Thursday, November 26, 2015

About food, Uncle Slappy talks.

“There was a place,” Uncle Slappy began, “down in the Garment District, called Dubrow’s Cafeteria.”

I poured the old man another magma-hot stew of my wife’s viscous coffee and handed him a knife so he could help himself to yet another slice of what he was charitably calling ‘breakfast babka.’

“Dubrow’s was the epicenter of the schmata business. Everyone went there, from the lowest pattern cutter to the most exalted designers in the business.

“The old Orthodox with long beards that they carefully kept out of their mushroom barley, would often have rainbow colored nips of thread in their beards from biting off the ends with their teeth of something or other they were sewing.

“Dubrow’s,” he said. “Right on Seventh Avenue, between 37th and 38th.  A huge place, it probably sat 200 or 300 people. And it was stuffed to the kishkas every day.”

Uncle Slappy picked at his babka, licking his forefinger and dabbing at the little bits of cinnamon sprinkled about his plate with the tip of his digit.

“I would imagine that for about 50 years,” he continued, “much of how America and the world dressed was discussed at Dubrow’s. What patterns were hot, were hems long or short, were pleats in? It all happened at Dubrow’s.”

I got up to turn down the heat in the oven. Even though I have the approximate patience of a hummingbird, somehow I am given the task of cooking an oversized bird for three hours or so.

Uncle Slappy waited till I returned to my seat and continued his story.

“The pinnacle of Dubrow’s, the pinnacle of food, perhaps the pinnacle of life itself, were the Kaiser rolls they threw in gratis along with a pat of the sweetest butter."

"You sound like 'Bontshe the Silent,'" I reminded him, referring to a classic of Yiddish literature by I.L. Peretz, perhaps the classic story.

He ignored me and continued.

“Hard like peanut brittle on the outside, and soft and warm and chewy on the inside. Warm, they were, and with the sweet butter inside, they were pure ambrosia.”

He finished his babka and stood up to go read in his bedroom. He was just about through with reading William Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” for the 200th time.

“And the poppy seeds,” he said upon leaving, “somehow they never got stuck between your teeth.”

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