Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sunday morning breakfast…

Broadway Bagels has two locations in downtown Portland to help you get your Sunday morning breakfast needs covered.
A long, long time ago when I was very young I learned what Sunday morning breakfasts were all about. My family had returned to New York for a visit with the relatives and all had come to my uncle's house on a cold, December Sunday morning for a big breakfast party.

I may have written about this before but what the hell, I'll write about it again.

Early that morning I went all around Queens with my uncle in his big old Lincoln town car visiting shops which had a particular specialty for our breakfast needs. One shop had the herring, another was better for the smoked salmon. One place had the bagels but the creamed cheese for those bagels needed to come from a dairy shop. The knishes were better here, the latke's better there and the coffee and the juice came from two other places on the far side of town. After 10 or twelve stops back seat of his Lincoln was filled with bags and boxes. Each with its own rich aroma; it took two trips to get all of it upstairs.

Around 10:00 that morning all of the relatives came around, their great fur coats hauled into the bedroom and deposited there like a trappers windfall. The table was extended to its greatest length, spanning two rooms and all of the seats were taken. They were loud, happy people. They liked to laugh and bothered each other. Perhaps I was too young to know but I don't remember there being any great political issues or permanent anger between any of them though for sure there was later. But in that one minute I realized that what I was receiving from this breakfast was an assurance of life and belonging. Right here before my very eyes was enough food, enough love, enough people; I would never feel want or need. All great parties do this for you I guess, but a brunch on a cold, December Sunday morning in Queens, New York with all of the relatives made a mark on me that has never really faded.

From time to time in my life I have been so hungry for a Sunday morning breakfast party that I have literally dragged new acquaintances to restaurants and forced them to sit with me and drink coffee and eat bagels. I always make a point of explaining why I was so in need of it and where that need was born and so far, there were rare times when such an occasion would not satisfy. One such party in Portland was so magical that the people I was with that day still write say that they remember that day as special. I'll bet you that even Broadway Bagels (735 Alder St.), the restaurant we went to would remember it.

"How many different kinds of cream cheese do you have?" I asked them.

"I don't know. I never counted." said the hostess.

"Well, it looks like somewhere between 25 and 30…"

"32." Chimed in the manager.

"That will work. And I read that you have a dozen different bagels varieties? Is this so?"


"Then bring us one of each kind of bagel and a sampler from each of your creamed cheeses. Also we'll need a pot of coffee and orange juice for all of us. Charge us whatever you think is fair but maybe try not to beat us up too badly."

It was brilliant party. We told stories and got drunk off of the company. People at other tables were laughing at the jokes we told and after, heading off into Portland for the day was like riding in the clouds. Sunday morning breakfast can do that for you.

I tried to do this here his morning but it didn't seem to do it this time. Maybe it really isn't the same thing. Belarus has not plenty and there are no such assurances that all will be ok or that there will always be enough. You can't lie to a Sunday morning breakfast. I know it wasn't always like this here. There was a time when there were great parties, obviously there must have been because my family is from here and so this is where they would have learned to do it. But it is very hard now to duplicate the mood. Belarus is strict now and bound to a new idealism of discipline as the answer to perpetual poverty and misuse. Many local friends we have become stiff in social engagements and those who can relax and enjoy themselves, often turn bitter after a few drinks.

We tried again this morning to have a moment just as we do every week but it just didn't seem to take. When the stores opened I went and got some salted fish. At the bread shop I actually found fresh bread for a change. We used sour cream to replace the creamed cheese and I added some fresh onion on top. I bought Tanya's favorite cottage cheese, dryer and formed into a brick. Maybe it is more like a dry ricotta. There were only the four of us sitting at the table and we tried to make jokes and laugh. Anya was in fine form, Tanya was in a good mood and Egor made himself the biggest fish sandwich I have ever seen. I liked the food and the new coffee we have tasted just fine to me but it wasn't the same. Maybe I am older or maybe it is Belarus, but it wasn't the same. Maybe it is that I have too many things on my mind, too many things to do and too much uncertainty as to the future. Or maybe it is that there were simply not enough friends there to share with. I really don't know why this bad feeling I have right now seems to persist no matter what I do, but it does. Maybe it is true that we needed a good party but probably it was also true that there has been nothing to celebrate. That makes sense. Oh well, maybe next time.

More soon…