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Mourning breakfast

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Breakfast was full of memories today. Rye toast, because Mike and I had deli for grown-ups-only dinner late last night. I knew he’d be happy to see rye bread with seeds, like what we had when I was a kid (except we never had a toaster), which I used to go buy at D’Aiuto’s on the corner. Kevin drew our Italian bakery, where we remembered our Jewish roots, in 2000 or so for Pierogi, for his New York “drawer show.” My neighborhood bakery, in pencil, varnished and perfect, graphite, soot relative. Now I can recognize kindred bakeshops by the tri-color cake/cookies covered in chocolate: bright cross sections showing green, yellow, and dark pink, tasting like some fake liqueurs perhaps, thoroughly obsolete cookies that wish to remind you of something that no one alive knows any more. These inferior petits-fours are less overtly “New York” than the brightly lit, rotating cake displays in better diners, but they are tastier, because those showgirl cakes are always watery, cornstarchy, and pointless, the chocolate not really chocolate, the almond topping crunchless, the Black Forest denuded at best. I don’t think those poseur cakes showed up until the 80s, or else the diners I grew up at weren’t dazzled enough to show them.

This rye bread, even though it’s from Pepperidge Farm, is a taste that remains real, even if the city’s been somewhat taken out of it: it’s a little dry, like it just got off a long train ride.

We might have had English muffins, but we were out. Last week I bought the first package of 6 in probably 17 years, and only because a promotion for some obscure brand was right next to the eggs. Little girl loved the muffins (I call her “muffin” a few times a day), and Mike had suggested them a few times as breakfast problems surfaced, but I wouldn’t have sought them out. “Crumpets” from the Korean market were what my father was bringing home the day he died. Then again, he had just eaten an ice cream cone, and that hasn’t stopped me from eating ice cream since 1993. Although, come to think of it, I have not been to Carvel all this time.

One of Dad’s best (worst? MOST FREQUENT.) “jokes” was: “Fee fi fo fum! I smell the blood of an English Muffin!”

This morning too I stared at the little red scoop with a long handle that comes in every coffee can. It’s hard to throw out something so perfect, and they can’t be recycled, but they’re not suited to use with kid paints or anything that comes to mind. I could make little Christmas ornaments, with a diorama in the scoop, piercing the handle with a hot knitting needle… and I know this is what my grandmother, Laura, would have done. She who made hideous but fashionable orange and brown organic swirly jewelry by putting prescription medicine bottles in the oven. She who always said “Duco cement!” if you commented on anything she was wearing, because she’d stuck an orphaned earring on top of a brooch, or a yarn ornament on each button on a blouse. She had a sort of creative OCD: it nagged her to leave anything unaltered.

I toss the scoops, knowing there is plenty to make ahead of me, glad to know my daughter likes the toast, even though seeds stick in her teeth. This stuff, after all, runs in the family.

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