CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY
A Polish Camden Kitchen
A dear friend and fellow history buff, Deborah Large Fox spent a good deal of her childhood in the produce store that her grandfather, Watson Burdalski, operated at 1545 Mount Ephraim Avenue. In March of 2009 she sent me this brief story she had written about those times.
If you like this page, check out the links below to other pages relating to Camden's Polish community. You may also enjoy The St. Joseph High School Memorial Free Range Salt Lick, a wonderful page maintained by Michael P. McDowell, Class of '72.
"Children should be seen and not heard."
To use another saying common to my parents generation, if I had a nickel for every time I heard that admonishment as a child, I'd be a rich woman. But I have since learned to be thankful for those mute occasions. I sat quietly in the background-- an odd, quiet child registering sights and sounds and smells my older cousins missed.
Being out of sight, out of mind had its advantages. While most of the cousins were barred from running around in my dza dza's grocery store in the Polish section of Camden, I was allowed to keep him company while he worked. I sat quietly, watching, listening, smelling, sometimes tasting if permitted. And while I cannot recall dates or names without error, I do remember the shiny black patent leather shoes the local numbers runner wore, the feel of sawdust scrunching under my white Keds sneakers, and the smell of fresh fish on ice. If today I see a blank fish eye staring back at me at the supermarket, I freeze. I am five years old again, surreptitiously poking at the shiny fins and gills..
What a time machine our senses are--memory keepers ready to transport us over years in an instant! I catch a whiff of cigar smoke outdoors and I am sitting on dza dza's lap. I taste dill in a noveau cuisine restaurant dish, and I am at his dinner table, almost a half century ago, savoring every drop of his wild mushroom soup, forbidden to me when my parents were present, for no one knew what sidewalk crack spawned the possibly poisonous fungi. The smell of onions baking in butter produces a tear in my eye, but not from the vapors. My throat catches because I am suddenly in a Camden kitchen again, feeling the heat of the oven, smelling the sizzling chicken fat, rolling the bitter sauerkraut on my tongue.
fall, I buy a pomegranate. The sight of its leathery skin evokes the
feel of the red juice running down my fingers , the crunch of the seeds
on my stained teeth, and dza dza smiling as he watched me devour every
last juicy seed. I place it on my windowsill and glance while I am
cooking, and dza dza is with me still.
|Another St. Joseph's Church web-page|
|More Polish Community in Camden Links|
POLISH-AMERICAN CITIZENS CLUB
|St. Joseph's Polish Athletic Association|
|CAMDEN COUNTY POLISH AMERICAN REPUBLICAN CLUB|
|A Camden Story: Reflections and memories of Rich Brodowicz|
|A Polish Camden Kitchen|
HEROES WAR MEMORIAL
at COOPER RIVER PARK
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