Good agreement for pastry | Opinion
Dad absolutely loved hamantaschen. You know those triangular pastries for the Jewish holiday of Purim? I don’t think he cared much about the type of filling as long as these delicious triangles were from one of his favorite bakeries. He loved Leon’s Bake Shop on Knapp Street in Sheepshead Bay and also Teena’s Cake Fair on Ralph Avenue, which was much closer to home. While I’m sure Bubby baked mandel bread and sugar cookies, I can’t remember if she ever baked hamantaschen. But I have a little memory that she did for a while. And, of course, they would be his ultimate first.
A plate of hamantaschen, a cup ready for hot black coffee and a pack of cigarettes, a lighter and an ashtray would be on the table all around the dates of Purim. If not on the kitchen table, surely on the snack table in the den next to his chair in front of the TV. That’s how I knew it was Purim in our family. When I saw the telltale signs. We never had lessons on the subject of vacations, nor on why these triangles were called hamantaschen.
What we learned about, however, is which liquid went with which pastry. Hamantaschen was a food that went with coffee, of course. Dad had lots of cafe desserts like mandel bread, fruit pies, and his forever favorite, cheesecake. But he considered coffee to be totally the wrong pairing for some of his other beloved desserts like Ebinger’s Blackout Cake, which made an appearance at our house on special occasions. Such a royal cake would require nothing less than a very cold glass of milk. Anything with chocolate was actually a milk dessert, he professed out loud as if he were in front of a huge conference room. The chocolate cream pie was also perfect with milk.
Dad wasn’t a big tea drinker, so I can’t remember if he assigned a dessert to this drink. But maybe there was. And now that I think about it, I wonder if he had an inner struggle deciding what to drink with chocolate babka. The babka part of the cake would surely be associated with coffee, however, once the chocolate aspect was introduced – well, who knows. I wish I could ask him.
I remember we were also discussing how we liked our eggs. When I was a teenager, he taught me the fun of using ketchup with scrambled eggs. I don’t have it anymore, but it used to be a thing for me. Then a debate would ensue over what condiment to use with the salami and eggs. You realize that any sane person would use mustard for salami, but what about ketchup for eggs? I remember we were back and forth about it at the kitchen table. But for some reason, I can’t remember how we ended up. Stupid, I know. And because I can’t remember the last time I ate salami and eggs, I no longer have to deal with this dilemma.
The day before my wedding, I was a little too excited to sleep and went down to the kitchen in the middle of the night to get some water. I found dad sitting at the table making himself some tuna on a toasted bagel. He’d diced a batch of onions to add to the tuna with mayonnaise, and placed a sliced bagel in the toaster slots though he hadn’t pressed the button yet. Of course, he offered me to share his snack. While mashing the mixture, he gave me one of his lessons on the importance of using onions, especially in tuna.
Of course, I learned a lot more from dad than when to drink milk or use ketchup or onions. He helped me learn by example how to treat people and how to love to the fullest. We discussed everything from civil rights and history to civics and ethics. But what will stick in my memory forever are those times when we complained in the kitchen over cakes, eggs and tuna.