HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MAMA

Posted on April 3, 2014 by Marilynn and Sheila
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Our mother, Dorothy Katziff Brass, was born 112 years ago today during the reign of King Edward VII.  She was a true Edwardian, born in the basement of a row house in the White Chapel section of London, near the wharfs.  Her mother, who had lost two children to measles, my uncle and aunt, was on her way back to Russia from Buenos Aires where she and her husband, my grandfather, had briefly owned an unforgiving farm too rocky to plow.  Mother and child left England in a few days to return home to Russia.

My mother has been gone almost 52 years, leaving us at the age of 60 after a 2-year illness.  I was 20 years old when she died.  My sister Sheila was 25 years old.

She came to this country at the age of six and grew up in East Boston, Massachusetts.  She worked in the family grocery store as a young girl, scrubbed the floors of the apartment behind the store where they lived, did the laundry, and took care of her two younger brothers.

At 15, she was hired as a cashier at a local fish market and competed with the policeman on the beat in doing square root.  She desperately wanted to go to college, but she was told it wasn’t necessary for a girl.  She helped put her two brothers through Northeastern University.  She took business courses at Fisher College before it was a college, applied several times to the phone company for a job until the receptionist advised her not to apply again because she didn’t have a chance at a job there with a name like Katziff.

Eventually, she was hired by the Joseph P. Manning Company in Boston where she became a full-charge bookkeeper and did $1,000,000 worth of business a year over the phone.

She married our father, Harry, because he was smart, had a nice complexion, was up on current affairs, and had a sister who went to college.  They both agreed that if they had daughters, they would go to college.

She could bake only brownies and chocolate cake before she was married, but she turned into an accomplished self-taught home cook and baker.  She taught her two daughters to cook and bake as soon as they could reach the kitchen table.

She was a “Lion” mother with the heart of a “Lamb.”  She would leave notes at the kitchen table for us along with a piece of Dutch Apple Cake or some Pinwheel Cookies, when we came home after school and she wasn’t there because she had gone to Boston.  She expected the best of us, but if we didn’t do well on a geometry test, she’d tell us not to worry in her note and sign it, “Love, Mommy.”

She never bragged about us, and she told us that if we did something well, other people would tell her about it.

She nursed her elderly mother, who was bedridden and terminally ill, took care of two young children, and shoveled coal when our father was on a business trip to Kalamazoo, Michigan, during World War II.

She started the Sisterhood at our local synagogue, was active in town affairs, and never turned a hungry man or woman away from our front door.  We never knew who would be sitting at our kitchen table joining us for lunch.  The Orthodox Jewish man who collected for the Jewish charities overseas was often found in our kitchen.  Dressed in his black frock coat and wide-brimmed black hat, he ate his meals at our house because he knew our mother was the best cook and baker in the neighborhood.

Our mother was a second soprano; she took four years of classical piano and could play it by ear taking requests from family and friends; and she was known as the prettiest girl in Winthrop.

During her final illness she was on the sixth floor of the New England Medical Center, where our father was the Director of Pharmacy.  The sixth floor was then reserved for VIPs or seriously ill patients.  I studied in a chair in her hospital room while I attended Northeastern University.

Shortly before she died, one of the nurses came by on a sunny April afternoon to offer us tea in bone china cups.  My mother and I had a brief chat over our tea, and she said, “Someday, Marilynn, you are going to be a great writer, but I won’t be here to see it.”  I stood in a corner of the room where she couldn’t see me, and I briefly cried.  I wiped my eyes, took my seat, and picked up my teacup.  “Be careful with that cup,” she said.  “It’s bone china.”

From Addlestone, Surrey to Marblehead, MA

Posted on January 5, 2014 by Marilynn and Sheila
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Twenty-three years ago, Marilynn was browsing in a small antique shop in Marblehead, Massachusetts when she discovered this bank in the shape of a tiny house. There is a faded label on the roof of the house and cartoon-like drawings of boys, some singing, where the windows would be. The bank looks as if it were hand-made, shows much wear and much love. The label specifies that the money deposited in the chimney be “for poor boys.”

We were able to decipher the words on the label, and found that the bank was actually a contribution box for St. Mary of the Angels Song School, founded and run by the Reverend Desmond Lionel Morse-Boycott in Addlestone, Surrey, England.

After doing some research, we recently found that Reverend Morse-Boycott was originally a journalist, and was ordained in 1924 in the Church of England. He was assigned to the Church of St. Mary’s, Somers Town, which was located in the King’s Cross, Euston area of London.

Reverend Morse-Boycott devoted his life to fighting poverty, hunger, and lack of education among boys living in his parish. The school encouraged poor boys to sing in his choir and provided instruction for playing musical instruments. The choir was successful, but it was necessary to solicit contributions from the public. Reverend Morse-Boycott’s wife, Marguerite, became the Matron for the school. Both of the Morse-Boycotts devoted their lives to the school and the boys.

When Reverend Morse-Boycott retired in 1979, St. Mary of the Angels Song School was turned into a Trust to finance the education of boys at cathedral choir schools. The Morse-Boycott Bursary Fund was formed as a tribute to Reverend Morse-Boycott and his efforts to improve the lives of impoverished youth. The Fund is under the direction of the Dean and Chapter of Chichester Cathedral. One of the beneficiaries of the Fund is the Prebendal School of Chichester. Reverend Morse-Boycott’s daughter, Mary, is the Patron of the Trust.

It is fitting as we celebrate the holidays that we acknowledge the work of Reverend and Mrs. Morse-Boycott. Their efforts insured that talented under-privileged young men could obtain the education they needed to perform the music they loved, and that the sacred music of the Church could be heard all over England.

Reverend Morse-Boycott authored a history of the St. Mary of the Angels Song School, “A Tapestry of Toil.”

This information about the St. Mary of the Angels Song School is a lovely story, and it proves that everyone and everything has a story.
St. Marys of the Angels Song School Collection     Box

St. Marys of the Angels Song School Collection Box

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!

Posted on January 1, 2014 by Marilynn and Sheila
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Happy New Year to all of our friends!

May the new year and the years to come be filled with good health, happiness and joy.

We just posted a cover photo on our Facebook Page.  It was

From Our Copper Batterie de Cuisine

From Our Copper Batterie de Cuisine

taken by Jeremy Woodward with whom we worked on providing props for a re-creation of a late 1800s restaurant for the series, God in America which was presented on Public Television on the program, FRONTLINE.  The props came from our collection of culinary antiques and our copper batterie de cuisine.

This is the season for savoy, comforting stews, soups, and pot pies.  For dessert, we offer Apple Dumplings and a Northern Pecan Pie made with New England Maple syrup.

A snow storm is on the way, and a cup of Earl Gray tea and a slice of our mother’s Fluffy White Cake with a Caramel Frosting would go nicely.  There’s nothing like a hot cup of tea, something sweet, and a good mystery.

HOME GOODS, A FANTASY

Posted on December 22, 2013 by Marilynn and Sheila
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As many of you know, Home Goods is part of the triumvirate that includes T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. We have come to love Home Goods and all it has to offer. Let us state here that we own no stock in the parent company nor are we paid for endorsing Home Goods. It has just been a delightful discovery. We’ve come to know Diane and Carol and most of the associates who work there. Their efforts to “dress” the store for the holidays has been outstanding and has taken a lot of hard work.

The store is full of wonderful things both utilitarian and decorative. We’ve made it a destination, and we carefully arrive the day after the weekly delivery has been made. Most of the time, we find something that helps add to the joy of living, whether it is wafer cookies at 8 calories apiece or a new ironing board cover. Sometimes we just browse and leave without buying anything, but it’s nice to catch up with our friends who work there.

Christmas is this Wednesday, and we’ve learned that the store will open the day after with wonderful buys at 8:00 AM. You probably thing we’ll be beating down the doors with everyone else seeking to scoop up the bargains and markdowns, but we won’t be there. We’ve chosen to do all of our holiday shopping early, but to satisfy the children that dwell inside of us, we’ve decided to indulge in a Home Goods fantasy. Our fantasy isn’t quite up to “The Night Before Christmas,” but to us, it comes close.
Using our imagination, we’ve come up with a plan of action as if we were going to be attending the day after Christmas sale at Home Goods. We’ve decided to arrive at the store at 8:00 PM, Christmas night (not Christmas Eve).

Through some special kind of retail magic, we know we will find an open door. The store will be dimly lit, but we’ve provided ourselves with tiny, but powerful, flashlights. We’ve brought a change of clothes with us, because Home Goods doesn’t sell clothes. We haven’t brought food or drink because we already know that the store sells special brands of bottled water and there are also packages of tea and coffee spread out lavishly all over the store. We have decided that we can brew our own in the coffee and tea makers the store has stocked as holiday gifts. There is plenty of sugar in the baking aisle, and even some bottles of sugar-free syrup. There are plenty of snacks both sweet and savory, but no sugarplums. There are jams, chocolate, cookies, and candy – even dried pasta, truffle oil, and balsamic vinegars. Maybe, there will be a hot plate so that we can boil water to make pasta. There are certainly plenty of pots and pans, dishes, and cutlery.

At our leisure we choose comfortable upholstered chairs and get down to the real reason for our night-time visit – early selections for the after-holiday sale. We line up shopping carts, one each. For reading material, we go to the markdown cookbooks, and we select one by Chef Thomas Keller.

We each decide to push together two of the easy chairs the way we did with our lawn chairs as kids. We now have a reasonable facsimile of a bed. We make a selection from the sheet section and tuck them into our “beds.” A few more trips find us with fluffy pillows, a quilt, and a warm woven throw. We anoint ourselves with lotion and put on fluffy socks from the health and beauty aisle. We select a room spray and give a spritz. Isn’t this cozy! We’re only missing a rug, something to soften our steps near our make-do beds. The room-size rugs are too heavy to detach from the hanging hooks, so we make a selection from the scatter and bath rug collections. Artfully, we place them around the area we have carved out for ourselves.

Missing a bit of color, we use our design skills to select holiday decorations and scatter them about in a carefully planned attempt to look casual. We chat and nibble, and check our lists. We plan to awaken at 5:00 AM to load our shopping carts before the crowds arrive. We also leave time to disassemble our sleeping quarters. Dutifully, we make a list of all of the items we’ve consumed or used so that we can tally up in the morning. Sheila spies a couple of Santa caps among the marked-down Christmas decorations, and we don them to keep our ears warm. We laugh at the incongruity of two Jewish ladies of a certain age wearing Santa caps trimmed in white faux fur. We break into our own rendition of “Jingle Bells,” and make a few calls on our iPhones to wish family and friends, “ A very good night.”

END OF FANTASY:

DISCLAIMER: Do not attempt this. It is a fantasy, and only professional fantasists with 60 years of shopping experience are allowed to indulge in this fantasy.
Happy Holidays from Marilynn and Sheila

Brass Sisters on NPR’s All Things Considered Found Recipes

Posted on December 8, 2013 by Marilynn and Sheila
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DOROTHY SULLIVAN’S AND AUNT LIZ O’NEILL’S SHORTBREAD FEATURED ON NPR’S ALL THINGS CONSIDERED FOUND RECIPES
FROM HEIRLOOM BAKING WITH THE BRASS SISTERS

Photo by Andy Ryan

Mayors Big Dig Tour 2004_6_28

 

 

 

 

TO HEAR THE SEGMENT: http://www.npr.org/2013/12/06/249277869/a-tale-of-two-cookies-the-brass-sisters-holiday-shortbread

 

Cookies are a sometime food, and with the holidays around the corner, that sometime is now.

Here at NPR, the holiday baking season is not complete without a story from the always-charming Brass Sisters, Marilynn and Sheila.

They’ve been collecting recipes for more than 50 years. When it comes to holiday cookies, they immediately turn to Dorothy Sullivan’s shortbread. The cookies were a treat they enjoyed when they were girls, just 10 and 15 years old, growing up in Winthrop, Mass.

“Every Christmas, this nice Jewish family, the Brasses, would go over to the Sullivans’,” says Marilynn. They’d enjoy each other’s company and share baked goods, which included Mrs. Brass’ fruited tea bread and Mrs. Sullivan’s cookies.

“Going into her kitchen was like going into a winter wonderland of Christmas cookies,” says Marilynn. “There were wonderful snowman cookies with powdered sugar and Tom Thumb cookies that have a thumbprint, with jam in the middle.”

But the cookies they really loved were the shortbread.

“We ate every piece of shortbread,” remembers older sister Sheila. “We ate every crumb; we almost licked the plate!”

Mrs. Sullivan did share her recipe with the Brass Sisters, but they misplaced it. “We had to live on the memory and the taste memory of that shortbread for almost 60 years,” says Marilynn.

But that came to an end in the early 2000s, when they were researching their first cookbook, Heirloom Baking. They were trying to recall Mrs. Sullivan’s shortbread when friends of theirs chimed in with a story about their great aunt, Liz O’Neill. She’d emigrated as a teenager from Scotland, and she also made shortbread. The Brass Sisters got that recipe and immediately tried it out.

“When it cooled, we cut it up into crisp, crumbly delicious fingers, and we each took one,” says Sheila, “Our eyes went up to heaven, and we just looked at each other and said, ‘That’s it!’ ”

Liz O’Neill’s shortbread is an amalgam of butter and sugar. And for the perfect shortbread, Sheila has this rule: “Always use butter — don’t use shortening, don’t use margarine. It has to be butter.”

But, being the Brass Sisters, they decided to put their own touch on Liz O’Neill’s recipe.

“We made it as an orange shortbread, because there’s nothing like a little bit of citrus in the middle of cold New England weather,” says Marilynn.

The Brass Sisters’ Favorite Holiday Shortbread

Makes 32 1-inch by 2-inch pieces

1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks)

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 cups flour

Grated zest of 1 orange

1 teaspoon orange extract or 1/2 teaspoon orange oil

Set oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch by 9-inch by 2-inch pan with foil. Grease the foil with butter or coat with vegetable spray.

Add flour and salt to a mixing bowl, whisk to combine, and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add orange zest. Add orange extract or orange oil and combine. Add dry ingredients, 1/2 cup at a time, beating until completely absorbed and dough comes together. Do not overbeat or shortbread will be tough.

Gently pat dough into prepared pan. (Press down the edges with tines of fork.) Prick top of dough evenly about 20 to 25 times.

Bake shortbread 35 minutes. Cool on rack for about 20-25 minutes, or until slightly warm. Score shortbread with a knife into 1-inch by 2-inch pieces, but do not cut through entirely. When completely cool, cut into pieces along scored lines. The texture should be sandy and crumbly. Store orange shortbread in a covered tin between sheets of wax paper, at room temperature.

Shortbread will firm up as it cools. Placing shortbread in the refrigerator will help it firm up. If the shortbread is pale, continue baking another 5 minutes, watching carefully to be sure it is not browning too quickly.

WHERE WERE YOU THE DAY PRESIDENT KENNEDY WAS SHOT?

Posted on November 22, 2013 by Marilynn and Sheila
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I first saw John Fitzgerald Kennedy in the 1950s at Tufts University, in Medford, Massachusetts. My cousin, Norman Katziff, was receiving a degree in Civil Engineering the same day John F. Kennedy was receiving an honorary degree. Tufts was small enough then that the graduates could walk solemnly down a path before gathered family and guests. Then Senator Kennedy walked by himself. It was the first time I had seen him in person, and he was only a few feet away from me. I was surprised that he didn’t seem taller, but he was tanned and smiling, and he had the look of someone who would become a part of history.

It has been 50 years since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Everyone remembers where he or she was when he or she heard the news. I was in an English history class at Northeastern University in Boston. Someone ran in and said that the President had been shot. I thought that he had said that the President was in shock, and since my mother had died of complications from diabetes in April of 1962, the first thing I thought about was that he was in diabetic shock, and I kept telling myself that couldn’t be true because the President wasn’t a diabetic. It finally registered that he had been shot.

We all walked out of the class and ran down to the cafeteria. We sat around empty tables. It was very quiet, and we were listening to the radio which someone had rigged so that we could hear it in the cafeteria. After what seemed like a long time, a man’s voice came over the radio and announced that the President had died. The announcement was followed by organ music, generic and final. I joined some of the girls, and we all walked up the two flights of stairs to the Chapel. As we walked in, the Dean of Chapel’s Secretary asked us why were going into the Chapel, and we told her that the President had been shot, and that they had just announced his death. We said a prayer for the President, his family, and the new administration.

I left Northeastern to go home to Winthrop, and during the four changes on the subway and bus, no one said a word. The next day, one of the graduate students told us that his mother had made a Portuguese fish soup, and that they both had been unable to eat it.

When you are young and in college and working toward a goal, there is nothing like someone who seems larger than life to inspire you. We truly believed in Camelot with its promise of dreams that could be achieved. We all wanted to wear our hair like Jackie Kennedy, and we all wanted to dress like her. She was elegant, and he was handsome and smart, and he gave us permission to change the world and make it better. It seemed that we said good-by to our youth when we heard the news of his death.

In 2006, I was in Dallas to promote my first cookbook, Heirloom Baking, and our escort pointed out the exact spot where President Kennedy had been shot. As we drove by, I couldn’t believe how plain and small and peaceful the area was. It was hard to understand how a seemingly innocuous place had turned deadly and how it now seemed so ordinary 43 years later. People just went about their business as if nothing had ever happened there. I know that although I am not the same person I was when I heard the news that President Kennedy had been shot, neither is my world the same. Camelot existed for a very short time, and as I grow older I realize that I am very much the recipient of its legacy. I still believe that things are going to change for the better, and I still believe that I will help make those changes happen.

Our Love Affair With Cabbage

Posted on September 11, 2013 by Marilynn and Sheila
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Notice the Green and Blue in This Purple Cabbage

Notice the Green and Blue in This Purple Cabbage

OUR LOVE AFFAIR WITH CABBAGE

 

We have always loved cabbage.  We’ve  never fallen into the trap of ridiculing any vegetable, especially cabbage.  We’ve heard all about the odor of cabbage cooking, the comments about how it’s sometimes not nice to your digestive system.

 

No one ever describes the beauty of a cabbage whether it’s a green or a red one — its rose-like leaves, the several shades of green that make up a green cabbage, and if “red,” the subtle shades of blue and magenta that combine to make a cabbage purple.  We love a cabbage when it is in dress uniform with its leaves arching out from its core.  To us, cabbage is a thing of beauty.  We even like Savoy cabbage with its tight wrinkled leaves.

 

There are few cultures that don’t make use of cabbage in their cuisines.  We grew up in a Jewish household, so our memories of cabbage are of our mother’s Sweet and Sour Cabbage stuffed with meatballs in a tangy brown-sugar tomato sauce with a generous helping of raisins, which always plumped up during the baking.  Sometimes the raisins rose to the top of the baking dish and got a little burnt, and those were the best.  They were almost candied. Because  Sheila, didn’t eat raisins then, our mother went into “restaurant mode’ and made a separate dish of stuffed cabbage without raisins for her.

 

Some home cooks make their stuffed cabbage in a large pot, but we always baked ours in a rectangular glass baking dish.  We later found out that the cabbage meatballs our mother made were called Romanian Stuffed Cabbage.  In our second book, Heirloom Cooking, there is a recipe for our mother’s Romanian Stuffed Cabbage and there is also a recipe from Bunny Slobodzinski’s for Stuffed Cabbage with Salt Pork gravy.  Both are equally good.   We weren’t surprised when we found out that our mother’s recipe was referred to as “Romanian” because our maternal grandfather Grandpa Katziff came from Moldavia near Romania.

 

The Brass side of the family had a history with cabbage, too.  The original name of the family was Breslau, and there was a city in Poland that was named Breslau.  It later became Krakow.  When Grandpa Brass immigrated to America and settled the family on Orange Street, in Chelsea, Massachusetts, he planted a garden of cabbage and tomatoes.  Our father, Harry, helped harvest the vegetables, and our grandfather, who had been an illuminator in the old country (an artist) was the one in the family who shredded the cabbage and put up the sauerkraut. Daddy talked nostalgically about the plates of homemade sauerkraut and pickled green tomatoes he loved to eat as a snack when he was a boy.

 

When our mother and father went to dinner at Grandma Brass’s house after the young couple had been married for a month, Grandma served her chicken soup, and her cabbage soup.  Daddy ate two bowls of both, and Mama, embarrassed, yelled at him when they got home because she was felt his family probably thought she hadn’t been feeding him.

 

When we were growing up in Winthrop, there was a store on Shirley Street called Kaplow’s Creamery.  Every week there was a delivery of sauerkraut and half-sour pickles.  In those days, they added fresh cranberries to the sauerkraut for flavor and color.  The sauerkraut and the pickles were delivered from the back of a large truck, and if it were a very hot day, the deliveryman would sometimes give us a free pickle.  The pickles and the sauerkraut were stored in bulk in large wooden barrels and transferred to containers when you bought them.

 

Years later when Marilynn had her first apartment in Cambridge on Concord Avenue, house proud, she went to Haymarket to stock up on vegetables and fruit.  Being one who believes that bigger is better; she bought the largest cabbage she could find.  It was so large that she couldn’t fit it into the first refrigerator she ever had.  She placed the cabbage on a wicker chair and contemplated what to do next.  She knew cabbage kept pretty well, but it wouldn’t keep forever, and she was so excited she couldn’t figure out how to get the cabbage into the refrigerator.  She thought about taking out a shelf, but then where would she put everything that had been on the shelf she’d removed?  Finally, she called Sheila, and she came up with a great suggestion – cut the cabbage in half.  She did, and Marilynn’s dilemma was solved.  She wishes she could remember what she made from that cabbage.

 

And finally, a word about Brussels sprouts.  we have always loved miniatures, and we were  once the proud owners of five dollhouses.  There is something very intriguing about anything smaller than it should be, and to some, Brussels sprouts are like miniature cabbages.  They have a milder flavor, and they are ravishingly attractive when presented for sale on their curving stalk.  There are various ways of preparing Brussels sprouts, but we trim the ends and make an x on the bottom before steaming them.  Butter and toasted coarsely chopped walnuts are good with Brussels sprouts.  We wish people wouldn’t refer to them simply as sprouts.  They are too special for that.  We lived through the miniature vegetable craze of the 1980s and 1990s, but Brussels sprouts will never go out of fashion.

 

We read somewhere that the Queen of England is served Brussels sprouts at Christmas dinner, but we don’t know if that’s true. You shouldn’t have gotten us started about our love for cabbage, because we also love radishes and parsnips, and we just might have to write about those.

David McCullough And Me, An Interrupted Conversation

Posted on July 8, 2013 by Marilynn and Sheila
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David McCullough, the well known Social Historian will be 80 on July 7. He has won the Pulitzer Prize twice and the National Book Award and has been presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Ten million copies of his books on the history of The United States are in print.

I met David McCullough in 1995 when I had just been hired as a Production Secretary for the How-Tos, the Unit run by Russ Morash, who produced This Old House, The Victory Garden, and The New Yankee Workshop. David McCullough was then, among other things, the Host of American Experience which was produced by WGBH, the Public Television station, in Boston.

My sister, Sheila, and I had been invited to a gathering honoring Judy Crichton, the retiring Executive Producer of American Experience, at the home of Margaret Drain, who later became the Executive Producer when Judy left. It was a merry gathering with good food, good conversation, and good company.

Eighteen years ago, David McCullough was an impressive looking man with his white hair and tall stature. He was accompanied by a strikingly beautiful woman, classically dressed, and wearing very high heels.

When I approached Mr. McCullough in 1995, Sheila and I were licensed antique dealers, buying, selling, and collecting. I started the conversation, “Mr. McCullough, you are a historian who tells the story of people, and I am a historian who tells the story of objects.” He turned to me with interest, and I started to tell him how much I had learned from the beautiful objects that I had found — how classic design lasted forever and how much we could learn about the people who had owned them and the times in which they had lived. Someone came between us, and our conversation was interrupted.

Recently, Mr. McCullough was on Sixty Minutes talking with Morley Safer about the political climate of Philadelphia in 1776 when people like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams were helping a fledgling nation produce a precious document known as The Declaration of Independence, which was actually signed on July 2.

However, Mr. McCullough didn’t confine himself to discussing only the political climate, he told us about the men themselves, the weather, the flies, and the narrow streets of Philadelphia. He made the time come alive for us. He made us see our forefathers as courageous men with real foibles and strengths. He has a way of doing that.

A few years after our brief meeting in 1995, David McCullough was being interviewed on television, and he related how challenging it had been when he had first started his career. I learned that the beautiful woman who had accompanied him to the gathering we had both attended was his wife, Rosalee, and he talked with pride and affection of the way she had supported his career for the many years they had been together. They have been married 59 years, and she has been a partner in all of his literary decisions, as well as his life decisions.

Tomorrow, we celebrate July 4th. I never had a chance to continue my interrupted conversation with Mr. McCullough, but I am consoled by the fact that 18 years have passed, and we’d have even more to talk about. David McCullough is still an impressive looking man. He still fascinates when he talks about the story of America, and somewhere deep inside me, I hope we will have the chance to continue our conversation.

IF ANYONE KNOWS DAVID MCCULLOUGH, PLEASE FORWARD THIS TRIBUTE TO HIM AND TO ROSALEE.

A Lobster Lunch and Two Table Settings

Posted on June 24, 2013 by Marilynn and Sheila
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We’ve just tipped into summer, and it’s a great time to try out new, simple ideas for table tops.  When we decided to hold a lobster lunch for two friends, we wanted a table covering that we could dispose of quickly after lunching on boiled lobster with all of its fun and mess.

This is how we did it.

We just thought we’d include a photograph of a table top we did for a lobster lunch for two friends. The paper covering the top of the table is by Cake Vintage, and the lobster dishes are French, Czechoslovakian, and Japanese. The fork, knife, and spoon motif of the paper covering the table top is beautifully done, and after eating a challenging meal like boiled lobster, we were able to remove the paper and serve dessert. IMG_0093

 

We thought you’d like to see another way we used the fork, knife and spoon paper from Cake Vintage. The brown china is called Studio and is by Barbara Eigen. It has been discontinued by Pottery Barn, and we value the pieces we’ve acquired over the last few years.

IMG_0103

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE JEWISH TO LOVE BAGELS

Posted on May 24, 2013 by Marilynn and Sheila
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It seems that we’ve encountered some wonderful bagel stories in our travels.

When Marilynn worked at Honeywell-Bull, in Brighton, Massachusetts in the 1980s, one of her co-workers talked glowingly about his childhood memories of riding with his father when he delivered newspapers early in the mornings to drugstores and variety stores. The two would end their “night” stopping off for freshly baked bagels and eat them in the truck. It was a treasured moment of father-son bonding.

Recently we met a man with a sweetly resonant voice. In his Irish accent he told us about his memories of the Jewish Mayor of Dublin, Robert Briscoe and of his growing up in the Jewish neighborhood in Dublin. Although he wasn’t Jewish, himself, he loved going to the bakeries for fresh bagels, and it was then and there that he learned to eat his bagels with lox and cream cheese.

When we were researching and writing Heirloom Cooking, we spoke with Sara Bazer, the daughter of one of the founders of the Arfa family bakery in Chicago. Founded in 1948, by Leon Arfa and his brother, Leon ran it with his wife, Dina, until 1974. Sara shared the recipe for bagels baked by the Arfa Brothers, but we had to break down the commercial recipe to bake 12 bagels.

Our father, Harry, was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, and he was familiar with Katz’s Bagels, a tiny bakery in a brick building in Chelsea. One day, in the 1950s, as we were driving by Katz’s, Daddy said that he knew one of the bakers. We stopped and we went in. The baker, a tiny little man, still worked there, and he and Daddy had a reunion. Katz’s bagels was sold, and we’ve tasted the bagels made by the new owners, and they are very good.

We can’t forget the bagel shops in Brookline, Massachusetts. We barely avoided an argument with a female customer who thought we weren’t effusive enough about the quality of the bagels we had just purchased.

We’re not big fans of “Everything” bagels or bagels baked with blueberries, or Pizza Bagels, but we admit to liking raisin bagels or bagels with sesame or poppy seeds.

We know that many of you swear by bagels with cream cheese and lox, but we think there is nothing like a freshly-toasted bagel with chunky peanut butter.

We know there are more bagel stories out there, and we want to hear about them.

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