Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – A Taste of Old New York

We have made several trips to the Tenement Museum in the past to learn about the families who inhabited the old buildings, but this time, comfortable shoes were not a prerequisite. All we needed to do was sit at a table and wait for the goodies to be distributed. We were in the middle of a fabulous food tour of the eateries in the neighborhood of the Tenement Museum–some which have been around for over a hundred years.

The lower East Side was a well-known home to a melting pot of immigrants. In addition to the tasty treats, it was interesting to learn that some of the eateries and shops are no longer staffed solely by descendants of the original immigrants, but, in some cases, food is still prepared in the original manner and is blessed by a Rabbi in order to maintain the kosher standard and seal.

Prior to the taste test, an educator invited us to share our memories about food. Several stories were centered around delicacies served during the holidays. My strongest memories, though, are of the incredible west-Indian dishes prepared by my mother that I will never enjoy again. It is highly unlikely that I will find a restaurant where they are prepared the way she did. This was a shared realization.

When you think of New York, you probably think of bagels, but perhaps not bialys. I must have had a bialy at least once, but I really didn’t recall the taste or consistency. We learned that bagels outsold bialys because they were easily mass-produced. The bialy has a distinct thumb-shaped indentation where the garlic is embedded that cannot be reproduced by any machine. I also learned that bagels contain a bit of lye and are boiled. I’ll stick with bagels, though, as bialys are a bit dry for me, but are somewhat improved by a smear of cream cheese. As an aside: we do have a deli here known as Bagel and Smear.

Another favorite food we sampled were pickles. The Pickle Guys (http://www.pickleguys.com) now sell them in large, red barrels. Originally, the barrels were indeed made of wood. The pickles are, however, prepared in the good old fashioned way and flavors abound. We sampled one called the new pickle that was not as dill as I like, but had a pleasantly mild taste. I even bravely sampled a pickled pineapple. Definitely a pineapple on steroids, I’d have it again. The establishment also offers pickled papaya.

This 12-course tour was topped off by chocolate-covered pretzels from Economy Candy (www.economycandy.com) where you’ll find a multitude of nuts, dried fruit, and candies from your childhood and today.

You can imagine that this fact-filled tour has shot to the top of my favorites list.

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