It Was The 50s and I Was A Kid, What Did I Know…

Front Porch (1)

It was the 50s, life was good. But I was a kid, what did I know…

I remember my mother waiting until supper was finished before contentedly sitting down herself, to enjoy a cup of tea and bite to eat. I grew up naively thinking that all mothers had the same routine; set, serve, clear, then eat. It was the 50s, and I was a kid, what did I know…

We never took a family vacation. However,  we were active as a family, bonding with simple, valuable, family activities: evening rides in our spacious Chevy station wagon for ice cream and hot dogs or to check out the wonderful countryside, fishing at local ponds, watching family television shows, playing games around the kitchen table, even venturing 40 miles to Boston for a baseball game.

We were part of a ‘blue collar’ community and’ living the dream’, it seemed. It was the 50s and I was a kid, what did I know…

june-n-stephen-1957

I watched ‘Three Stooges’ reruns and my father would scoff, “you’ll grow up stupid, watching that stuff”.  We watched Friday Night Fights together on a black ‘n white picture screen and listened on the radio when a Swede knocked out Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight crown.  I didn’t grow up ‘stupid’, nor did I become a tough guy.  The Stooges taught me how great laughter is and I learned nothing from boxing, except the cigar commercials caught my attention.  I would be tempted.  It was the 50’s and tobacco was still king. What did I know…

Annette Funicello, the prettiest Mouseketeer, surely saw me in the crowd at her K-Mart autograph appearance.  I had a crush on her, every boy did, I’m sure she winked at me.  But she never answered my fan letter.  Maybe it got lost.  It was the 50s, I felt heartbreak for the first time.

Big malls didn’t exist in the 50s. Neither did video games, but we had imaginations, enthusiasm and bicycles to take us places; museums, play fields, or downtown for stuff. Several of us went together for moral support when it came time to buy our first jockstraps for school sports.  It was the 50s, we were all kids, navigating our way…

The 50s was an exciting time for new fads, new music and new dangers.  Hula hoops became an instant craze and Elvis became an instant hit.  Parents worried about rock ‘n roll and morals while the government worried about a dictator named Castro. I worried about pimples.

mother-1951            dad-1957

Sitting on our front porch in the 50s, I would calculate my age by the year 2000.  Wow, that seemed old, I thought.  But that was a long road to travel and would take forever to get there.  With certainty, it came and went. I was so young when it did. At least, looking back now, it seemed I was.

The 50s were relatively calm and peaceful. The 60s were just around the corner. What possibly could change…

…but then, what do I know?

Lost In Bananas… A Shopper’s Story

“Every day, you get our best!” Danny Wegman

Bananas

While it seemed forever, it was only five rings before I answered. Five rings!

‘Cargo’ shorts complicate life. Seven pockets on a half pair of pants is complicated. Forgetting which one holds my phone is problematic. Ignoring the call would have been the prudent choice, but I answered, feigning innocence, yet knowing what was coming.

“What took so long, it rang forever, and where are you, dairy”, she asked.

Cursed shorts!

Nevertheless, a poignant question, where am I?  I’m certainly not in dairy, that would mean I’m nearly finished. No, I’m still in produce, somewhere beyond broccoli, carrots and apples, in the vicinity of lettuce and potatoes and finally here, the last stop before my itinerary (she organizes it by, a.department, b.aisle, c.product) … before my itinerary takes me to breads, pharmacy and general goods, but nowhere near dairy, our final rendezvous before check-out.

“I’m lost in bananas”!

I was sincere, hoping not to sound sarcastic, but the cacophony of silence told me otherwise.

However, it’s true, it’s easy to ‘get lost’ in bananas, baked goods, even seafood and sushi, for that matter, in my grocery store. And not because it’s big, which it is, but because it’s a cornucopia (kaleidoscope, too) of sights and sounds that satiate my senses. If I have to grocery shop, then why not do it in a place with the finest food and the best workers, WEGMANS*, where the motto is, “everyday, you get our best”.

Besides the variety and orderly, almost artistic, arrangement of fresh produce, fish, poultry and meats, as well as breads, cheeses and general food staples, WEGMANS is a reflection of the American ‘melting pot’, where at any one time I can bump carts with a potpourri of people from Rochester’s diverse international community, or Wegman family members themselves, and I do.

But I get ‘lost’, easily.

I get waylaid in pastry, sampling Maria’s rum balls. Jim, in produce, brightens my day with his loud hello and attentive ear to my rambling anecdotes. Barnabus, in beers, educates me on hops and barley, which I forget, but how can you not listen to a man with such a fascinating name.

Fruit

I go to Wegmans with three things: a shopping list, orders not to deviate from it, and a reminder to get in, get done and get home. Easier said than done. The sights and sounds of fresh vegetables, ripe fruits, prepared meals, fish, meats and cheeses being laid out in perfect symmetry is pleasing to the eye and tantalizing to the taste buds.  How can one possibly go through here quickly?

I’m ‘lost in bananas’ because shopping becomes secondary to the enjoyment of new discoveries in different departments. And I’m always ‘observing’ other shoppers, a diverse congregation of people who fill the aisles, their carts, and the cash registers.

If you’re going to get ‘lost’, do it in Wegmans.

You’ll have the nicest time finding your way out, but be prepared with a good alibi for when you get ‘found’….

srbottch  squash

*incredible stat: 9 WEGMANS grocery stores with a 15-20 minutes of my home. And thats just a start.  Rochester is fortunate to have this iconic company headquartered here.

Today, I Smell Gingerbread…a Holiday Story

Bread

It’s not just the calendar that puts celebrators in the Christmas and Hannuka spirit. It’s a host of sights and sounds that makes these holidays special: the change to wintry weather; the hustle n’ bustle of gift shoppers; colorful decorations and lights illuminating neighborhoods, windows and shops; the gaiety of passersby offering holiday wishes; quiet moments spent in reflection and prayer. All help create a festive mood.

One of my favorites is the aroma of freshly baked desserts and treats filling our home and signaling the start of this special season. Yesterday, it was almond crescent cookies. The day before, I sniffed roasted walnuts and candied bark, white chocolate with craisins. Tomorrow will bring something new that tickles my senses and rewards my taste buds. But, today, I smell gingerbread.

What a pleasure to be awakened on a brisk winter morning with the smell of ‘just from the oven’ cranberry bread or molasses cookies wafting down the hall and finding me stubbornly stirring beneath the cover of a cozy quilt. My wife, an early riser, is eagerly preparing delicate desserts to be shared with friends and enjoyed with our meals. Yes, I know, I’m spoiled.

Walnuts

Later, the chilly air on a new December day welcomes those escaping kitchen aromas that intoxicate me with spices and sugars, as I finish some outside chores. My work can wait, I decide, and hurriedly make my way inside for some hot coffee and a sampling of today’s treats. Ahhh, I smell gingerbread.

These holidays have a ‘baking season’ like no other, where the kitchen is the arena and the clashing of the cookie sheets, muffin tins, bread pans and mixing bowls tells us that it’s ‘game on’, while the cook builds up to the highly anticipated call, ‘Bon Appetit’. It’s a race to blend, stir, beat and mix ahead of the beginning of the Hannukah and Christmas Day deadlines. The desserts and special dinners seemingly roll out of the kitchen and onto the dining table in a tsunami of meats and greens, biscuits and breads, truffles and spritz.Dishes

When the calendar turns to January, the cooking slows, the menus change, and the emphasis is on dietary needs to help our bodies recover and prepare for spring. Is that possible? Yet, through the dark, cold winter months, I still yearn for the smell of gingerbread.

Pumpkin Pie

Spring rains roll into summer heat, and a warm kitchen loses its appeal. Quite unnoticed, the oven begins a period of involuntary hibernation. Delicacies are not a priority and a cold beer on a hot day will suffice. But nature is a wonderful thing. In a matter of time, the baking season will return in all its glory, and, once more, I will savor the smell of gingerbread in our home…

srbottch

Deficated to my wife, who keeps our shelves filled with wonderful desserts during the Christmas holiday, and to cooks in their kitchens, everywhere.