Syndic No.38 ~ Cover
Syndic Literary Journal

Syndic No.38 ~ Brighton Beach Cafeteria

Brighton Beach Vegetarian Cafeteria

Written/Narrated By Long Island Poet/Publisher Stanley Barkan

for Celia—Tsiril—the best thing there!

I went back to Brighton Beach, to the vegetarian cafeteria I had never been to before, except in the memory of my childhood.  When I stepped through the doorway, I was back in the Brooklyn of my bubbe, on the superline of food treasures.  Trays linked along aluminum ledges—Russian and other East-European Jews stirring spoons in glasses, eating babka, sipping tea through sugar cubes bit tight between their teeth.  Grandma, behind the counter, smiling: “What would you like?” I asked for one of the soups of the day: cabbage . . . borscht . . . potato.  “. . . Vegetable,” I decided; then mused about the pirogen, chopped herring, gefilte fish: “. . . And vegetable cutlet,” I added.  “That comes with two vegetables,” said Grandma (I wanted to call her that). —Two vegetables with vegetable cutlet and vegetable soup!— I selected what was featured on the marquee: creamed spinach.  “And how about kashe varnishkes?” she offered.  “Now you’re talking!” I countered.  Then she pointed at, picked up, and presented to me a challah-roll—fresh!—with real butter (margarine for everybody else). —Ess mein kind!— “What’s to drink?” I asked.  “First you eat,” she said, “then you drink.”   After  I  tasted  my various vegetable  delights, she said, “How’s everything?” “Delicious,” I replied.  “Everything is wonderful.  But you know what the best thing here is?”  “What?” she smiled.  “You!” I said.  “Tell my boss!”  she motioned her head to her left, towards a middle-aged man with a slight beard, wearing a small yarmulke.  So I told him, and he said, “She’s the boss.”  I turned back to her and wanted to say, Bubbe, what’s your name? But, before I could utter my thoughts, she said: “Don’t you know me?  I’m Celia.” —Tsiril!  My grandma’s name! —She smiled, nodded her head knowingly (her silver and gold hair-in-a-bun a hazed aura), and said: “Zei gezunt, mein kind!”  I left the restaurant but quickly turned back to look (for fear it might disappear).  It was still there!  I knew I could go home again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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