From Meat to Sweets: A Family Occupation — & Preoccupation

From Meat to Sweets: A Family Occupation — & Preoccupation

I’ve alluded before to the other Siegmund Kornmehl — the brother-in-law of Freud’s butcher, who had the same name as he did — but for a long time I didn’t have much information on him. Recently it became clear that he had at least part ownership in a cafe in Vienna, the Cafe Victoria. I will write more soon about the specifics but I am too excited about this latest development to hold off on the announcement, because I now have an excuse to expand the culinary scope of this blog beyond meat… into sweets.

My friend Margo (left) and me, age 10, on Lefferts Ave, just off Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn

This might widen the appeal for vegetarians but Viennese pastry is rich, so I’m afraid it will also raise this blog’s  cholesterol level.

A revelation of the family connection with Barton’s chocolate is in the future too.

The Oddity of This Discovery

As revelations about the past tend to do, this one led me to re-examine my childhood. The thing I find most peculiar about the discovery that one of my family members was a “cafetier” — as the Vienna address book puts it —  is the fact that my mother never alluded to it. She had no particular affinity for meat, although she cooked it for my father every day. She never baked but she adored pastry and sweets — in particular, marzipan.

Why then didn’t she ever mention that one of her uncles had a cafe, but only talked about the butcher shops?  I don’t have any recollections of her attitudes about coffee, but I do know that my mother had a love-hate relationship with sugar. I always got the sense that cake was desirable, but dangerous.

Why was my mother was obsessed with weight, mine and other people’s (though not, if I recall correctly, hers)? I would have thought the deprivations of the war would have had made a little extra poundage forgivable.

How Chunky Was I?

The memory of her constant commentary on the topic sent me rummaging through my childhood pictures to see just how chubby I was at my chubbiest. I found the picture posted here. I was dorky, yes, and neither my friend nor I knew how to button our sweaters correctly. But in spite of my tendency to be very critical of myself, I don’t think I was terribly overweight — do you?

In retrospect, I think it’s lucky I didn’t develop an eating disorder. When I was 12, I went on a crazy Atkins-like diet — pretty much consisting of tuna fish and cottage cheese — for about a year. I lost a lot of weight and also grew a few inches, becoming as slim as my mother liked.

In case you’re wondering, my mother was small but not conventionally svelte.  She had swimming and walking to offset her indulgences. She tried to make me swim too, as a result of which I resist it to this day though I’ve come to see the benefits of other types of exercise and love to walk.

Cookies AND Ice Cream?

My mother’s mixed messages about food were epitomized by The Chipwich Incident.

It occurred when I was in graduate school at NYU and living on my own in Manhattan. After my father died, my mother moved from Brooklyn to Atlanta to be near my sister and her grandchildren; she visited me about once a year. During one of these visits, we went to a supermarket to shop for food supplies soon after she arrived. After putting a lot of healthy items in our cart, she asked “Shouldn’t we get dessert?”

I wouldn’t have made that suggestion, knowing that it would have been met with criticism — or at least an expression of concern about the possible impact on my weight — but since she brought up the topic, I was happy to comply.

My particular dessert interest at that juncture of my life was the Chipwhich, vanilla ice cream studded with chocolate chips enveloped by two chocolate chip cookies. I headed straight for the freezer department, mother in tow.

She took one look at my choice and said, “So, you need cookies and ice cream?”

I thought I was going to have a heart attack in Gristedes. Good thing that, like every New York graduate student, I had a therapist to confide in.

Which brings us back to Sigmund Freud, and therefore the meat side of the family. Neat.

Is There Such a Thing as Coincidence?

I didn’t know, until I searched online for an image to accompany this post, that Chipwiches were created in Brooklyn — in the Flatbush section, yet, where I grew up — by Richard LaMotta, who went to Brooklyn College, as I did.

Richard LaMotta is the cousin of Jake LaMotta, of Raging Bull fame. But more interesting to me is the fact that his father was a butcher.

There is definitely some weird serendipity going on.

24 Responses to From Meat to Sweets: A Family Occupation — & Preoccupation

  1. The first thing I noticed was not the chunkiness–it was the Attitude (with a capitol A)!
    Vera Marie Badertscher recently posted..Music That Travels Between Ireland and AppalachiaMy Profile

  2. A sign of emotional health might be heading directly to the hot fudge sauce and grabbling a jar of that as well. Thanks for the reminder mom!

  3. Kristine says:

    Chubby? Definitely not. You were ten and still growing, far too early to judge weight. I too, love the attitude!
    Kristine recently posted..Black and White Sunday – Sleepy ShiversMy Profile

  4. Marilyn says:

    My mother reminds me that there are butchers in our family history as well. Another connection? Ha! And I love the picture w the sweaters askew. I’m going thru some of my mother’s pictures and i have the WORST hairdo!!

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Interesting! I guess you made it down to Florida after all. I thought of you — and Sharon — when I posted this. Do you remember Margo?

      • Marilyn says:

        Just arrived home from FL. No, I don’t remember Margo, her face it totally unfamiliar. Does Sha recognize her? I looked to see if Mom had any pictures of us, but no. I know it’s not a pastry shop in Vienna but remember Ebingers?

        • Edie Jarolim says:

          I didn’t think you’d know Margo — she lived on my block in the days before we were allowed to cross the street ;-). Sha hasn’t come by the blog.

          And oh yes I remember Ebingers! Sharon’s mother used to let us eat the blackout cake for breakfast, which is why I used to love sleeping over there.

  5. Love the hand on hip! And, no, you do not look chubby. At all. So, how many of those Chipwhich’s did mom eat?
    Deborah Flick recently posted..Interview with Alexandra HorowitzMy Profile

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Thank you, Deborah. I honestly don’t recall if I put the Chipwiches back or not but I’m sure if they made their way back to my apartment my mother had her fair share!

  6. Look at mini-you! Do you still keep in touch with your friend Margo?
    Karen Friesecke recently posted..Daily DIY Pet Pattern – How To Make A Sisal Scratching PostMy Profile

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      I’ve tried to find Margo via google and on Facebook but haven’t had any luck. I do keep in touch with several friends who knew me when… but Margo is not one of them.

  7. Karyn Zoldan says:

    You know I used to think I was a fat kid but then I thinned out a bit but I always had big hair. Why I thought I was fat was because my mother was always cautioning what I put in my mouth. I don’t have a lot of photographs but one day found a picture of me and I was most definitely not fat nor even overweight. My mother had an hourglass figure and I have a pear shaped figure. She was always watching her weight and watching mine. Vera is right, you don’t look fat just sassy.
    Karyn Zoldan recently posted..Devo Does Ballad of Seamus, Mitt Romney’s DogMy Profile

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Oy — with all that society does to girls and their body images, the last thing we needed was our mothers’ criticism! Maybe losing weight as an adolescent also made me shed some of that early sassiness. What really kills me is looking back at pictures of me in my 20s and 30s — my self image was so out of synch with the reality looked at in retrospect!

  8. Lydia Davis says:

    I agree, it’s a lovely picture with a lot of emphatic character showing in both of you. The mis-buttoned sweaters are great, yes, but also your shoes and your cuffed pants–and of course the attitude, as everyone has been saying. I like the background too–the block you were allowed to play on?
    Who do you think took the picture?

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Yes, that’s the block we were allowed to play on — well, the four blocks, because no street crossing was required: Flatbush Avenue, Lefferts Avenue, Bedford Avenue, Lincoln Road. I was trying to figure out if I remembered my shoes, some kind of Mary Janes; they seem too feminine for the pants.

      As for who took the picture — that’s an excellent question, but I’m afraid I don’t have an answer.

      I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  9. […] on November 20, 2012 by Edie Jarolim A couple of weeks ago I alluded to the fact that one of my great uncles had a cafe in Vienna, which will give me an excuse to add Viennese pastry to this blog’s meat-oriented menu. I […]

  10. […] had recently discovered that one of my great uncles, the “other” Siegmund Kornmehl, owned a cafe. I became excited at the idea of having Christine write about Viennese pastry and cafe culture. […]

  11. […] sugary tradition in the Viennese branch of the Kornmehl family: a chocolate-blessing rabbi, the owner of a cafe and — here’s a sneak preview of next year –  a man responsible for popularizing […]

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