Words & Banter

Happiness Has A Hole In The Middle?

Bagels. Whether it's memories of growing up in New York or because decades later it's still one of our favorite foods, these approximately three-inch circles of carbs make us, well, happy. So, when Red was catching up on her New York Times reading and came across the article, The Best Bagels Are in California (Sorry, New York), the mouth-watering images made her think about growing up on Long Island, New York. And how we lived about half a mile from what will always be our favorite bagel shop. (It's long gone, although there's now another bagel shop in that location.)

It was a Sunday morning routine, but looking back, it was a perfect Sunday morning. It's late morning, I've just woken up, and I'm still in my pajamas. I wander downstairs to the kitchen and there on the table is the large brown paper bag of assorted bagels, still warm, because Daddy had just bought them on his way home from the golf course. Sometimes he'd still be in the kitchen and we'd talk about his game; sometimes I was alone. I'd sit down, having toasted my bagel, a huge schmear of Philadelphia cream cheese on each side (who cares, I was a kid, and who knew from calories, fat, and cholesterol in those days), the Sunday New York Times awaiting me. And there, at the kitchen table, I spent the next few hours. Eating and reading.

Of course, Red was curious if Black had the same memories, and although Black had fond memories of Daddy and his Sunday morning ritual of golf and bagels, she also remembered that Mom would have him cut her bagel into four or five slices as she was on Weight Watchers and wanted to make every bite count. Black has done the same thing for years (or, if eating out, scoops out the guts). Not to cut back on calories, but because she has always preferred the crust of bread more than the fluffy part. (Hmmm, is there a metaphor for life there?)

Fast forward, and we each went to out-of-state colleges and, ultimately, moved out of New York, and, in Red's case, out of the country. That meant it became the "Bagel Dark Ages" as once you moved away from New York, you soon realized there were no bagels to be found. Keep in mind this was before the days of online shopping and overnight shipping. And anyone who said frozen bagels are the next best thing when you don't have fresh isn't a bagel connoisseur. It'd be like comparing a Fiat and a Ferrari, both are Italian cars. (Guess which one of us came up with that analogy!)

When Black moved to Houston in the late 70s, there were bagels, but nothing like what she remembered but memories have a way of distorting things. But over time, more New York transplants arrived, and with them the art of making New York bagels. When Red arrived in 2001, she was thrilled to find authentic bagels. And, much to her great surprise, even bialys – bagel's lesser-known, but equally delicious, "cousin". Not only could bagels, once again, be part of her Sundays but she'd introduce this "tradition" to her two daughters. (Red will admit, health consciousness has turned it into a monthly "splurge" vs. a weekly event, and Black rarely eats them but when she does, savors every bite.)

So, back to where this started … The New York Times article, and if you can get past the pictures, you'll learn that California's "best" bagels are either made by New Yorkers or are based on bagels made by New Yorkers. Either way, there's no getting around the fact that for so many of us …

It isn't really about finding the "best" bagel as it's about the pure enjoyment of "experiencing" bagels …
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It’s been two years since President Biden signed the anti-Asian hate crimes bill, but making something illegal doesn’t stop it from happening. Hate crimes, including against Chinese Americas, continue at an alarming rate. But imagine if instead of hating someone for being different, we looked at what we had in common and their contributions to American culture and society? After all, that’s what makes America such a unique and special country.

May is Asian American Pacific Island Month (which prompted our conversation below about Jews and Chinese food), but we should treat all our fellow Americans with respect and kindness every day.

red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

Have you ever wondered why Jews love Chinese food so much?

Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

No, but what prompted that? Did you take in Chinese food this weekend? Or, did President Biden signing the anti-Asian hate crimes bill make you think about how Jews can relate given all the antisemitism in the world?

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Only you would connect those dots. I was straightening up papers in the kitchen and noticed how Chinese takeout menus look the same as they did when we were kids, and how we've laughed over the decades about how much Jews love Chinese food. But now you've reminded me about how we've recently talked about the recent increase in hate crimes against the Asian community . I simply don't understand how people can hate an entire group of people based on race or religion.

Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

You are the history lover. It is not a new phenomenon. And, the reasons have not changed – Ignorance, prejudice, feelings of supremacy; the list has many "reasons". What I find scary is that people form stronger bonds with others based on what they hate than they do on what they love. But, there is no question that the Asian community and Jews have experienced hate for a long time.

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I know, but in America of all places, that just shouldn't happen. Ever. We're a country built on immigrants, and the contributions of Asian Americans and American Jews have been so significant. From scientists to doctors, artists to activists, the list goes on and on.

Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

The lists of contributions can be sliced and diced in so many different ways – gender, race, religion, nationalities. There are not enough months in the years to celebrate them all. However, some groups tend to be forgotten or overlooked, which is why President Carter signed the first proclamation celebrating Asian/Pacific Americans , which eventually led to May becoming Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. But now, with hate crimes increasing against them, celebrating by learning about their cultures is even more critical.

Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io

Well, I admit that I personally didn't know any Asians before I lived in Hong Kong, and then Shanghai, several years after getting married. Until then, all I knew was that I loved Chinese food. I know that might sound condescending, but that's not how I mean it.
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I’ve always been a proud redhead, even though I used to wish that I could tan like those glamorous models in fashion magazines. Or maybe I just got tired of Black’s sarcastic comments about my white skin. Except for the one time when we played a rare round of golf together (see below), which ended up becoming one of my favorite memories! Although I do wish I had known back then about how important it is to protect our skin from the sun … So, now I invite everyone (regardless of hair color) to join us in not only observing Skin Cancer Awareness Month but also celebrating National Sunscreen Day.

I'll never forget the day. It was an "almost" ordinary day out on the golf course with my mom and dad during the heat of a Long Island summer. Now, if "Long Island" conjures up images of stately manors on the North Shore (think "Great Gatsby") or beachfront mansions in the Hamptons (think Robin Leach and his popular show "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous"), you can put those out of your head. I'm not talking about some fancy country club golf course, just a regular public course.

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This Mother’s Day, Red will be visiting her best friend from elementary school, both of whom have lost their moms, so they’ll be sharing lots of stories and warm memories. (And since she’ll be in NY, she’ll be “visiting” Mom at the cemetery.) Meanwhile, Red’s youngest daughter is looking forward to having dinner with her second mom … Black!

Mother’s Day is a celebration of moms – those with us and those in our hearts and memories. And that’s why we’re repeating last year’s post (that, and because Black was borderline warm and fuzzy) …

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I appreciate that bullet points may not be the typical approach to Mother’s Day, but it seems appropriate to me …
  • Be sensitive to those people whose mothers may no longer be with us, especially given how many have been lost to COVID
  • If you have lost a mother, remember they are always with you – in your heart and in your memories
  • Remember Mother’s Day also includes all those “unofficial moms” and “mother figures” who are like second (or replacement) moms
  • And, last but not least, If you’re a mom, try to enjoy the day by doing something for yourself, as today may be the one day you can get away with it

red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

This year I write about Mother’s Day with a heavy heart and still much raw emotion, as our mom passed in December. My pragmatic side (yes, that’s usually Black’s area although she did sound somewhat warm and fuzzy above) knows that she had been 94 and led a full life, but that really doesn’t make it any less sad or fill the emptiness. But I find myself, when I least expect it and triggered by the most unexpected things, finding comfort in wonderful memories. And although Black’s first bullet point hits too close to home for me, I’ll try my best to focus on the other bullets.

Wishing all moms a very Happy Mother’s Day!