Archive for February, 2011

Girls from Brooklyn in poodle skirts

Not a picture of my mother, but dedicated to Brooklyn Mothers everywhere

People often ask me why, if I have been living in Canada since I was three, I consider myself more of an American than a Canadian. I think a lot of it starts with my mother. I hope to often fill this spot with amusing stories of my mother, to be referred to as my Brooklyn Mama. But first an introduction is in order.


The Early Years

My mother grew up in Brooklyn, New York. As a second generation American, there was not much talk of the old country, unless you consider the old country The Bronx. She lived in an apartment above the neighborhood hangout, Eddie’s Luncheonette, which her father and two uncles owned. I still remember my grandfather’s stories of all the celebrities and Brooklyn Dodgers who ate there. As Ebbets Field was only a few blocks away, I suppose it’s possible.

Ebbets Field

Ebbets Field

My mother’s public school, P.S. 161, was a half block away. Her lunch hours were spent taking orders from and serving her teachers. Her cousins lived in the same apartment building until they moved to greener pastures around the corner. I always had to take a plane or a bus to see my cousins, so it must have been fun to have family so close.

P.S. 161

P.S. 161


Mom and Barbra Streisand

Erasmus Hall High School

Erasmus Hall High School

When my mother started high school she had to take two buses and for the first time life expanded beyond her small comfortable Crown Heights neighborhood. Erasmus Hall High School was a large school with students from many areas of Brooklyn. One of her classmates was Barbra Streisand. They weren’t friends or anything but I think that’s why her music and movies were so prominent in our home when I was growing up. As I once heard someone say about Barbra Streisand, “She’s a big Hollywood star, but she still sounds like us when she talks”. See Barbara Streisand’s Yearbook Photo




From Brooklyn and Beyond

I don’t know anyone in Brooklyn anymore and the neighborhood has changed. A Spanish grocery now stands where Eddie’s used to be. My New York now consists of Queens and Long Island. I learned a lot from my mother’s Brooklyn upbringing. It is because of her I know what an Egg Cream is and that it contains neither eggs nor cream, that sauerkraut tastes pretty good on a hotdog, and going to “the city” means taking the train into Manhattan. I also developed a sense of family and belonging. Mom’s life took her to California and Pittsburgh before Toronto, but her memories, and accent, of her days in Brooklyn remain intact. I guess what they say is true, you can take the women out of New York but you can’t take New York out of the women. I think that’s true of the next generation too.


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My Search For a Good Bagel in Toronto

An Everything Bagel

Although Toronto is a multicultural city with foods from all corners of the world there remain some foods I just can’t find. One such food is a good bagel, more specifically, a New York bagel. 

As hard as I have tried, I just haven’t found a bagel that equals the taste and quality of the bagels I have when I go back to New York. Some say it’s the water, some say it’s the atmosphere. Whatever the explanation New York bagels are special. For one thing they’re larger, much larger. Half a bagel is a large serving and if you’re really handy with a knife and want to watch your caloric intake, you can sometimes even cut one into three

New York bagels contain salt and are boiled before being baked. With their shiny, moist crust and soft chewy texture inside, they are delicious anytime, not just breakfast. I love walking into a bagel shop and seeing baskets of fresh, hot bagels behind the counter. They come in a large assortment of flavors. Many relatives of mine like the Onion bagels, coated with onions.  My young cousins love Salt bagels. Imagine a bagel covered with coarse salt. My favorites are Egg, Everything and if I can’t decide, the Egg and Everything.




A Bit About Bialys



Most bagel shops in New York also sell another item not usually found in Toronto, the bialy. Unlike bagels, bialys are not boiled before they are baked. Usually onion flavoured the bialy is flatter and does not have a hole in the middle, but a depression. They originated in Bialystok, Poland were my ancestors also came from. I guess I should like bialys more than I do.




New York Bagels vs. Montreal Bagels

People in Toronto, who know of my unhappiness with the bagels here, have suggested I try a Montreal bagel. A Montreal bagel is quite different from a New York bagel. It is smaller with a larger hole. They are sweeter and baked in a wood burning oven which gives them a crispy crust. These may have a following, but they are not for me. I bet the good people of Montreal feel the same way about New York bagels.

Montreal Bagels

Montreal Bagels

New York Bagels

New York Bagels from Bagels&Company in New York

Whether we favor New York bagels or Montreal bagels, I think we can all agree Toronto lacks a good bagel. While some may be appreciated as a tasty baked product, many are called bagels simply because of their shape. They are nothing more than a roll with a hole.

What do you prefer, a large chewy New York bagel or the sweet, crispy bagels of Montreal? If you can recommend a good place in Toronto I am always willing to try


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Super Bowl Commercials Part II – Did I see them?

Last week in this space, I posted on whether I would be able to watch this years batch of Super Bowl commercials live on my television. For those of you who have been anxiously waiting to find out, you probably need to get more interests in your life. But for those who need to know- Yes I Did. 

This year’s commercials left me underwhelmed. I think we all have had enough of monkeys and talking babies. It felt a lot like years back with many ads for automakers and dot coms. For those unable to see them the first time around or if you want to see them again, this years commercials can be viewed at sites such as www.youtube.com/adblitz and www.foxsports.com/ads.

I am conducting a poll on some of the more popular commercials this year. Scroll down to the bottom and I’ll tell you my favourite.

As for my favorite, while I laughed at the Dorito’s ad and loved seeing all my favourite old TV characters in the NFL Network’s creative spot, I am going with Volkswagen and the The Darth Vader kid. Although not as flashy as some of the other ads, this sweet and simple ad brought back the innocence of childhood.

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No one really pays attention to commercials these days. Most of us are watching shows we recorded earlier and zapping through the ads. Or if watching something at its scheduled time we seem to find other things to do during the commercial breaks, whether it involves leaving the room or leaving the channel to see what else is on.

However there is one time of year when commercials are once again required viewing – The Super Bowl. For many years, when the games were one-sided and the halftime shows were pretty lame, the commercials were the only reason to stay tuned. Although the last few years have seen more exciting games and the halftime shows have been, well, let’s just say the commercials still remain a large part of Super Bowl Sunday. This year a 30 second spot cost $3 million dollars (USD).


The Simpsons were featured in a commercial for Coca-Cola during the 2010 Super Bowl



For many people living in Canada, these commercials remain a mystery. You see in Canada there are regulations requiring the Canadian broadcasters to show their signal over an American signal when they are simulcasting a program. That means even if you are tuned to the American channel, you receive the Canadian channel whether you want to or not.

I do not face this situation. I get my television signals the old-fashioned way- Over The Air. In addition to no monthly fees, as an American I feel closer to my roots by being able to get my channels direct and untouched by the Canadian broadcasting companies. The only problem is that reception is sensitive to weather patterns and such and there is no guarantee that the channel will be there. Fox, who is broadcasting Super Bowl XLV, is my weakest signal. I know the commercials are available on YouTube and other online sources, but there is nothing like watching them live on my TV as part of this special yearly experience and being able to be part of all the discussions the next day. I know I will feel left out it if I am not able to view them. 

So let’s all hope for an exciting and competitive game, fun and innovative commercials and clean airspace and strong signal strength on my TV.

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