Celia, Mommy, and Camille in our backyard. My Nonna made the matching outfits!
The Luckiest Kids
in the World!
My earliest childhood memories are of my mother’s kitchen.
Dark green wallpaper with big pink flowers… kitchen cabinets, hand built by my grandpa and my Uncle Dominick painted pink to match. Mommy was very proud of her modern kitchen, with the hottest new color combination: pink and green! The counters were light grey marble Formica with metal edging. The 50’s kitchen table matched… as did the stuffed vinyl chairs, you know... the ones with upholstery tacks. The back door, always opened in the summer, led to a spacious flagstone patio and garden (Daddy was a farmer at heart!) with lots of basil, wild dandelions and mint always on hand.
The ceilings were high, or maybe I was just small. We had a large Tappan four burner gas range with a big space in the middle. that turned into a griddle. I remember on cold winter mornings, Mommy would light the oven and open the door to help warm the kitchen quickly. There was a huge long picture window above the sink and counter which ran nearly the whole length of the kitchen. The “ice box” as Mommy called it, was quintessential 1950’s Hot Pointe. I still think of opening that box and seeing the milk bottles with the yellow and orange wax paper caps. Mommy always said that when she was a girl, the milk separated and they had to shake it to blend in the cream. We were so lucky to have this modern milk!
Daddy, a physician, always came home for dinner around 6 o’clock, and then went back to work. In those days, Doctors not only held evening office hours for people who worked, but they made house calls as well. In fact, some of my best childhood food memories are of Daddy coming home late at night (11 PM or so) after we had gone to bed.
He would come in our room, waking me and my sister Camille up, with an impish grin on his face saying “who wants… who wants…” and we’d have to guess what treat he just brought home, before getting out of bed and rushing down the stairs for our late night snack.
He often got hungry after his long day and would stop for something to eat on the way home. What he picked up, depended on where he made his house calls. Each neighborhood had a different specialty.
If it was the Jewish neighborhood, there would be a big brown bag of hot bagels. Sometimes it was white castle hamburgers….. lots and lots of them! I can still taste the warm pickles between the buns! Sometimes, he’d pass the Italian bakery as they were preparing for the next morning, and come home with “buns”… soft warm crumb cake and jelly donuts, with the purple gooey centers still hot from the oven.
As we ate the crumb cake, Daddy would always tell us the story of when he was a little boy, and Grandma would give him a nickel to go buy “crumb buns”. When he brought them home, grandma would take the buns out of the bag, and return the bag to Daddy. He would tear a hole in the corner of the bag, and shake all the leftover loose crumbs into his mouth. When he told this story, you could tell from his gleeful expression that he was still savoring the taste.
But our favorite of Daddy’s food finds was The Dairy Bar. This soft serve ice cream stand made the absolutely BEST chocolate custard ever. The only thing better than the chocolate custard was the lemon ice… Actually, it was a lemon-lime ice, with a pale blush of cool green. I can still taste it. Anytime I taste anything close, I’m transported to that kitchen table at 181 North Fulton Avenue, late at night, barefoot in our summer nighties, feeling like we were the luckiest kids in the world!
Once again in the late 1960's Mommy got to redecorate her kitchen. The pink cabinets were "faux grained" (still ahead of her time!) and the new wallpaper was white with a country motif. Here she is showing off zucchini flowers before frying them!