Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Nu, an entry

When I was a little girl, we used to go with my mom's friend Cookie and her kids to Matzoh Momma's, a deli in the funky post-hippie liberal enclave that the Capitol Hill neighborhood was in those mid-70s days. At first, the joint was hole-in-the-wall tiny, a space narrow as a bowling lane lined with deli cases and two or three rickety tables. The food,, the food. Toasted bagels slathered in real butter--could you get a genuine, decent bagel, anywhre else in Seattle at the time? (You barely can, now; round bread with a hole in the middle doth not a bagel make.) Kosher dogs on poppy-seed rolls. A perfectly golden chicken broth, glowing as if lit from within, afloat with the namesake matzoh balls. Dr. Brown's Black Cherry soda, in bottles...I don't think it yet came in cans. I didn't know from "kosher"; my entire concept of Jewishness came from the All of a Kind Family books (and, thus, I also had a vague notion that New York City was still trapped in the early 1900s, with streetcars and tinkers' wagons). I remember puzzling over some of the Yiddishisms sprinkled through the menu: "Nu, a Sandwich" declared one section. But the food was classic comfort food, suited to a kid's palate, straightforward and pure without messing around. You could get the chicken soup with matzoh balls, or with pieces of chicken, or just a bowl of the plain, luminous, man. Excuse me while I get a little verklempt and drool on the keyboard. The proprietor of the place was a big guy named Pip, with a huge, wildly curly black Jewfro. He knew us all by name, at the time. Cookie would call him up, when one of her kids was sick, and he'd deliver, actually appearing at the door bearing soup. I thought of Pip like a superhero.

Matzoh Momma's expanded into a full-fledged restaurant, later, with a full bar and live music. I remember sitting there with friends from high school, still eating that translucent soup and listening to someone navigate "Imagine" on the acoustic guitar, pining madly for the sweet stoner boy I loooooooved who sat beside me but had a girlfriend, not me. (Amusing: a little Googling reveals that Pip Meyerson was a Garfield alum, 1967. Not as amusing: further Googling indicates sweet stoner boy is a strapping, bearded Mac geek who thinks my employer is the AntiChrist. Oh.)

But eventually, the restaurant closed up shop, replaced by a Thai place, which is great because Seattle has only 800 or so to choose from, whew. I grew up and went to college, had to go all the way to New York (which was NOT populated with horse-drawn carts, it turns out) to get my grub on at a proper deli. For whatever random reason, the core group of friends I fell in with at Sarah Lawrence all happened to be Jewish; they assumed I was, too, until someone asked me in our senior year if I was going home for Passover. Nope, sorry--Norwegian-Scots with a multiculti palate, that's all. (I became known as The Honorary Jew for the remainder of our schooling. It's true that I would make an excellent Jew or Catholic, since guilt and shame are pretty much my life's breath.) I came home to Seattle, resigned myself to inferior bagels, occasionally missed matzoh crackers scrambled with eggs but not quite enough to buy a whole box and make them myself.

Today, driving across the bridge to work, I noticed the vehicle next to me: Matzoh Momma Catering. A white van with a logo on the side, a woman, a Momma, lovingly stirring a steaming pot of The Soup! I edged alongside, peering. The driver took a call on his cell, steering with one hand; his hair was steely gray and closer-cropped but still mad curly: Pip. Unmistakable. I nearly drove off the bridge, wanted to roll down my window, shout and wave: Pip! Pip! You knew me when I was in kindergarten! I miss you! I miss THE SOUP!

I didn't, of course. But you can be damn sure I wrote down the phone number.

No comments: