Wednesday, October 11, 2017


Image result for loaf of Shapiro's rye bread images

The mention of that corned beef in yesterday’s blog post reminded me that I always tell Chris when a pot of corned-beef-and-cabbage is on the menu.  (I can never write that magical combination without thinking of the comic strip Maggie and Jiggs---she of the opera and caviar pretensions in their New York mansion, and he longing for the simple homely fare of his childhood).  Chris will “run by” whichever branch of SHAPIRO’S is in his line of travel for one of their still-warm, incomparable loaves of RYE BREAD.  That crust!  The damp, cushiony texture of those beige slices falling beneath the knife with a little scatter of crust-crumbs and plump caraway seeds!

I am a whitebread (actually cornbread, if truth be known) convert, Southern raised and deli-deprived. Though I don't remember any corned beef, any pastrami or lox, there was one close approximation, especially for that Deep South area. There was a little hole-in-the-wall "cafeteria" in an adjoining town, the town where “the” dress store was, for a special occasion which called for store-bought. The small "hot-line" could always be counted on for sauerkraut and some enormous juice-bursting sausages, two per order, with a dainty string-bow holding the little garlicky garland together. Another pan held slumpy stuffed peppers, the beef-and-more-garlic bread stuffing wafting its siren-call up and over the other fragrances in the display.
Image result for shapiro's LATKES
Scalloped tomatoes, crisp latkes the size of thick saucers, their tiny frill-cups of applesauce and sour cream awaiting your choice, a deep pan of the yellowest noodles I'd ever seen, halves of shiny-brown baked chicken and their roasted potato-wedge accompaniments.

And the first and only "green" green beans of my experience, barely poached, then tossed with oil and onion and peppers. They were a far different breed from the low-cooked snap beans of our table, and had a "beany" tang to them that ours never had---perhaps the long cooking in our kitchen removed all 
trace of their former lives, imbuing them with the salt and hammy, porky goodness of their additions, making our beans merely the conveyor for all the rich tastes of Southern seasonings.

But way down on the end, after the deep-meringued desserts, the tapioca in little cut-glass dishes, the high-standing squares of kugel with its proud golden crust, stood THE LADY. The lady with the high-piled hair and the moustache to rival my Uncle Fate’s, the avert-my-eyes-so-as-not-to-stare-at lady, who took our measure, our unused-to-the-fare tenor with all of  our redneckness shining through, and asked, in a charmingly lilting accent, "RRRRRRRoll or conbraid?"

I would draw up my shoulders, nodding knowingly and cloaking myself in all the worldly air assumable by my ten-year-old clunky little self, and say, "Rye, please."

\Image result for Shapiro's rye bread images

She'd smile conspiratorially in approval, reach beneath the counter, and bring forth two slices------inch-thick grayish-tan, soft, pillowy caraway-studded slices, crusted in gold. Onto a tiny plate they went, slid across the silvery counter to my waiting hand.

I LOVED that bread. It was Dorothy's door after a lifetime of black-and-white Wonderbread movies. It was always freshly made, sometimes still warm, with a lovely silky crumb, a stretch-and-chew to the crust, and a little ping of sour-sharp surprise when you crunched one of the seeds.

I remember that little twelve-foot counter as one of the brightest memories of my restaurant past. And now, when we enter the sanctity of the fluorescent brightness of Shapiro's, with its tantalizing scents and tastes and tables to seat two hundred, I still take up that little plate of rye and bear it to my table with the same child's anticipation.

And it never fails to live up to the memory.


donna baker said...

I'm such a bread lover and I could tear up that loaf. I've never had corned beef and cabbage. I think it is popular in a different part of the country than where I come from.

NanaDiana said...

I loved this post, Rachel. I am not one for corned beef and cabbage. I never liked the texture of corned beef really. Love rye bread, too. We don't really have delis around here..they are a foreign treat to us when we travel--even our bakeries don't make much in the way of rye bread. However, that is the only bread I eat and I have two or three brands that are good--not flat out wonderful---but good.

Hope you have a good night, Rachel. Love to you- xo Diana

Chesapeake said...

Wonderful post!

BeachGypsy said...

i LOVE this post, I guess I love most any post that deals WITH FOOD!! ha ha LOL So many of your food posts bring back such vivid memories for me. I do love me a tasty hot melty cheesy Reuben sandwich, with sauerkraut piled high! I loved the previous post too, about October--that one is just beautiful. I've been on vacation, and just now trying to get caught up reading posts I've missed. Thank you for the sweet comments and for featuring my post about the beat up old house...THAT SURE MADE MY DAY!!--and was such a nice surprise. I have been trying to get caught up on laundry and get unpacked....mostly now I just need to get caught up ON SLEEP....SIGH.... LOL

Ang Specht said...

I made cornbread yesterday for dinner. To say my boys were happy is an understatement. ha, ha. One of them looked in the oven and said, "Cornbread?! I LOVE cornbread! Thanks, Mom!" ha, ha.

When I was down in Louisiana, I had hush puppies for the first time. Oh my, were they ever delicious! I'm sure that's something you know all about, but for me, this was a whole new world! I definitely need to find me some more of those!

I hope you're doing well. I miss hearing from you.

ines jo said...

Excellent site I have bookmarked your site.. bloom tattoos

Kim S. said...

Oooooohhhhh! Shapiro’s rye bread! We brought a loaf home and froze half just to prolong the delight! I love that you had the experience of that little café with such unusual food. My MS/TN family loved delis and I always wondered where they got the taste for them. Maybe they went to the same place!