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.
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.