Pack your kid’s lunch with a side of fun


If you have children in school, you know that making a lunch that pleases both you and your kids is not an easy assignment. Think of it as the school-lunch challenge. To help, get them involved with planning a meal, because they’re more likely to eat it if they were part of packing it.

My daughter-in-law, Amy Zeidler, remembers when her busy mom made assorted sandwiches such as peanut butter and jelly, then wrapped them in wax paper and stored them in the freezer. In the morning, she would take out one of the sandwiches and pack it in the lunch box with a salad or fruit, and the sandwich would stay fresh until lunchtime. (What a great idea!)

Here are some other ideas on how to make your kids prefer their box lunches over the cafeteria. For protein, there’s good old peanut butter — we prefer the crunchy kind and often add a layer of Nutella, sliced banana or sliced marshmallows — but the kids might also enjoy a Sweet Pea Guacamole dip, Egg or Tuna Salad Sandwich, or even a thermos full of chili.

When serving tuna, egg, chicken or pasta salad, mix in shredded carrots, apples, zucchini, bell peppers, raisins, nuts — anything to add nutrition and fiber without adding lots of empty calories.

And it’s OK to add the ever-popular potato chips to the lunch box. You can choose from many herbs and spiced varieties, and they come in just the right portion size: little bags.

Surprise your kids by making or buying fortune cookies, then putting little sayings in them. Our son Paul always wrote wonderful messages or jokes on the napkins that he put in his kids’ lunch bags. Try it and you’ll see how much they look forward to checking out their lunch boxes. (If you want to get really crazy, write a note with an ink marker on the outside peel of a banana.) 

For a different dessert, try my recipe for Ladyfingers. They are as light as a feather and delicious. Don’t forget to pack a few extra for your kids to share with their best friends. While you’re at it, make sure to include my favorite idea — an apple for the teacher.

DEVILED EGG SALAD SANDWICH

I always keep hard-boiled eggs in the fridge. It is a lunch staple for us, especially when we can’t think of anything to eat. I love adding diced fresh fennel instead of celery, along with red peppers and green or red onions. Don’t forget to make and freeze the sandwich the night before.

  • 4 hard-cooked eggs, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery or fresh fennel, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons red onions or green onions, minced (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 8 slices bread
  • 4 lettuce leaves, optional

 

Place eggs and celery in a mixing bowl. In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, mustard, red onion, salt and pepper. Pour mayonnaise mixture over egg mixture, toss gently to combine.

Place 1/2 cup on four slices of bread, top with lettuce leaf and top with remaining four slices.

Makes 4 sandwiches.

TUNA SALAD SANDWICH

Sweet dill pickles give this Tuna Salad Sandwich a little kick. For a special treat, make your sandwich with thick slices of raisin-nut bread.

  • 1 (6-ounce) can tuna, drained
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon sweet pickle relish (optional)
  • 1 stalk celery or fresh fennel, chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 lettuce leaves
  • 4 slices bread

 

In a medium bowl, mash tuna with a fork. Add mayonnaise, pickle relish, celery, onion and salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Place about 1/2 cup of the tuna mixture on each of two slices of bread and top with a lettuce leaf and remaining two slices of bread. 

Makes 2 sandwiches.

SWEET PEA GUACAMOLE

Unless you grow your own peas, frozen ones work better because the color is more vibrant and you don’t need lemon to keep them green.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, trimmed of long stems
  • 1 pound frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup finely diced red onion (optional)

 

Combine oil, lime juice and cilantro in a blender or food processor and blend until cilantro is roughly pureed. Add peas, cumin, salt and pepper and blend until smooth. There will still be some lumps, but this adds to the textural interest of the guacamole. Scrape into a mixing bowl and add the diced red onion. Serve as a dip with potato chips. 

Makes 1 cup.

LADYFINGERS 

  • 3 eggs, separated 
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3/4 cup sifted flour

 

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt until they begin to thicken. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue beating until they form a stiff meringue, about 1 minute. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks, vanilla and powdered sugar for 3 to 4 minutes, until thick and light in color. Gently fold the yolk mixture into the meringue. Sift small amounts of the flour on top of the meringue mixture, folding until completely absorbed, but do not over-mix.

Line a baking sheet with foil, then oil and flour the foil. Fit a pastry bag with a plain, round tip (5/8 inch in diameter). With a rubber spatula, carefully fill the bag with the meringue and pipe ribbons of batter 3 inches long and 1 inch wide on the prepared baking sheet. 

Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until evenly brown and somewhat crisp. Remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to transfer them to racks to cool. Store in an airtight container. 

Makes about 24 cookies.


Judy Zeidler is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is judyzeidler.com

Healthy, kosher hot lunches rare in L.A. Jewish schools


On a Thursday this past March, at around 11:40 a.m., the alluring scent of chicken schnitzel – freshly breaded and pan-fried — wafted through the parking lot of New Community Jewish High School (NCJHS) in West Hills.

The source was a truck from Alex Felkai’s kosher catering company, Kosher on Location. Though the company does the majority of its business over the weekends, catering elegant weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs, to keep his core staff busy during the week, Felkai had been selling lunch at NCJHS – every day except Friday – since the school opened 10 years ago.

But when NCJHS’s approximately 370 students (including one of Felkai’s children) return to school this fall, the kosher lunch truck won’t be there.

“We tried,” Felkai said, explaining that the cost of preparing and serving sandwiches and salads, burgers and burritos to the approximately 80 students, faculty and staff who bought lunch from the truck, was prohibitive.

“It was a difficult decision, but I never really made money on it,” Felkai said. “I kind of did it hoping that things would grow.”

In Jewish day schools across Los Angeles, Felkai’s story is a common one. With the first day of classes less than a month away, NCJHS isn’t the only high school that may not offer an in-school alternative to bringing lunch from home.

The Yeshiva University of Los Angeles (YULA) Girls School’s caterer is going into his third year, but the campus of the boys school on Pico Boulevard doesn’t have a kitchen or a cafeteria, nor is the school planning to build one anytime soon. At Shalhevet, a Modern Orthodox high school located on the corner of Fairfax Avenue and San Vicente Boulevard, the caterer who had been cooking in the kitchen during the last academic year just left.

“We’re busy interviewing caterers for next year,” Robyn Lewis, the new executive director at Shalhevet High School, told the Journal on Aug. 6.

On the whole, elementary schools seem more committed to providing a hot lunch program for their students, even if only a minority of students opts into the program.

Schwartz Bakery is about to start its third year providing food at the Yavneh Hebrew Academy, an Orthodox day school in Hancock Park.

“After working with our nutritionist, and after working with the school on a number of issues, we are very happy,” Yavneh Executive Director Lev Stark said.

According to Stark, about one-third of the approximately 470 students are signed up for the school lunch program.

At Yavneh, lunches can be bought in advance on a semiannual basis or purchased for $6 per day. The hot lunch program at Valley Beth Shalom Day School (VBSDS) in Encino offers parents and students more flexibility, to the point that students can choose to eat as few as two meals each month, or eat a hot lunch every single day.

“Overall, the parents appreciate the program,” said Gabrielle Baker, a mother of two students at the school who has been coordinating the hot-lunch program with another volunteer parent.

In addition to the flexibility, Baker said that parents appreciate the convenience of not having to make lunch for their children every day and feel that the food prepared by the synagogue’s in-house caterer, Starlite Catering, is reasonably nutritious.

“The only complaint is the cost,” Baker said. While it’s cheaper to purchase meals in advance, students can pay a little over $7 for a day’s lunch. “But there’s only a very limited amount that we can do to bring cost down.”

That’s because, Baker said, the food at VBSDS has to be certified kosher, and kosher food – and kosher meat in particular — is expensive.

Yavneh’s Stark also said cost was a hurdle to overcome.

“The big problem is the combination of trying to get a fantastic meal for $5. No one wants to pay $10 a meal,” he said. “This is where we worked very hard with Schwartz to make sure that it’s a viable business for them,” and that students still get a healthy and tasty meal that’s affordable.

Or, at least somewhat affordable. While Yavneh students pay $6 for lunch if they buy it that day (less if they sign up at the beginning of each semester), elementary school students attending schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District this fall will, by comparison, pay $1.50 if they buy lunch at school.

That lower price is due in part – but only in part — to the lower cost of non-kosher ingredients. It’s also a result of the subsidy (27 cents this year) the district receives from the United States Department of Agriculture for every meal it serves. The district receives more when it serves meals to the 80 percent of its students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches.

But the low prices also undoubtedly stem from the district’s being able to work on a massive scale. Compared to the LAUSD, which has more than 640,000 students in about 1,100 locations, each of Los Angeles’s private Jewish day schools is a boutique-sized operation.

“It just doesn’t work when maybe 80 kids eat,” said Felkai, who said that if NCJHS had been willing to charge all the students a lump sum of money (he said about $800 per year), he would have been able to feed everybody and make a profit.

“You have to make enough money to cover all the costs,” he said, “and if you only have a small volume, you just couldn’t do it.”

When a Jewish high school approached Brenda Walt to prepare lunch for its 200 female students, Walt, who runs her catering company from a synagogue’s kitchen, turned them down.

“It’s very, very hard because they really want it [the food] for nothing,” Walt said. The modest student volume also limits her ability to hold down per-meal costs.

Stark said Yavneh doesn’t mandate all of its students participate in its hot-lunch program, and that he didn’t know of any Jewish schools in Los Angeles that did so.

“But I do know if they did, it would solve the hot-lunch problem,” Stark said.

To keep their school-based caterers in business, small private Jewish schools at least should consider ways to protect them against the challenge of competition from other food vendors.

Randy Fried owns R House Foods, the catering company that recently left Shalhevet after occupying the school’s kitchen for a bit less than one year. Fried said he decided to leave the school in part because too few of the school’s approximately 200 students and faculty bought lunch at school for him to make a profit.

“By the time we got there,” Fried said, “the culture that existed was that 20 percent ate at school.”

Most students, Fried said, ordered food to be delivered to Shalhevet, and the most popular choices appeared to be fried chicken and pizza from kosher restaurants nearby.

Nancy Schiff, the school administrator at YULA Girls High School said that they specifically don’t allow students to order food to be delivered to the cafeteria.

“That would take away from Dudu,” the in-house caterer, who serves a made-to-order breakfast and a variety of set-meal and a la carte options for lunch, including sushi, wraps and various “kid-friendly foods” like lasagna, grilled cheese and quesadillas.

Students at YULA Girls School are allowed to bring their own lunches from home, of course; a few years ago, the overwhelming majority of the students at Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy did just that, leading the school to seek out a new caterer, who is going into her second year at the Orthodox elementary school in Beverly Hills.

Every Friday is pizza day at the Orthodox elementary school; getting the crust right took some tweaking.

“At the beginning of the [2011-12 school] year, we tried out all whole wheat [pizza crust],” the school’s principal, Jeffrey Tremblay, said last May. “Didn’t go so well there. The kids were picking off the cheese, and that’s about it.”

That Friday, a few minutes before their lunch period ended and the middle school girls entered the cafeteria, a few boys headed back to the kitchen window for another slice.

“After the seconds,” Tremblay explained, “then they can, if they’re still hungry, they can pay for a third if they want to.”

To Tremblay, that sixth-grade boys want a bit more pizza at lunchtime is a sign that the school’s caterer is doing her job well – better than the previous caterer, who served only canned fruits and vegetables. But nutritionists see second helpings as problematic.

“It’s not like in the Los Angeles Unified School District, where there are certain nutrition standards,” said Leeann Smith Weintraub, a registered dietician in Los Angeles who works with children enrolled in private Jewish day schools and in public schools. At private Jewish schools, she said, “there tend to be a lot of issues with portion sizes and not really getting a good balance between the food groups.”

The menu, Tremblay said, is still a work in progress. This fall, Hillel students who buy lunch at school will be able to serve themselves from a salad bar that has improved from last year, when the only vegetables were mixed greens, cucumbers and tomatoes.

“Now, we’ve added onions, sprouts, garbanzo beans for protein,” Tremblay said. “And low-fat and nonfat dressings only.”

Still, nearly everyone — nutritionists, parents and even school administrators — agrees that bringing a homemade lunch could be the healthiest choice for any student.

“My friends’ children take their food to school,” said Maryam Maleki, a registered dietician who works with Jewish and non-Jewish clients. “They would rather their children take their food to school because it’s healthier, and they’ll sparingly allow their children to eat the food at school.”

That perfectly describes Chavi Wintner, a mother of two young students at Hillel. “I like to know what’s in the food that I make,” Wintner said, over a late-morning breakfast of oatmeal and unsweetened decaf iced coffee.

Her children don’t participate in Hillel’s hot lunch program; instead, Wintner packs lunches that always include some fresh fruit and might feature some roasted vegetables or a sandwich of melted cheese on bread.

Still, Wintner was very vocal in the push to eliminate the vending machines selling Gatorade at Hillel. “I think that nutrition is part of the school’s responsibility to teach,” she said.

Two Views, One Abyss


There were three acts to the small luncheon held last Sunday in a private dining room at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. The first act was the only pleasant one.

Ten Los Angeles Jews gathered at the invitation of philanthropists and activists Stanley Sheinbaum and Alan Gleitsman to share a meal and views with Syrian Minister of Expatriots Dr. Buthaina Shaaban, an adviser to President Bashir Assad, and Dr. Imad Moustapha, Syria’s acting ambassador to the United States, on what was their first official visit to Los Angeles.

The meeting was arranged at the initiative of Dr. Hazem Chehabi, a nuclear medicine specialist who also serves as Syria’s honorary consul general in Southern California. The doctor attended the lunch along with his wife and two aides. The idea was to have a frank, cordial and completely on-the-record interchange of views between two groups who rarely, if ever, interact: American Jews and Syrian Muslims.

The frank part turned out not to be a problem.

First came lunch, Act One. There was chitchat about Syrian Jews in Brooklyn, California politics, air travel. British Airways had mislaid the Syrian party’s luggage. The minister said it always does so, but she nevertheless adores British Airways. The Jews couldn’t fathom her loyalty. I sensed things could only go south from there.

The Jewish participants, along with Gleitsman and Sheinbaum, were Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Jewish Federation President John Fishel, Rabbi Gary Greenebaum of the American Jewish Committee, Wiesenthal Center founder Rabbi Marvin Hier, Rabbi Kenneth Chasen of Leo Baeck Temple, Radio Sawa founder Norm Pattiz, Daniel Sokatch of the Progressive Jewish Alliance and myself.

Shaaban is an elegant and courteous woman who speaks, as does Ambassador Moustapha, fluent British-inflected English. Cooper mentioned that he had seen her frequently as a guest on BBC and CNN International, and that was her cue to begin Act Two, her analysis of the Mideast problem.

Immediately following Sept. 11, 2001, she said, her government joined the United States in its war against terror.

"We have also suffered from extremists," she said. As noted by various American officials, Syria cooperated with the United States in providing intelligence on terror networks. Moreover, she said, the Syrian government has always been a force for comprehensive Mideast peace, and it fully supports the Arab League proposal that recognizes Israel’s right to exist. But, she went on, American Mideast policy since those early, post-Sept. 11 days has been a slap in the face to Syrian sympathy and cooperation. The war in Iraq, coupled with the Bush administration’s unwavering support of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, has outraged Arabs throughout the world, and made it difficult for moderate and peace-loving voices like her own to be heard. Their actions, she said, weaken the voices of moderates like herself and others, and create a common feeling of inequity across the Arab world. She appealed to the group: "We moderates must support one another."

There was a moment of silence as the Jews around the table took in the minister’s words. I could sense in many of us the urge to blurt out "You can’t be serious" competed with the civility of the surroundings, and the general sense that one must be diplomatic around diplomats.

Then came Act Three.

It began when Gleitsman, a strong supporter of the Israeli left, asked the minister how her government’s pursuit of peace squared with its approval of the recent broadcast of a television series "Diaspora," which depicts an evil worldwide Jewish conspiracy. The minister said the series was broadcast from Lebanon and "was produced without our knowledge."

Hier then reached into a manila folder and pulled out a reproduction of the cover of a book, written by Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas, which depicts a gaggle of Der Sturmer-style Jews severing the head of an innocent Arab. The book, a "true" report on the infamous Damascus blood libel, was recently republished.

"Do you think it’s right to publish this book?" Hier asked.

The minister bristled.

"Israelis call Palestinians ants," she countered, and she cited the killing by Israeli troops of a 9-year-old Palestinian boy outside his home on the last day of Ramadan.

"Let us not go there," she said, having gone there, "it will not get us anywhere."

Hier said that Israelis want peace, and elected Sharon after Arab governments rejected the Oslo agreements and began a campaign of terror.

"The Arab governments elected Sharon," he said.

Arabs, said the minister, want to live in dignity.

"We are well aware of the problems of the Arab world," she said, but the West can’t solve them by underestimating or humiliating the Arabs. That is what Bush is doing in Iraq, and what Sharon is doing to the Palestinians, she added.

"For everything you say about Sharon," Hier said, "I will cite you something about Assad."

The Arab nations need another leader like the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, he said, who was not afraid to make peace.

"If Sadat made peace," said the minister, "we wouldn’t be here."

Pattiz jumped into the awkward silence that followed. He said his station, Radio Sawa, broadcasts pop music and independent news in order to strengthen the voices of moderation. The Syrian government won’t allow it to transmit from within the country, so it reaches Damascus via transmitters in Jordan. He invited the minister to appear on a new satellite Arabic television station he’s starting. She didn’t leap at the offer.

As for the Mideast conflict, Pattiz said, "My sense is if the radical factions put down their weapons there would be peace, but if Israelis put down their weapons, there would be no Israel."

With varying degrees of heat or diplomacy, Jews around the table pressed the Syrians on anti-Semitic images in Syrian media and educational materials ("We all have children and grandchildren," Fishel said, "you need to build forces of moderation."); on Syrian support for terror sponsors like Hamas and Islamic Jihad ("If the Arab world found a way to get rid of four terror organizations," Hier said, "60 days later you’d have a comprehensive peace treaty."); on why a campaign of terror followed Israeli peace-making attempts at Oslo ("It is hard to understand why that was a sensible peace-directed response," Chasen said.); and on democracy in the Arab world ("Say what you want about Sharon," Greenebaum said, "but this is a democratically elected government that can be brought down at any time.").

To which the minister responded, "I hope so."

Greenebaum accused the minister of not expressing enough sympathy for murdered Israeli children, a charge that seemed to both horrify and offend the minister and the other Syrians.

"I hate any child being killed or I would not be here," she said.

It would be wrong to give the impression that any charge or counter-charge went unanswered. The Syrians asserted their government’s position, dating back to the current leader’s father, that Israel is to blame for all the tension between Syria and the United States and that the only peace treaty Syria could support is one that includes Syria.

"As the West is lumping all Arabs and Muslims together, the Arabs are lumping all Westerners together," she said. "Our image is so bad and it is so undeserved."

When Greenebaum began to say what the root of the Mideast problem is, Hier jumped in, "It’s terrorism," and Shabeen interjected, "It’s the occupation."

The table fell silent. Because there it was: the gap. It was the Arab poverty of dignity confronting the Jewish wealth of insecurity. Behind the Jewish questions was a sense that compromise is a capitulation to terror, and behind the Syrian responses was a feeling that compromise only added to a sense of humiliation.

"What I take from this is that we have a long way to go," Greenebaum said three hours after the meal began. "The tendency is to be very clear in our own minds where the blame lies, and until we can look beyond that to the future, we are not able to have lunch, and we are not able to make peace."

Lunch at Langer’s With Eddie and Irv


Some Fridays, if I’m lucky, I get to eat pastrami with Irv and Eddie at Langer’s, the great old delicatessen on Seventh and Alvarado streets across from MacArthur Park. Irv and Eddie are in their 80s, so the fight over the check begins before they even order anything.

“You were brought here!” Eddie says. He drove. He grabs Irv’s hand and looks at me. “It’s my lunch, so in that case, eat at will.”

Irv says OK, he will order caviar.

Eddie is a widower living the high life in Century City Woods. He takes gals from Palm Springs to Las Vegas for a night to see Celine Dion at Caesars Palace. Irv just got his first walker.

“I’m entering a new phase,” Irv says with a sigh. His walker has a seat. “Oh it’s very advanced,” he adds. Now he can shop at Costco with his wife, Norma. Everyone knows there’s no place to sit down at Costco. It’s amazing what happens to us.

The two men have that wonderful free-swinging easiness, a kibitzing shtick with each other that is such a kick to be around. Today’s lesson: The DNA of a Blockbuster.

“The Producers” has just arrived at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. In a new book by Gerald Nachman, “Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s” (Pantheon) impressionist Will Jordan claims Mel Brooks stole the idea that created “The Producers.” The book also says a friend of Jordan’s, Lenny Bruce, did Hitler as a character singing at an audition.

“Now Eddie,” Irv begins before the pastrami arrives. “Would you like to hear something interesting? In 1937, I came out here because Berle’s radio show was from here.” Irv used to write Milton Berle’s radio show and vaudeville act.

“So I came out,” Irv continues, “and Berle had been signed to be the star of a movie at RKO called, ‘The New Faces of 1937.’ He was a new face then. Joe Penner, Parkyakarkas [Harry Parke], Harriet Hilliard — who was Harriet Nelson — a lot of brilliant people in this picture. And the producer at RKO, a man by the name of Edward Small comes to me and says, ‘The script is no good. I want you to rewrite it.’ Now they’re paying me $750 a week for the movie, and $650 for radio. I’m the richest man that ever lived in the Bronx.”

Irv’s recall for names leaves me agog. Then Eddie starts in.

“Oh, the script he said was no good was not yours?”

“No!”

“So you rewrote it then.”

“It was by Nat Perrin and Philip Epstein, the twin brother of Julius. Both very good men. Anyway, the basic idea was from a Saturday Evening Post story about a producer on Broadway, Will Morrisey, a crook who sold more than 100 percent of the show. That’s where it started.”

“That’s the basic story.”

“That’s ‘The Producers!'”

“Yeah, I know.”

“So I wrote the movie — lousy movie, you know….”

“But the movie you wrote was not on that idea.”

“Yes it was.”

“What was it called?”

“‘New Faces of 1937!’ See the guy was gonna put on a show and make it a flop.”

“Oh, I see.”

“And it turned out to be a hit. What I’m trying to say is, all of a sudden Will Jordan says it’s his idea.”

“Anybody can say it’s their idea!”

“Anybody can say it,” Irv says. “But the guy who did it was the man who wrote the original piece in the Saturday Evening Post. George Bradshaw.”

Again with the names.

“Well, who wrote the picture with Zero Mostel?” Eddie asks.

“Mel Brooks! What I’m trying to say is he took this idea and did apparently a phenomenal job, because all the Jews in L.A. are gonna run and buy a ticket for $200.”

“My son went last week,” Eddie says. “Saw the show. He said, ‘We’re going in August.’ He said it was just wonderful and they brought in some Los Angeles shtick references in the script.”

Plates of pickles and pastrami sandwiches arrive. Irv announces: “I have a deep resentment against the whole project. As a Jew, I don’t think Hitler’s funny. I don’t think anything about Hitler is funny. But I’m in the minority.” He stops the waiter to ask, “Are there any pickles that are more done than this?”

After we eat, I say, “Anyone want to split a piece of chocolate cake? It looks so good.”

“Whaaaaat?” Eddie gulps. “Cake he wants.”

“Cake? Who eats cake in a delicatessen?” Irv asks.

“It’s almost sacrilegious to suggest cake after a corned beef sandwich,” Eddie says with a laugh.

I still have much to learn from these gentlemen. I tell them it wasn’t me, it was the Langer’s double-baked rye bread talking.

“Remember Berle’s great joke?” Irv jumps in. “Anytime somebody orders a corned beef sandwich on white bread with mayonnaise, somewhere in the world a Jew dies.”

“He would say that on stage?” I ask.

“To Jewish audiences,” Eddie says.


Hank Rosenfeld is a comedy writer who lives in Santa Monica.