It’s on summer days when the hours are long, that I miss it the most, the kind of communal feeling that existed when I was growing up in our apartment in the Bronx. It was a time when everyone knew the names of their neighbors, and had a relationship with them. Most of the women stayed home, and although they worked hard, they also socialized, played cards, caught up with each other while hanging laundry on the roof, shopped together, had a glazileh tea over something they baked, or sometimes even a small glass of wine. They took turns looking after each other’s children, one day a week my sister and I had lunch at Fanny’s, and once a week Sarah and Liba came to us. I think our mothers went to the Lower East Side on their days off. There was no day care, and no nannies. Need was their motivation and it was expected that you pitched in to help each other out.
Even though the various accents could have presented a barrier, these women had a common language, the language of immigrants sharing a similar experience. The kids? We had no barriers, we all went to the same public school, we came home to milk and cookies, and we went back outside to play. There were so many parallels, including the fact that we all had one thing to do before we were really free for the day, the Italian kids had to go for religious instruction at the local Catholic church, and we had to go to Hebrew school.
There was never any lack of companionship. If you were bored, your nearest neighbor was less than a foot away. We didn’t feel that an unexpected knock at the door was intrusive, or invasive, we didn’t worry about boundaries, or setting limits. Women wanted to get together and if your neighbor wasn’t home, you walked downstairs to the stoop, where someone was always taking a break from the sweltering apartment heat.
This week I baked a blueberry cobbler, (blueberries were and still are my favorite berry to use in desserts) but we didn’t finish it and sadly there was nobody upstairs or downstairs to call and invite over to share a piece, with or without a glazileh tea. So that’s what I miss.
Blueberry Cobbler adapted from Mark Bittman
5 cups blueberries, washed and strained
1/2 cup sugar plus 2 Tb
1 tsp lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and place in a lightly greased pie dish.
In your food processor, combine flour, margarine or butter, baking powder and salt and process for less than a minute, just till blended. Then remove blade and mix in egg and vanilla. Use a large spoon and drop dough over fruit but don’t spread it.
1 stick frozen margarine (for pareve cobbler) or cold sweet butter, sliced into 6 pieces.
1 /2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg, beaten
Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake cobbler till golden, about 40 minutes.