Bedlam with Corned Beef on the Side: The Jewish Delicatessen in Baltimore Pt. 8

Posted on April 26th, 2017 by

Written by Barry Kessler. Originally published in Generations 1993, reprinted in Generations 2011 – 2012: Jewish Foodways.

Part VIII: The “Madhouse” Lunch Trade

Miss parts 1 – 7? Start here.

Cashier’s check for Awrach and Perl Delicatessen, c. 1940s. JMM 1992.274.2

Cashier’s check for Awrach and Perl Delicatessen, c. 1940s. JMM 1992.274.2

Awrach and Perl’s delicatessen was located on Howard Street in Baltimore’s retail shopping district, where many Jewish people worked in the numerous clothing and department stores. Advertising itself as a luncheonette, delicatessen, soda fountain, and cocktail lounge, it attracted a mixed clientele; many non-Jews came, including ladies on shopping trips and youngsters headed for the movies. The delicatessen carried on a “madhouse” luncheon trade, especially on Saturday, when the upstairs room because a gathering place for teenagers. Awrach and Perl was also frequented by H.L. Mencken and other well-known Baltimoreans.

The owners were two immigrant families from Odessa, successful fruit merchants. They had worked their way up from a pushcart selling bananas on the Lower East Side of New York to a thriving deli in Washington, DC, before moving to Baltimore around 1920. Related by marriage, the families lived together in suburban Forest Park. They belonged to an Orthodox congregation and ate kosher food themselves, although the restaurant was open on Jewish holidays and the menu included bacon, ham, and shrimp salad. The Perls’ two sons and the Awrachs’ two daughters helped out on Saturdays. The families spoke Yiddish among themselves and broken English with customers, their personalities constituting a chief attraction of their establishment.

Bright and noisy, Awrach and Perl was a quintessentially Jewish delicatessen, with well-stocked counters piled high with delicious and appetizing foodstuffs. A long counter for making sandwiches ran along one side. A surviving menu from the early 1940s lists sixteen omelets, 47 sandwiches, ice cream confections, steaks and chops, and a wide variety of beverages, ranging from limeade to whiskey. Eastern European dishes such as schmaltz herring, chopped liver, rolled beef, and tongue joined such American-style offerings as lamb chops, a bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich, and poached eggs.[1]

Its general appearance somewhat fancier than the average delicatessen, with a light green color scheme and a black and rust tile floor, Awrach and Perl cultivated a cosmopolitan but casually familiar atmosphere. Max Awrach sat at the cash register near the door, greeting customers; leaving, customers paid according to orange tickets punched by the waitresses to indicate the cost of each item.[2] Over the din one could hear Mrs. Perl, who supervised the upstairs room, calling out “one up,” signaling the most popular order, a hotdog and Coke. The restaurant was reportedly the largest purchaser of hotdogs in Baltimore.[3]

Continue to Part IX: Where All Rubbed Shoulders

Notes:

[1] Original in possession of Martin Lev.

[2] Jewish Museum of Maryland, gift of Hilda Goodwin, 1992.274.2

[3] Typescript reminiscence by Hilda Goodwin (December 1992). Jewish Museum of Maryland Memoir Files.

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Voices from My Childhood

Posted on July 1st, 2015 by

SuperKids, a summer camp program, is organized by a nonprofit called Parks and People Foundation. The organization is “dedicated to supporting a wide range of recreational and educational opportunities; creating and sustaining beautiful and lively parks; and promoting a healthy natural environment for Baltimore.” So it’s only fitting that SuperKids takes a group of young, inquisitive learners around different places in Baltimore, expanding their environmental sights and experiences as well as their vocabulary list. The Jewish Museum of Maryland has been privileged to be one of these sites for the last few years during their Jonestown neighborhood tour.

On a wet and muggy Tuesday morning, a yellow school bus reminiscent of my own elementary school days brought 25 eager students to the museum’s red brick road. They were extremely well behaved for kids who would essentially be on a different field trip every day for the summer. It was me who couldn’t contain the excitement of seeing my fellow peers (I may look like a 20-something year old, but I’m a child at heart). Since the group was too large to take all at once, Lois, one of our super volunteers, took half of the kids on a tour of the Lloyd Street Synagogue while Falicia and I took the other half to do two activities- a scavenger hunt in the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit and an archaeology puzzle activity.

I’ve never been one to simply observe, so here I am “making” a traditional Sabbath dinner with some of the kids while reading them the newspaper.

I’ve never been one to simply observe, so here I am “making” a traditional Sabbath dinner with some of the kids while reading them the newspaper.

While Falicia helped with the archaeology “dig,” I assisted with the Voices of Lombard Street portion where the talk of immigration brought back my own memories of my parent’s journey to this country from South Korea for the “American Dream.” Unlike the Jewish immigrants who came to Baltimore on a ship, my parents took a plane, and they weren’t fleeing religious persecution. But I remember rolling my eyes at my parents every time they lectured me on how hard they worked to build a nice home for the family, and how they too worked menial yet necessary jobs beyond their intelligence and skills. I remember threatening my parents to call child services for making me work at their dry cleaners on my free Saturday, only to be bribed by McDonald’s. Like Paul Wartzman whose mom used to make gefilte fish every Friday, my grandmother used to make dduk-mandu-guk (rice cake and dumpling soup) every Sunday. And how my mom used to drive out of her way to go to a Korean market not just for authentic Korean food from the Motherland, but for human interaction with people who also spoke her native language.

This is me, age eight, standing in front of my new house being built. Although we only lived here for a year, this was a milestone for my family because it was the first home that truly belonged to us. No more living in relative’s homes and no more renting.

This is me, age eight, standing in front of my new house being built. Although we only lived here for a year, this was a milestone for my family because it was the first home that truly belonged to us. No more living in relative’s homes and no more renting.

And for me to now teach elementary school kids about that same topic brings this whole experience to a full circle. To set the record straight, I’m a natural born U.S. citizen and I’ve learned to not take that for granted.

I’m not Jewish. My family is Christian, and in fact, I’m part of a very loving and active church community. I came to work at this museum, excited to learn about another religion and perhaps learn more about my own. I didn’t expect to have much in common with those who lived on Lombard Street, but as I talked about each part of the exhibit to the students, I saw my own childhood in the quotes hanging on the walls.

It’s funny how June was Immigrant Heritage Month and on the very last day, it took a group of kids to make me realize how important that month should have been to me. If SuperKids were real superheroes, their superpower would be sparking a child-like spirit, curiosity, and wonder in adults. I certainly feel rescued. I may not have a degree in teaching, but I’m still so honored to be a small part of that process, and I look forward to a summer filled with SuperKids!

IMG_0993A blog post by Education Intern Eden Cho. To read more posts by interns click HERE.

 

 

 

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Once Upon a Time…09.12.2014

Posted on May 19th, 2015 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Joanna Church at 410.732.6400 x236 or email jchurch@jewishmuseummd.org

 

2002107100Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times:  September 12, 2014

PastPerfect Accession #:  2002.107.100

Status:  Partially Identified! Leisure Lounge volunteer facilitating a discussion n.d. The gentleman in front, with his hands folded in his lap, is Nathan Caplan (d. 1975). It is thought that this picture shows an English class for Russian immigrants at the Jewish Community Center.

Special Thanks To: Selma Sherman

 

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