View Full Version : The Deli

July 26th, 2015, 06:05 PM
I grew up in the only Christian family in a Jewish neighborhood. I guess I was in middle school before I found out that the lions didn't eat all the other Christians.

A few blocks north of our row house was the "Deli".

Now it was not like what passes throughout most of the country for a deli, this was a true Jewish Deli.

There was the great oak barrel of pickles and you stuck your hand down in the brine squeezing them to pick out the biggest, firmest pickle you could find. On the counter was the aluminum tray of Coddies (cod fish cakes) and saltines and folk helped themselves and snacked on them while browsing the store. I always suspected they were delivered on Mondays and Wednesdays and on Tuesdays and Thursdays they simply turned the uneaten ones over.

The rolls of fly paper hung from the ceiling as the big ceiling fans turned slowly giving the illusion of a breeze but mostly simply mixing the smells and the hot, humid air.

At the farmost rear corner of the Deli was an old wooden table littered with newspapers in Hebrew where older men gathered, some clean shaved, others bearded, all speaking at the same time in a mixture of English and Yiddish. Often in the mornings they would have a plate with a half eaten Bureka sitting in front of them and as their hands slapped the table the small white cups of coffee would dance in the saucers.

The Deli roasted their own beans and you could tell when coffee was being roasted from a block away. The whole neighborhood took on the air of expectancy when the coffee was roasting and people walking on the street raised their heads and sniffed the air, their destination forgotten as their paths converged for that cup of just roasted coffee.

As a kid, I was not allowed coffee, it would stunt my growth, but Mr. Blumberg would always give me a small glass filled with milk with just a touch of coffee added, and would tell me "don't let your parents see that" in a voice that everyone in the deli heard. But as a child, I knew it was "our secret" and I would take my glass to the back and sit at the end of the table trying to be as near invisible as a goy can be at a table filled with adults in a Talmudic Dispute.

Eventually mom and dad would call me and everyone at the table would stop talking and look at me. As I'd gulp down the last of my "coffee" and run to catch up I'd always hear someone at the table say "Such a good boy."

Little did they know.

July 27th, 2015, 08:57 AM
Thank you, jar, for making me travel.

I only knew ktzitzot dagim (fish cake) which can be made with cod fish too, and was lead to believe coddies where a Baltimore specialty.

July 27th, 2015, 09:21 AM
When I was growing up coddies were ubiquitous. Most every store had them, hardware stores, drug stores, delis. It's a miracle we are all still alive it seems. This was before most stores were air-conditioned, the coddies (and other stuff) sat out in the open, unwrapped, uncovered but often not untouched. There were always saltines sitting on the tray and yellow mustard (McCormick's not French's). But the thing to remember is that while cod is implied it is often neglected. There was always far more potato and cracker than fish.

July 27th, 2015, 09:36 AM
In Portugal we have 2 traditional cod fish cakes: one looks very much like the corn fritters, the other one looks more like a quenelle.
On the first one there really was/is a lot of cod fish, because it is the only ingredient. On the second one, depending on the quality of the seller, it is pretty much like the coddies: a lot of potato, ognions, and parsley, and a variable amount of codfish.

July 27th, 2015, 09:42 AM
The Portuguese bolinhos de bacalhau are an amazingly tasty way to stretch out the salted cod (bacalhau). I was raised in Brazil, and the bolinhos are very popular there as well. I miss them!

Fernando Gouvêa -- fqgouvea@roadrunner.com

July 27th, 2015, 09:58 AM
in Portugal we say pastéis de bacalhau.

The one resemblant to the fritters is called patanisca.

Mee, too. I miss it.

July 27th, 2015, 10:29 AM
One thing to remember is that what we are talking about are "working man" foods.

Baltimore, when I was growing up, was very much a blue collar working man city. In those days we still had vaudeville and ethnic neighborhoods and everyone knew that they were better then them other folk except when them other folk were having their street festival and at that time them other folk had the best food you had ever tasted and wore neat clothes you wish your mom would let you wear and had the best dances to watch and even try and the prettiest girls but girls still had cooties and were strange and the funnest customs and ...

Today a store that left food out on the counter or hung fly paper to keep the swarms down or had a pickle barrel where folk stuck their hands in and squeezed pickles until they found the right one would get shut down in a minute.

It's sad. We need some more dirt in our lives as well as differences.

July 27th, 2015, 10:47 AM

Thank you for these field trips. They are much appreciated!