Photo of the day: SCHALLER & WEBER’S GERMAN DELICATESSEN in YORKVILLE FOR CHRISTMAS & NEW YEARS – At the turn of the century from 1890 – 1910 one third on New York City spoke German, today hardly anyone does and instead you hear Spanish, Russian and Chinese. I was born in 1955 and as a child we would go to the German section of the city named Yorkville. Yorkville’s center street was East 86th Street and it’s surrounding streets. In this area you could still here strains of “wunderbar” and ooom-pah-pah ♫♪ all around you. You could buy everything from back home: Mecki books, Salamander shoes, Zarah Leander and Heino records, Teewurst, Loden coats, Tyrolian hats, beer steins, wooden nut crackers, Lübeck Marzipan, German magazines and newspapers and all the wiener schnitzel and beer you wanted.
That was then, today there are only 2 establishments left that I know of. The Heidelberg Restaurant (1648 Second Avenue) where today the little dark haired Guatemalan waiters wearing (much too big) lederhosen tell you the day’s specials in a heavy Spanish accent. But…there is one staple that has remained – Schaller and Weber, opened in 1937 at 1654 Second Avenue/86th Street, a German delicatessen where the white haired old German butchers with German accents still politely slice the fresh deli meats daily.
When I was a little boy, this place was heaven to me and still is. You can just lock me up behind the deli counter and leave me in there for a week. Ahhh! The smoked hams, the dozens of salamis, the stuffed peppers, stuffed veal, weiß wurst, Westphalian ham and my obsession – rouladen! Rouladen are very thin slices of beef, rolled up with spices, bacon and onion inside, pan fried with a rich dark gravy, add boiled potatoes and you’re set. Then there are also the wonderful chocolates and marzipans, sauces, white asparagus, smoked fish, hearty breads, Bahlsen cookies, Maggi and Knorr spices and a fine assortment of cheeses.
For Christmas and New Year in 2013, Schaller and Weber is that one place I can still retreat to and relive my childhood, inhale deeply and feel at home. I’m ready to order all the meats, cold cuts and cookies for New Years Eve and Day. The store, (thank god) has hardly changed. I go inside and it is Christmas/Weihnachten 1962 and I’m standing in line with my numbered ticket to be called as I am fixating on all the goodies I hope my mother will buy for the Christmas holidays, always topped off with the treat of a Lübecker marzipan bar. Some kids dreamed of being locked up in toys stores and candy shops – I dreamed of being locked up in Schaller and Weber! Fröhliche Weihnachten! Frohes neues Jahr!
Schaller und Weber goodies
Imported Brands Maggi, Panni, Bechtle, Riehle (Manager’s Favorite)
Pickles & Sauerkraut Gundelsheim, Hengstenberg, Pickled Herring
Mustard & Ketcup Lowensene, Handlmaier & Thomy, Feisner & Hela (Ketchup)
Honey (Honig) Bihophar & Langnese (Assorted Flavors)
Soup & Gravy Mixes Knorr, Maggi Potato Dumplings & Pancake Mixes
Jams /Jellies Darbo (Austrian), Vavel (Polish), Landsberg (Germany)
Breads Landsberg, Mestemacher
German Cheeses Limberger, Harzer Kase, Tilsit
Coffees Jacobs, Tchibo, Dallmayer
Syrups Darbo (Austrian), Marco Polo (Hungarian), Adro, (Many more & assorted flavors) Assorted Cosmetics 4711, The oldest brand in Germany, Fa, Nivia, Kamille
Sweets & Treats Haribo: Gummy Bears (Large Variety), Swedish Fish: Abba (Assorted Flavors),
Bahlsen Cookies: Kipderl, Waffelette, Butter Leibniz, Kopper’s Chocolates,
Marzipan: Lübeck, Maker, Mozart Kugeln: Reber
“Twas the day after Christmas…”
Photo of the day: WHAT DOES SANTA DO AFTER CHRISTMAS CELEBRATE ! ! – Here is my ‘poetic’ twist on Clement Moore’s classic poem as I encounter drunk Santa after Christmas in front of Macy*s . . .
. . . And then, in a twinkling, I heard something uncouth
The prancing and pawing of Santa whose had too much vermouth.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down 34th Street St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fake fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with cigarette ashes and street soot;
A giant stuffed fish he had flung on over his back,
And he looked like a street peddler just opening his pig pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! His eyes, how blurry!
His cheeks and nose were like roses, he surely was in no hurry.
His drawl from his mouth was Southern – a bit slow,
And the beard on his chin with gray as the street snow;
The stump of a ____ pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a crazed face and a little round pot belly
That shook when he ranted, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was happy and drunk, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and his twisted head,
Soon gave me to know he was out of his head;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
To fill his own stockings from tourists that looked like a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up ‘snow’ did rose;
Then he sprang into his dance, and the crowd did whistle,
And their cameras clicked until the arrival of a policeman’s dismissal
But I heard him exclaim, ere he stumbled out of sight—
Happy returns to all, if you kept your receipt – you done right!
(with my apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)
Von Rittern traditional German candle lit Christmas tree
MY OLD FASHIONED GERMAN CHRISTMAS TREE 2013: Yes – those are real candles. We celebrate with no flashing lights or loud music, our ‘church’ is the tree. The tree is decorated with ornaments dating back several generations, about ninety years. Modern ones are included of course, that way the tree is a living story of the family’s history. The favorite ornaments are hung so that they will catch the candlelight and the whole tree tells a story of the family’s history. Mementos from trips abroad, favorite childhood ornaments, all that tell our likes, hobbies and loves. Tin foil wrapped chocolates and marzipan fill the tree as well. We usually get the biggest tree that will fit in the apartment (we once had a 14 foot tall tree) but now that mom is downsizing, we get a smaller tree and it is placed on a turn of the century old wooden steamer trunk that was used when my great aunt came to visit us in the New York and it is used as a table base to place the tree upon.
Depending on the size of the tree, anywhere from two to four dozen candles are placed in strategic spots in the tree. Each candle illuminates the special ornaments nearby. The candleholders are metal clip-ons in the shape of a pine cone. You can still buy the candles and holders at Schaller and Weber’s, a surviving German delicatessen just off 86th Street on Second Avenue in what was once an entire German neighborhood.
December 24 Christmas eve, we have our traditional Christmas goose dinner with roasted apples (this year we had duck), home made dumplings, white asparagus, red cabbage, string beans with topping and lots of gravy.
After dinner, the elder of the family lights the candles in the room and on the Christmas tree and puts the ‘Christmas record’ on the phonograph. The record is of German church bells and church choirs singing. When all is ready, a golden bell is rung and the rest of the family comes into the glow of the room. We stand quietly side by side, arm in am or holding hands and quietly listen to the beautiful music we have listened to for decades before. That is ‘church’ to us. As the first side of the record ends, we play the other side, sit down and just quietly gaze into the serene candlelight, watching the ornaments glisten. No electric lights are on in the room, just the glow of candlelight, just as it is in Germany, France, and all of Scandinavia. Let your imagination go back to the late 1800′s enjoying a room just simply lit by candlelight.
The second side of the record ends with a jolly children’s song “Der Weihnachtsman ist da!/Santa Claus is here!”, signifying it is time to open presents by the amber glow. We grab some of the marzipan, gingerbread and chocolates that are on the dining table for all to enjoy as we open our treasures. At midnight a bottle of champagne is opened to ring in Christmas day and we all have a helping of mom’s strong rum pot preserves!
Rum pot preserves with vanilla ice cream
At one time it was my whole family enjoying this tradition, now it is just my mother and me left to carry on, and one day it will just be me, but I will always do it, perhaps with a heavy heart. But this is Christmas, a German Christmas, my heritage. My great grandmother’s, grandparent’s, mother’s and my heritage. Fröhliche Weihnachten!
Photo of the day: BELIEVE IN THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS – Believe in flying reindeer, believe in wishes coming true, believe that a sleigh can fly, believe that there is a wondrous place at the North Pole (not a factory in China), believe that Santa can deliver toys to all the boys and girls in one magical night, believe that he knows if you’ve been good or bad, believe that all things are possible, believe in love, believe in miracles and above all, believe in yourself.
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE !
Foto des Tages: GLAUBEN SIE AN DIE MAGIE VON WEIHNACHTEN – Glauben an fliegende Renntiere, glauben an sich erfüllende Wünsche, glauben, dass ein Schlitten fliegen kann, glauben, dass es einen erstaunlichen Platz am Nordpol (nicht eine Fabrik in China) gibt, glauben, dass der Weihnachtsman Spielsachen an alle Jungen und Mädchen in einer magischer Nacht liefern kann, glauben, dass er weiß ob Sie artig oder bös gewesen sind, glauben Sie, dass alle Dinge möglich sind, glauben an der Liebe, an Wunder und vor allem glauben, an sich selbst glauben. FRÖHLICHES WEIHNACHTEN ALLE!
Photo of the day: THERE ARE ANGELS IN NEW YORK – You just have to know where to look for them, they are everywhere. Keep your heart and mind open and they will appear.
Can you figure out how I created this illusion with my camera?
(I was actually photographing a flying angel in Macy’s store Xmas window but the building across the street photographed stronger therefore making the angel appear – angelic. )
Photo of the day: WHAT HAS 72 LEGS AND MOVES WITH PRECISION? – The New York Radio City Music Hall Rockettes ! !
The Christmas Spectacular is the single most popular show in New York at Christmastime. 5,931 seats available for each show!! Five shows a day!
There are two sets each of 36 dancers in each New York show. There are 80 Rockettes (4 understudies), and they split the casts into 40 and 40. On the days with five shows, one cast will do two shows, the other will do three. On six-show days they divide it by three and three. So they can get a break, during the week they give each other a day off. The most they would do is four shows in a day.
A little known fact, if you are from Missouri (ironically the “show me” state) – you can be proud! The group was founded in St. Louis, Missouri by Russell Markert in 1925, originally performing as the “Missouri Rockets.” Markert had been inspired by the John Tiller Girls in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1922, and was convinced that “If I ever got a chance to get a group of American girls who would be taller and have longer legs and could do really complicated tap routines and eye-high kicks… they’d knock your socks off!” The group was brought to New York City by Samuel Roxy Rothafel to perform at his Roxy Theater and renamed the “Roxyettes.” When Rothafel left the Roxy Theatre to open Radio City Music Hall, the dance troupe followed and later became known as the Rockettes. The group performed as part of opening night at Radio City Music Hall on December 27, 1932. In 1936, the troupe won the grand prize at the “Paris Exposition de Dance”…the rest – is history !
Photo of the day: “YOU GOTTA HAVE FREUNDE/FRIENDS” – Meet 40 more of my new friends from all over Germany! This was “group #2” that I took all over town for the Christmas holidaze.
Isn’t funny how in every tour group there are always certain types: the ones who HAVE to sit up front in the bus “or I’ll get sick”, the permanently befuddled, your instant best friend, the camera buff, the person who constantly sez “I saw this when I was here last time”, the note taker, the spendthrift, the shopaholic and of course – the know it all. I will not reveal who is who . . . but they’re all there, and I love ’em all.
FRÖHLICHE WEIHNACHTEN !
Photo of the day: HOW ARE YOU BRINGING HOME YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE? – Despite the fact that you see endless traffic in New York City, most New Yorkers don’t have cars nor even know how to drive. (I didn’t learn till my move to Tucson, Arizona at age 38.) The cars you see are from the far reaches of the outer boroughs, from tourists and rentals.
So we have to be a little more inventive when we bring home our Christmas trees. I have seen Christmas trees rolled home on skateboards, pushed in shopping carts, taken on the subway (a 7 footer!), by sleds in the snow, in taxi cabs and even in baby carriages. So, how are you bringing home your Christmas tree?
Mine came home via mom’s mint green Floridian shopping cart
Photo of the day: A LEG UP ON CHRISTMAS – So I’m sitting in cozy Da Gennaro restaurant on Mulberry Street in Little Italy, enjoying a lunch by myself, feeling a little like Rose Castorini (Olympia Dukakis), Cher’s mother in “Moonstruck.” My corner window seat had a perfect view of the intersection of Hester and Mulberry Streets. As the snow flurries danced about, I watched the people scurrying by. Most were tourists wondering where to eat or find that Dean Martin cd. Then I saw this guy crossing the street and I noticed something rather unusual sticking out of his backpack. Let’s hope it was a mannequin’s leg and not a real one. Maybe he was taking it home to create another ‘leg lamp’ from the 1983 movie “A Christmas Story”, let’s hope . . .
“A Christmas Story” 1983 film