, oranges and reds almost illegal in the bedroom with suggestions toward earth tones of greens, browns and beige the most promising of boudoir colors.   But beige walls are like white walls.  BORING.  And of course an interior brown color is only good if you're a hibernating bear.

So it comes down to green.  But my den is a beautiful sage green and I don't want to rival that color.  Bright greens are, well, too bright for sleeping, but we couldn’t agree on the gazillion of other greens on the large color wheel.  We finally pick a green color, probably because we both loved the name...'feel the energy'...and the painter, who has obviously not had work recently said he will come to paint the next morning.  Didn't give us much chance to stew about this. 

The painter and his assistant come in the morning and I run off to work with the promise that the bedroom will be finished at the end of the day.  My younger daughter (I'm now going to call her Broccoli Bubelah) is the first one home.  She sends me a text that reads "saw the room--it's bright."  I start to get a little nervous since this sounds like it’s not the pretty green I selected.  Did I make a color mistake?  Should I have gone to Home Depot and bought a pint of the "feel the energy" green paint and slapped a little on the wall in advance so we could have contemplated it?  Should I not have been so eager to help the painter’s finances by agreeing to the quick booking?    Should I not insist that everything in my life has to somehow be related to green vegetables?   I then call the painter and ask him how it looks.  He said "it's neon."  When he hears the hesitation in my voice, he becomes sympathic and says that he can paint it another color 'at cost' on another day.  Okay, now I'm plotzing.  I wait 3 years to finally call the painter and I schedule everything right away and then question my color choice?  Was I going to come home to a bedroom the shade of a sharpie green highlighter?

But when I get home, I walk into the bedroom and immediately love the color.  Yes, a little bright, but just that kind of bold color that I love.  Broccoli Rob likes it too, so it stays.  And I’m sleeping so well in this room, so I’d like to attribute this to the new color.  Broccoli Baby was consulted for accents and accessories as this is her specialty and she’s under orders not to make any comment about the new green color.  She agrees and all is well.  Broccoli Rob thought the red curtains and red linens that were in the room previously could stay, so now I see he’s much more color challenged than I am.  I’ll be taking Broccoli Baby’s advice and getting beige and brown items to go in our new room!