Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bagels, Bialys, Whitefish, and Lox

By now it's not news to you that I've joined a cooking club where we'll cook through Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond) recipes.  So, it should make sense to you that the other day I was sitting at my desk playing on the Pioneer Woman web page.  Well, somehow -- and I am not sure how, exactly -- I ended up on a post entitled, "Where Have You Been All My Life," and who would I be if I skipped right over it, right?

So, I read it.  Turns out that the lovely Ree had never had bagels and lox before, and although she doesn't care for salmon, she loved the "nova," as her friend called it.

Now, at the end of her post, Ree asked her dear readers a few questions about bagels and lox and whitefish and "nova," and there were probably thousands of answers in the comments.  And all that got me thinking: I am pretty darn spoiled with the food I grew up with, and it's entirely because of where I grew up (well, and who my grandfather was, which is to say, Jewish).

Well naturally, some of the commenters posted links to their favorite Jewish shops/delis in NY (Brooklyn, Queens, the City) who WILL SHIP STUFF.  And naturally in turn, I made about a $10,000 wish list of food.  Okay, maybe not that much.  $9,000.  Still.  I've been hungry for stuff I can't get without having it shipped in for three days now, and it might seriously be worth the airfare and the homeland security hassles just to get a fix.

See, I grew up with ...
  • A Grandma who would make spaghetti and meatballs and call the sauce gravy.  (For some reason this is popular now -- I think in part thanks to Cake Boss and other shows about proudly Italian families.  But fugheddabout it, we've done it our whole lives.)
  • A Mom who would make spaghetti sauce and let the meatballs simmer ALL DAY, every once in a while dipping a beautiful, fresh, pristine piece of Wonder Bread folded neatly in half into the sauce.  To test it, you know.
  • The best bagels in the world, available to me whenever I wanted.  I did not know how good I had it.  And let me be specific:  I want a salt bagel.  OH MY GOODNESS DO I WANT A SALT BAGEL!!!  I'll settle for a good egg or pumpernickel bagel.  Not finding those for about 1200 miles.  Sigh.  Salt bagels are definitely a New York thing, as I've found egg and pumpernickel here and there, but salt? Nowhere but NY. (On a related note, instead of using teething rings, my grandmother used to give my baby sisters stale bagels tied to their high chairs.  I'm not joking.  She probably did the same for me, but I can't say I remember.)

  • Uh-Maz-Ing breakfast sandwiches at any local delicatessen, served on rolls unique to New York.  Bacon, Egg, and Cheese, salt, no ketchup -- sorry, folks, but you might have wonderful sandwiches wherever you are, but ain't nothing competing with a NY deli.  I have had fabulous breakfast sandwiches, but when we're in NY, this is something I must have at least once.  (Once a day.)
  • Bialys!  Most people I know don't even know what a bialy IS.  Oh, how I miss bialys.  My grandmother LOVES bialys.  For many years, she and my grandfather would go between their apartment in Queens and their house only a few blocks away from my parents', and my grandmother would "import" bialys out from queens.  What a treat that was, to open the brown paper bag of bagels and find a bialy.  (Just had to make sure I didn't eat the last one, because that was Grandma's.  We're nothing if not selfish about our food claims, in our family!)  If you're wondering, a bialy is related to a bagel, but the hole in the middle isn't pushed through all the way, and the outside is drier than a bagel and not shiny.

  • Whitefish.  Ohhhhh whitefish.  Oh, how I missssss you, whitefish.  I don't even know what kind of fish whitefish is.  It's whitefish.  You order it at the deli counter as whitefish.  It is bony as all getout, but you if you go to Grandma and Grandpa's, you'll eat it with coleslaw and pickles and olives and potato salad and it's wonderful.  I'm talking, if my dad wasn't able to come for dinner, my grandmother would send home a plate for him.  Whitefish, whitefish, where are you whitefish?!
  • Lox.  My grandfather loved lox, and although we called it lox. when we ordered it at the deli counter (yes, the deli counter, not the fish counter) my grandmother would order "Half a pound of fresh Nova Scotia, please."  When we ate it, it was lox; when we ordered it, it was nova.  And there is a difference between ordering nova scotia and ordering salmon, but all I can tell you is that it has to do with the processing/curing/what-have-you.  I don't know much else.
  • Corned Beef!  I make the best corned beef you'll ever have, thankyouverymuch, and it's because I learned from my grandmother how to cook it, and my grandfather how to cut it.  I can't say I make a good corned beef hash, though -- we've never in my entire life had enough corned beef left over to make a hash!
  • PICKLES. Oh, my word, do we have every kind of wonderful pickle you can imagine in New York.  Garlic, half garlic, sour, half sour, dill, kosher dill ... I miss pickles. A good, crispy pickle of whatever flavor I crave that moment.  The closest I have come is to go to the DeKalb Farmer's market an hour away.  Good pickles, but not quite the same, and the commute for a pickle is a bit much.  I can order from the Pickle Guys, but who wants to pay for FedEx shipping of pickles?  I don't need a gallon. (I want a gallon, though. I definitely do want a gallon!)
  • Jelly rings.  Joyva Jelly Rings.  Delicious little kosher dark-chocolate-and-jelly candies that you can buy at any deli counter individually or in three-packs.  Still made by a family-owned company in Brooklyn.  When I was in NY for Christmas I bought about ten three-packs. They didn't even make it as far as getting out of NY before they were gone.  I went online to order a case, but there is a $50 minimum order and a case is only $25.  I'm presently debating with myself whether TWO CASES of jelly rings would be a bit much, so I've held off.  (Full disclosure, though:  I'm thinking those cases will be in my possession before the month is over.)

Well, this sure turned into a little mini-rant of food I want now, didn't it?!  Note to self: don't sit down at the computer while hungry for food you can't have.

Mom and Dad, if you're reading, we're here all week.  Food shipments are welcome.


Oh -- if you are wondering the names of some of the sites where I'm considering ordering, below is a list of what I have so far. It is by no means comprehensive, and if you know of someplace better, please share!

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