When I was a kid in, let’s say 3rd grade, we never went on a single field trip. How deprived I was. But I did get to watch my Aunt Jean bake a cake once in her little kitchen in Bayonne, NJ. She let me make my own little cake and stick it into the oven. When it was done I ate it. It was lousy. But it was fun visiting her.
She also took me to the Kosher meat market where they had chickens in cages. She picked one and then the butcher slit its throat—the chicken’s, not his own. He turned his back to me when he did it. We took it home, and on her little kitchen table she took out all the insides and let me examine them. That’s when I first decided to become a doctor. I t seems like a flimsy reason to choose a career.
When I went to the U. of Penn Medical School for an interview years later, I told the professor about Aunt Jean’s chicken–he was unimpressed.
Another family field trip was when we would travel to Coney Island where I watched the bakers make knishes in big ovens at Shatzkin’s. The potato ones were best. That was a thrill—eating a knish fresh out of the oven. The Coney food vendors on the street also boiled corn on the cob in big vats and, at Nathan’s, I stood in a crowd four deep and got a hot dog and a paper cup filled with just-fried crinkle cuts. So good—and not a word from anyone about saturated fat!
But today, I saw kids arriving at Wegmans for a field-trip—–a tour to experience food in the Wegmans way. It’s all very upscale. They visited the bakery where a lovely bakerette explained how to make bread. They watched her pound the dough. I like that part.
Then they saw the bagel lady slide a few dozen onion delights into the oven. I was watching all this from the second floor cafe. I wished I could go down there and explain to those kids that Wegmans bagels are undercooked (pale and doughy instead of crusty and chewy) and if only I could have baked one about 10 minutes longer until there was a crunchy medium brown surface that they could bite into and experience that texture. I go to Wegmans each morning for coffee and a custom bagel made just right for me by my friends at the bagel bakery.
All the kids got to wear those special Wegmans white hats (see photo). They reminded me of my Uncle Morris who lived on the Boulevard in Bayonne who would make me a hat like that out of newspapers.
So then all the kids came upstairs to the cafe where I was having coffee. They made noise and ran around, but I enjoyed seeing them. One little girl in a pink dress needed to scurry all over the place. She had a great time. Two others were sitting near me , opposite each other, and were play acting, sort of like having tea and enjoying a grown-up conversation about eating bread. “Should we have a bite of the bread now?” asked one to the other.
Then I got back to my iPad and read the Times about something hopeless. When I looked up, all those little actors had magically disappeared. They didn’t even leave me a hat. It was quiet again, but I missed them.
–Paul Goldfinger, Editor@Blogfinger