Friday, September 12, 2014

Yorkville's Bread Wars

"Wonder Bread, again." Dad threw his hands up.
"Will you shut up!" Mom never turned from the stove.
"You never bring food home I enjoy."
"You're a liar. We eat friggin’ spaghetti six nights a week. If you came home seven nights a week, we'd never eat anything else."
Rory and I nodded our heads in agreement. Our eyes were bloodshot from eating gallons of Mom's marinara sauce. Having hamburgers or franks was a national holiday. That there was Wonder Bread in the house was one of our few food victories. We loved it. Dad loved Silvercup. Mom didn't care and hated food shopping. She'd never go to a second store and whatever bread was left on the shelf, was the bread she bought including the dreaded Taystee Bread.
I knocked off Irish sandwiches all week for snacks, Wonder Bread, Iceberg Lettuce and Hellman's mayonnaise. Mom taught us not to waste time with a knife when you could go straight to the tablespoon for a thick layer of mayo on the bread.
"Make sure there's clearance between the bread and the lettuce." She said with full eye contact.
Once, our Italian grandmother bought Miracle Whip and tried to pawn it off to Rory and me as mayo. We left the house in protest.
"If it ain't got a blue label, we ain't eating it."
Dad pouted over Wonder Bread, but used it to clean his plate. I think he secretly liked it. But anytime Silvercup came up, he'd start talking about when I was kid this, and I was a kid that, Silvercup was one of his comfort foods. I got that. But it tasted like crap compared to Wonder, and that made no sense to me that it was in our house.
We had relatives in Sunnyside. We'd take the bus over the 59th Street Bridge to visit. I always sat on one side of the bus with the window open even if it was ten degrees, so I could pick up the aroma coming from the Silvercup bread factory. This drove the bus driver crazy, but I didn't care, the heavenly smell of that bread was my favorite smell on earth, right up to when my first girlfriend started wearing Cachet perfume.
I'd watch everyone's face on the bus, most had pusses on, but once the smell of the fresh hot bread came through the window under their noses, those frowns melted and everyone looked like they were pining for a cup of hot coffee and a stick of butter to go with the warm bread. When I got back home, and tried Silvercup, it tasted like toilet paper. Wonder was the king of bread, it would build my strong body in twelve different ways and there'd be no substitutes.
When Wonder and Silvercup ran out in the grocery store, Mom would grab a loaf of Taystee, always the last milk bottle standing when it came to bread brands. I was convinced that the only people who bought Taystee bread willingly were survivors of electric shock therapy who missed it. I figured they put a couple of slices of Taystee bread in your mouth right before they juiced the electricity, so you didn't bite your tongue off once they lit you up. Taystee bread, drier than a communion host, could have no other useful purpose.
Dad, Rory and I never ganged up on Mom, except when she brought Taystee home. When she did, the loaf sat there like a lost soul. Toast, cold cuts, sticks of butter, nothing could entice the three of us to touch the outcast bread. Through the week it hardened. When we thought we'd defeated Mom, and the loaf would be replaced with an acceptable brand, she turned the screw. She made pot roast. Mom knew her best dish sent Dad, Rory and I into a frenzy. We begged her to pour a bucket of delicious gravy over our bread with thin slices of tender meat. Pot roast without bread wasn't pot roast. If there were such a thing as rat bread, the three of us wouldn't have cared, and would have welcomed yummy pot roast over our rat bread.

We surrendered and Mom rotated her stock.

My Book Release Party for "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood" is Tuesday, October 14th @ Cornelia Street Cafe @ 5:30pm to 8pm - followed three days later by a book event at Barnes & Noble, 150 E. 86 St on Friday, October 17th @ 7pm in the Yorkville neighborhood on the Upper East Side.

Praise coming in for the book:

“Thomas R. Pryor has written a sweet, funny, loving memoir of growing up old-school in a colorful New York neighborhood.  A story of sports, family, and boyhood, you’ll be able to all but taste, smell, and feel this vanished world.”
Kevin Baker, author of the novels "Dreamland," Paradise Alley," and "Strivers Row," as well as other works of fiction and nonfiction

"Tommy Pryor's New York City boyhood was nothing like mine, a few miles and a borough away, and yet in its heart, tenderness, and tough teachable moments around Dad and ball, it was the mid-century coming of age of all of us. A rousing read."
Robert Lipsyte, former city and sports columnist, The New York Times

“Pryor could take a felt hat and make it funny.”
Barbara Turner-Vesselago, author of "Writing Without A Parachute: The Art of Freefall"

“Pryor burrows into the terrain of his childhood with a longing and obsessiveness so powerful it feels like you are reading a memoir about his first great love.”
Thomas Beller, author of "J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist"

No comments: