Lower East Side, Manhattan:
367 Grand Street, New York, NY 10002
From the book "Milch
und Hering" Kosher Foodshops in New York
I never stayed with anything longer than three years except
my husband. When I graduated college I had a speech and hearing BA and I worked
in the Public School system for three years and then I had my first daughter.
When I went back to work, after my second daughter was old enough to go to a
program, I worked with senior citizens in the neighborhood, and I loved it. See,
I never thought I was talented. I had nothing zero. Now Im a baker, I have one
talent -- bialys.
My maiden name is Freund. The grandparents on both sides are
My paternal grandmother was from Aschaffenburg and my grandfather was from
Frankfurt. They were born around 1910. When they took away my grandfathers
livelihood, in 38, he went to France, where my father was born on the way,
and then they came to America 1939. My grandfather was a lawyer and he was ready
to be a judge. They were able to take their stuff, so we still have furniture
My mother's parents came from Niedelsberg, they had a butcher store, and my
grandmother grew up milking the cows. They were literally tossed out with
nothing, left the cow there and ran.
If I lost my business, today, would I leave? I wouldn't leave, it's unbelievable.
But still, you were German and then you were Jewish, and they lived very well --
like we do here, which makes me nervous. You hope you learn from the past
My grandfather is still living up there, in Washington heights,
he lives at home but he does have help. He had cancer ten years, was on
chemotherapy, didn't lose his hair, felt fine. They say those Germans are really
strong. Every time he goes to the hospital they say "Take your teeth out." And
he says "They're mine! And they cant believe it.
He gets weepy every once in while, and talks about Kristallnacht. I mean his
parents came out with him. His brother, his aunts and uncles came out. But, see,
he still has his doctorate, his law degree, on the wall. You call him Doctor
Freund still even though when he came to America he became a CPA.
Actually he was very proud being German. You know, we were Yekkes, German Jews,
we were punctual and proper. We were dressed right and had the right gift at the
right time. We had our own bakeries, our own butchers and our own prayer books,
which are different than everybody else's. We always shook hands. We never
kissed. Everything had it's place, it's order. So that's how I grew up - and
here it's like one big mess.
I got married and then I moved down here. I didn't know what a
bialy was, growing up. There are no bialys in Washington Heights. My husband was
born here, he's the Polish, Russian just from the Lower East Side. We are very
different. I always thought what I did was normal, and then you go into the rest
of the Jewish world, which is mostly Polish - Russian descent, and all of a
sudden all the customs were different. We kind of picked what we liked. But I
think for my kids, you know, they're basically American.
When I met my husband he was working in a deli and he wanted to become a caterer.
And I'm like "No, you can't become a caterer because all caterers are fat and
miserable and die young." So he went into politics but he always had food on his
And then this came up, February, '98! I was just eight months pregnant with my
last son. But together with my sister-in-law and her husband we bought the store!
I'm the only one that works here full time.
Everyone always says bialy is a Polish food -- it's really not! I think it's a
New York food now. I think some Polish Jews migrated, took it here and New York
water happens to be excellent for bialys and bagels, I have no idea why. The
fluoride, the filth, I don't know. There are three bialy bakeries in all of
America and two are in Brooklyn and one is in Manhattan.
We'll start with bagels and I'll contrast it with bialys! Well, bagels have to
be made first and they're put at a cold place and then they're boiled in a
kettle. Then we put the seeds on them, put them in the oven, we flip them over
and then we pull them out. So that's the bagel process.
Bialys, on the other hand, we like warm and we rise, and then we bake it out
right away. No flipping, no boiling, no anything. I'll even give you the secret
ingredients, it's flour, water, salt and yeast. I find women like bialys better
-- or thin men. Men that like to have heavy stuff in their stomachs like bagels.
A full shift is 270 dozen bialys. And we have about three full
shifts a day for regular life, six days a week.We have now four bakers, my
youngest baker is probably in his forties, and they've been working here a long
time. Actually making a bialy dough is difficult. Even if I told you how to make
a good dough, when it becomes winter, that dough would no longer be good. Or if
it's humid outside, or if there's a wind, - sometimes you'll see the door will
be open when they bake, sometimes they keep the boxes tight closed, sometimes
they open the boxes. I find that so amazing because they don't realize that
they're doing chemistry.
Another ritual is for the dough: Each dough, if you have more than five pounds
of dough at a time, you have to take a piece off. You make a blessing, which I
get to do everyday. We throw each piece in a bucket in a big paper bag and at
the end of the week, when we finish baking before we close on Friday afternoon,
we burn the dough then. Well, then on Saturday night we take it out and we start
again. This way if anyone wants to see they can see the dough sitting in the
bucket. People don't trust.
The original owners name was Morris Kossar. The store is about sixty-five years
old.. It was always a kosher business, but it was open Saturday. We closed it on
Saturday, which caused a lot of trouble for our old-time customers. I'm kosher
myself. Shabbes is a day that none of us like to work, we want to have family
Im Jewish. Im religious and I have my customs.
"Milch & Hering":
Jewish Foodshops in New York
Eine Ausstellung von Michael Melcer und Patricia Schon im Jüdischen Kulturmuseum
Augsburg-Schwaben, vom 30. Januar bis 6. April 2003
Artikel des Aufbau zur
Augsburger Ausstellung (pdf)