Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Delivering food the old-fashioned way
I shop for food in probably half a dozen stores, so you'd think I would be drawn to one of those supermarket delivery services. But some of the stores I patronize regularly (Costco, Trader Joe's, Fattal's Bakery) don't deliver and I haven't warmed up to the ones that do.
I do speak regularly to the home delivery staff at the ShopRite in Hackensack, because they know exactly where everything is and whether it's in stock, saving me valuable time.
Ah, if I had the delivery services that were available to my mother, Grace Sasson, in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s in Brooklyn, life would be sweet. My mother self-published a cookbook of Sephardic Jewish recipes and made a lot of the food we ate -- including string cheese and baklava, which she learned from my father, the son of a pastry maker in Syria. We kept kosher and rarely ate out.
We had one refrigerator and two big freezers stuffed with food. One of her big time-savers was preparing a dish such as stuffed grape leaves or black-eyed peas with tender beef, placing them in a pot and putting the pot in the freezer. She only had to pull out a pot and place it directly on the stove or into the oven.
Just about everything she bought was delivered -- produce, fish, meat and Syrian bread from individual stores on nearby Kings Highway or Avenue U, and groceries from the C-Town supermarket near McDonald Avenue. She could call or stop by the store and leave her order. There was even a live-poultry market only a couple of blocks away.
One time, my father saw the fruit guy kiss my mother on the cheek, and went ballistic.
We spent the summers in Bradley Beach, on the Jersey shore, and my father would commute by train to his dry-goods store on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. (As a kid, I'd place a coin on a track and retrieve it -- flattened -- after the steam locomotive had left. ) After we picked him up, we would drive across the tracks to the farmer's market and buy 50-pound bags of potatoes and other items.
Luckily, we didn't have to go without fresh Syrian bread. A man took the train down from the city most days and hawked the pocket bread from a baby carriage he pushed down the center of the street in the sleepy, sun-spalshed community.