Sadly, my favorite hometown business closed down years ago, and perhaps, because it was so much a part of my childhood in Forest Hills, N.Y., it's undoubtedly been enhanced in my memory by the lovely aura that nostalgia always imparts. Nevertheless, Abrahams' Kosher Cakeland, our neighborhood bakery that serviced those of us who kept a kosher diet -- and loved fresh-baked bread, challah, cookies, cakes, and pastries -- was to my young mind, the ultimate experience. Today I remember it as the epitome of what a bakery should be.
The store was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Abraham. In the best mom-and-pop tradition, Mrs. Abraham supervised the counter help, while Mr. Abraham oversaw the baking staff -- and created all the magnificent pastries. On Sunday mornings, as I waited for my father to buy the chocolate Danish pastry that was our family's morning treat, I'd watch the Abrahams busily at work in their crisp, white uniforms, looking more like doctors and nurses than like owners of a bakery. Mrs. Abraham or one of her staff always gave me a cookie. And though the free cookie was one of the highlights of my visit, even more exciting to me was seeing the enormous amount of baked goods that the Abrahams produced -- and the intoxicating smell of pastries and other delicacies fresh from the oven.
When our pastry arrived, the woman at the counter would quickly and deftly tie up the box with striped white-and-red string that seemed to flow endlessly from gold-colored balls hanging from the ceiling. I was in awe of those dispensers, wondering how that magic string got into the balls and why they seemed to never run out of string.
Though by now I've figured out exactly how those suspended balls worked, to this day I can't tie a box as cleanly, nor have I found a bakery that bakes a chocolate Danish as rich and tasty as those made by the Abrahams.
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