Jan 4, 2011

Let's Bring Back: M-Z

Let's Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-Yet-Delightful, Chic, Useful, Curious, and Otherwise Commendable Things from Times Gone ByWelcome to Part Two of a two-part installment on the book, "Let's Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-Yet-Delightful, Chic, Useful, Curious, and Otherwise Commendable Things from Times Gone By" by Lesley M.M. Blume. The first part, letters A-L can be found here. This installment includes the letters M-Z.

What's this all about? This is an entire book devoted essentially to kitsch, the days of yore, and traditions and ways of living that are lost on many of us today. The great thing about the book, however, is that I realized that many of the things that Blume longs for are things that are alive and well in the Jewish world. Blume lists a variety of things from A to Z with quirky notes about each. Here are my notes to sort of "respond" to her quips on these lost arts/items/ideas/words/foods.

Marzipan Eggs on Toast, anyone?
  • Maps | Okay, I'm not saying this is a hard-and-fast rule, but I'm guessing there are more Jews with maps than non-Jews with maps. Why? Let's say you're discussing something on Shabbat and trying to prove where Nebraska is. You need a map. Technology on Shabbat is a no-no!
  • Marzipan Fruit | Have you been to a kosher confectioner? Give OhNuts.com a try. They sell them in all sorts of fun fruit shapes and others, too!
  • "Mind Your Own Beeswax" | Please don't tell me I'm the only person who still says this ...
  • The Moon | The great thing about the moon in Judaism is that we get to sort of honor it every month. It's phases are important to our calendar. The moon isn't dead in Judaism. It's crazy important.
  • Naps | I don't think these are dead for anyone, but the Shabbat nap is a highly usual occurrence (nay, requirement) for Jews everywhere. 
  • Newspapers | Again, I would venture to guess that, along with paper books, newspaper subscriptions are high among Jews who observe Shabbat. How else is my husband going to find out who won the Yankees game?
  • Porcelain Skin | If there's one thing I'm incredibly proud of, it's my pasty-white skin. I'm not going to lie, in the Jewish community, the un-tanned skin is more the norm than not. It's the stereotype, after all, that Ashkenazi Jews are pale white skinned and curly black haired. Unless, of course, you live in certain parts of Jersey. 
  • Postcards | These, surely, are not dead. I just mailed some from Israel! Come on, now.
  • Separate Ovens | I haven't seen these in a ton of kitchens, but I think if they're alive and well anywhere, it's the Jewish kitchen. My husband's grandmother has two ovens in her kitchen (although they're both meat), and I think it's brilliant. I'd kill for a two-oven'd kitchen!
  • Simple Wedding Rings | Required by law, Jewish wedding bands have to be simple. No jewels, no engravings, nothing. Of course, you can go all out for your engagement ring, but I know plenty of ladies who don't have engagement rings, just the wedding band. 
  • Turbans | I insist you walk around Monsey, NY. 

Then, of course, there are those things that I also lament the loss of, including ...

  • Milk Toast | Okay, I've never even heard of milk toast, but it sounds easy enough. Ingredients: 1 cup whole milk, 2 slices white bread, butter, sugar, and nutmeg. Directions: Butter the bread. Put in a heavy skillet over medium heat and toast until light to medium brown. (Could you just toast it in the toaster?) Heat milk in a small pan on low heat. Do not boil. Put toast on a plate, sprinkle well with sugar and a couple dashes of nutmeg. Pour hot milk over toast.
  • Murphy Beds | So, I once lived in some apartments above a Spaghetti restaurant in Lincoln, Neb. They were lovingly called the "Spaghetti Works Aparments," and every studio apartment (which was all of them) had a murphy bed (that's the kind you pull down from the wall). A lot of the apartments' mattresses and murphy beds were removed and/or nasty, but mine was amazing. I slept on that bed with pride for an entire year. I truly adore the Murphy Bed -- in small spaces, it's the only answer. 
  • Poetry | Is it really dead? I don't think so. I feel like all the signs point to me picking poetry back up. After all, I once-upon-a-time was a Slam Poet.
  • Reporter's Notebooks | Gone the way of reporters, I fear. 
  • Scarves in Dressing Rooms | This is probably the coolest thing I've never even heard of. According to Blume, "Elegant retailers used to have a silk scarf hanging in each dressing room; you'd put it over your head as you tried on clothing, to protect your  hair and makeup and keep your lipstick from soiling the clothes." Of course, with things like bed bugs running rampant, I can see how this isn't so practical. 
  • Sealing Wax | I've been tempted to buy one of those envelope sealing kits for a long time. I saw some at Barnes & Noble during the holidays, but, alas, held back. 
  • Tailoring | If there's one thing I can recommend y'all look into, it's a tailor. I had one for my wedding dress and another formal dress I have, and she worked amazing wonders. In fact, if you're in the West Orange area, tell Melize Couture I sent you! But seriously, buy something you love, and then get it tailored. It's so worth it. 
  • Telegrams | One of my favorite family heirloom items is all of the telegrams my grandparents sent back and forth while my grandfather was stationed in France during WWII. They are truly prized and one-of-a-kind items. So why not revive the telegram culture over at Telegram Stop (I sent a friend one recently!). 
  • Themed Rooms | Back in college, in the honors dorm, we had a big room called the "Blue Room," because it was ridiculously blue. There was also the "Sunroom," which I dubbed "The Great Gatsby Room" because it made me feel very light and period-piece. Everyone should have a themed room ... because "dining room" and "living room" are just lame. 
  • Thick Walls | Because hearing our neighbors yell "Here comes the choo choo!" isn't my idea of a good time. 
  • Ziggurats | Okay, this one just gave me a laugh. Think about the last time the Israelites made one of these. How will did that go? 
Oh, and then there are things I am glad are dead, like
  • Phone Conversations | Today, I got so flummoxed during a phone call that I wished the person on the other end a "good weekend." It's Tuesday. I hate the phone. I always have. I'm horribly phone shy. And by that, I mean I get anxiety about making a phone call. Am I nuts? Probably, but I surmise that at the advent of the telephone, I probably would have run for the hills and not returned until the creation of the internet. 
With that, I guarantee you, this is not even a sampling ... this book is huge and full of soo many laughable and interesting goodies. So, to finish off this awesome book that I insist you go buy, I give you a quote of wits (one of the Blume's laments that is lost) from Oscar Wilde that couldn't be more witty or accurate!
A man's face is his autobiography. A woman's face is her work of fiction.


Rivki Silver said...

Sealing wax *needs* to make a comeback. How awesome would that be?

And I'm thinking The Jungle Room in Graceland. My themed rooms are more like "Spilled Cheerios" and "Sticky Juice Stains..." Oh well.

Anonymous said...

My aunt has two ovens and two refrigerators! I also read an article in the times a year or two ago about folks who remodeled their kitchens in NYC for kashrut purposes and had warming drawers and dishwashers with automatic timers and all kinds of cool stuff. Separate ovens = thumbs up!

Suburban Sweetheart said...

I am so into so many of these things, Orthodox of not. And I'm sad this two-part series is over because I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT. Porcelain skin, postcards, newspapers, even "Mind your own beeswax." But I, too, hate telephone calls. A lot.

Leah said...

Loved the series. I know houses with 3 ovens. Meat, Dairy and Parve. Thats what I want!

SJ said...

Chaviva, ignore Shalmo from the you me religion blog. He's a jewish born islamist whose mo is to get people to stop believing the bible before disclosing that he's islamic.

I banned Shalmo from my blog.

mokumalef said...

Oh Chavi, I love the phone. I remember that it was black, heavy, and attached to the wall! It's the next best thing to personal contact. Must I conclude from your phone shyness that you also avoid Skype or other such direct electronic contact options? Perish the thought that all of us are reduced to bytes in cyberspace without even the semblance of something spontaneous and personal. I actually expect my cellphone to do phone duty first and foremost - most of all the other gadgets I can happily live without! But all this is - needless to say my own personal feelings. Just wanted to share them.

Alyssa said...

Oh the nostalgia is coming back, some of these things are so wonderful I hope they don't disappear.

I am a huge fan of naps (though I often take them because I didn't have enough sleep the night beforehand rather than just as additional rest) and marzipan fruit. Yum!

You may be surprised to hear that Murphy Beds are doing relatively well, especially in this economy where people are downsizing and looking for space saving solutions. Wallbeds "n" More has a great variety of Murphy Wallbed styles.

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