Egg Cream

I have been away for ten days visiting family and friends on the East Coast.  As always, my trips to New York City bring back memories that surface with the simple turn of a street corner.  This particular trip had a purpose, to hear my older son present his senior sermon to his peers and professors.  As I sat there listening, surrounded by my husband, children and family, my future daughter-in-law and my future machatunim, as well as our oldest friends, it felt as if our past, present, and future had all come together for this special moment and I could not have been prouder.  We celebrated the occasion over food and wine, enjoying each other’s company, sharing stories, laughing and crying.

Of course the entire week was filled with food: thin pizza with the crispest of crusts, frankfurters, smothered in warm sauerkraut,  with a skin that burst with your first bite, bagels with a perfect balance of exterior and interior, silky thin slivers of smoked fish, tender artichoke leaves sautéed in olive oil, warm soft knishes that look like billowing pillows, fresh cannoli, black and white cookies and delicious sticky nougat bought from a street vendor in Little Italy.  We dined at Maialino, Darna, Va Bene, Eataly, Fine and Shapiro, Barney Greengrass, Lombardi’s Pizza and Clinton Street Bakery, just to name a few.

I spent one morning walking through the Lower East Side with my youngest son, pointing out some of the places that I remembered going to with my mother.  After taking a wonderful tour of The Tenement Museum we strolled down Houston Street stopping at Yonah Schimmel for a potato knish, and then went on to Russ and Daughters to pick up lunch. We were walking out of the store when I suddenly decided that I had to have an egg cream, my favorite childhood drink.  As I stood there reaching for the soda, I remembered how thrilled I was as a young girl from The Bronx when I had an egg cream, and honestly after a memorable morning on the Lower East Side, it was still just as thrilling.

Mario Battali's Eataly

Inside the Streit's Matzoh Factory

Egg Cream

1/2 cup cold milk

1 cup plain seltzer

3  Tbsp Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup

Pour syrup into a tall glass. Add milk and seltzer to top of glass and stir vigorously with a long spoon. Drink up immediately and enjoy!


White Bean Soup (Arbas un Kliskelach)

I just began reading a book about five immigrant families who lived in a tenement on the Lower East Side of New York at the turn of the century.   97 Orchard details the hardships that each group faced upon their arrival to the New World, and goes on to talk about the culinary influences that they had on the New York food scene.

The Lower East Side was one of the places that my mother took us shopping.  The streets were teeming with people going through tables piled high with merchandise, strategically placed outside of the merchants’ storefronts.  You could buy anything and everything in this relatively small area.  There were stores selling undergarments and socks, bags and luggage, silver stores filled with Kiddush cups and candelabras, and, of course, food vendors and restaurants.  Many of the signs were in Yiddish, the language of the Eastern European Jews who frequented the area around Orchard Street.  I remember having an occasional meal at Ratners, a large dairy restaurant known for their onion rolls and Kasha Varnishkes.  There was Yonah Schimmel, the tiny shop that offered a variety of knishes, beyond potato and cheese.  The Streit’s Matzoh Factory (still working on a pulley system) was on the Lower East Side as were several pickle vendors that also offered delicious pickled green tomatoes.  Of course, Russ and Sons (now Russ and Daughters) offered all kinds of dairy and smoked fish. We called it an appetizing store.  What an exciting and colorful way to spend the day.

In 97 Orchard, there is the recurring theme of assimilation, something every immigrant family faced at some point.  For me, the differences were magnified by what was waiting inside my brown lunch bag.  My lunch looked nothing like those of the “American” kids.  There it was, the unsightly wax paper folded over a substantial sandwich made with hearty rye bread, filled with sliced salami, bologna, tuna or egg salad.  The Americans would open their lunch bags and the difference was startling.  Delicate white bread sandwiches filled with just one slice of meat or cheese, maybe peanut butter and jelly, cut on a diagonal and wrapped in plastic wrap.  No strong smells, and no mess.  It is hard to believe that I could have possibly preferred eating Wonder Bread, that generic loaf that formed a doughy mass and stuck to the roof of your mouth.  It stems from the need to belong, to be accepted and welcomed in to the larger society.  At some point I realized that rye bread was earthy and hearty and delicious and that garlicky salami is superior in every way to a square slice of orange cheese.

Next month I will be in New York City and my sister and I plan to go to 97 Orchard Street, now The Tenement Museum.  We may walk over to Yonah Schimmel and have a knish with mustard, stop by the Pickle man, go to Russ and Daughters, and embrace the wonderful foods of our childhood.

This simple soup was a staple in our home.

White Bean Soup

1 lb small lima beans, soaked overnight

2 quarts water or pareve chicken stock

1 brown onion, left whole

1/2 stick butter

salt and pepper to taste (should be very peppery)

1 package small square noodles, cooked according to directions on package.

Place beans,  onion and water in large pot.  Add salt and pepper.  Cover pot, bring to a boil and then lower heat.  Cook soup for about an hour and a half or till beans are tender.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Remove onion, and add butter and noodles to soup.  Serve hot.  Serves 6