With my tail between my old legs, I walked over to the long refreshment table in the foyer outside the gallery that no one had discovered yet. I immediately homed in on some platters full of sweets near a klatch of older Jewish women. My eyes bulged. My heart pounded. My taste buds gushed. Were these pastries homemade from the very hands of those old Jewish ladies? All of a sudden, I felt flush, like I had just seen rock stars up close. I had never felt such adulation for old Jewish-lady strangers before. “Did you make these pastries?” I interrupted the group from across the long table. They all nodded yes, and one of them said, “Except for a few things from Trader Joe’s.”
I’d spot those bad boys in a nanosecond, I told myself smugly. I wouldn’t be wasting my calories on anything by a trader named Joe. All my bad cholesterol would be coming from the bubbie brigade. From my right eye’s peripheral vision, I detected almond mandelbrot. I turned to it, lifted one to my mouth and purred, “Mmm.” As it slid down my throat I blurted out, “Anise!” in Tourette’s-like fashion. “Who made the almond mandelbrot with anise seeds?” I asked with a cheerleader's zeal. A short, round, gray-haired lady said they were hers. “These are delicious!” I said, as she proudly accepted my praise. And one by one, I tasted each variety of cookie, macaroon, brownie and babka, not caring that I was making a complete chazer of myself. I knew that those ladies would much rather witness a P.I.A. (Pig In Action) than a U.P. (Unappreciated Pastry).
As I stood there alone at the table, cavorting with cookies and patronizing with pastries, I realized how much history was in each sweet I was scarfing down. Every one of these women had their own recipes from their secret vaults. Perhaps one had endured the holocaust. Maybe another had lived in a Russian shtetl. And another in a New York tenement. All I really knew about them was expressed through copious amounts of butter and sugar. I’m sure there would have been a lot of fascinating tidbits to discover if I had taken the time to ask. But I didn’t get their names. I got to know their cookies instead.
I remember rolling my eyes at adults like it was yesterday. But today I could see the circle of life with clarity. Grownups weren't the enemy after all. In other cultures, with age comes wisdom. Why is it that in America, this is looked down upon? The bubbie brigade not only deserved praise for making it this far, but for having a few sweets left in them to help celebrate the journey. And I was happy to join the celebration.