I did not grow up in a lox-and-bagel family. My mother didn’t serve lox or bagels or cream cheese for Sunday brunch. My many toasted bagels at Ashkenaz, accompanying steaming bowls of kreplach soup, were just spread with butter; once again, no cream cheese or smoked salmon in sight.
My first taste of lox could have been enough to turn me off for good. As a young teen in Rogers Park, I was a regular attendee–and newsletter coauthor–of the Post Barb-Bat Mitzvah Club at Congregation B’nai Zion. In the half-hour between sacred morning religious services and vicious, no-holds-barred floor hockey games, the PBBMC’ers were treated to breakfast.
Seated with the gentlemen of the Men’s Club, served by the ladies of the Sisterhood (yes, the late sixties were sexist times) we breakfasted on orange-pink lox, tinged with phosphorescent green. Each slice contained double the daily RDA of salt. It is amazing that in my years of attendance not a single corpulent Men’s Club macher succumbed to a fatal stroke on-site as the sodium sent his blood pressure through the roof.
After that my lox-bagel-and-cream-cheese experience had nowhere to go but up. Once my horizons expanded to the suburbs I began to enjoy some of the better North Suburban delis. The cost of the lox increased, but so did the quality. We have gone from Kaufman’s Bagel and Delicatessen in Skokie, to Max and Benny’s Restaurant in Northbrook, to Once Upon a Bagel in Highland Park, without a slice of salty green seafood anywhere to be seen.
Our current favorite is Upper Crust Bagels in Deerfield. The hand-sliced lox costs as much per pound as the finest prime beef, but the rich, slightly oily fish is a delicacy to be shared with family and friends at Sunday Brunch. Especially with their crusty bagels and smooth cream cheese.
But Chicago cannot compete with the ultimate lox masterpiece we enjoyed a few years ago. Brunching with Long Island friends in New York City, the four of us splurged for the Lox Tower at Sadelle’s. It was probably more expensive than our orchestra tickets to whatever Broadway show we had seen the night before, but enjoying it felt like we had died, gone to heaven, and come back to Earth for seconds.
Yet now thanks to Supply Chain Issues, New York is facing a cream cheese shortage. If Joe Biden, who alone is responsible for all such things, can’t correct this crisis it alone may be enough to lose the New York Jewish vote for Democrats. A tragedy in brown, white, and coral.
And on a more personal basis…New York, figure out how to get your damned cream cheese. ‘Cause we are headed that way in the spring, and I want my Sadelle’s. Heaven is calling.
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