“Lenny,” mother said, “Take this chair over to the sink. If you’re good and don’t get in the way you can watch me and Aunt Annie make strudel for Thanksgiving.”
The kitchen was the center of the house. The center of everything, and our white enameled metal top table, was in the middle of the kitchen. Today, the table was covered with a big white cloth. Mother and Aunt Annie wore white aprons. The ball of dough was in a big white bowl and ready to be stretched. “Lenny, if you are very careful, you can put in a few drops of vinegar.” Mother smiled at me. “It helps the dough not to break.”
I scampered over, did my job, and went back to my chair. I was very quiet and very excited. Apple Strudel is such a treat!
On the cloth, mother rolled the dough thinner and thinner as she lifted and turned it. Aunt Annie took the pin and rolled it even thinner. “Here Lenny,” said Aunt Annie, “you can help if you want to.” I was very careful as I rolled too. Then she put the rolling pin aside, covered the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest for 5 minutes.
“Now, Annie,” mother instructed, “I’ll take this side and you take the other” Each of them put their fists under the dough and slowly walked backward pulling it thinner. “Careful” Aunt Annie warned, “Don’t let it tear!”
I held my breath! As they lifted the dough, they pulled from the center going around and around the table. They pulled the dough until it was near the edges of the table. When they couldn’t reach the center, they lifted the dough with their knuckles, and walked backward pulling. Several times they set the dough down and covered it with a damp towel to let both the dough and themselves rest. Finally, it was thin enough to read a newspaper through it. “Now,” mother said, “we put on the apples.”
My mouth didn’t start to salivate yet. I knew the strudel still had to be rolled and baked. But, I smiled because I was sure they would give me a taste when it was ready.
Biographical Note: Len Gottesman grew up in Cleveland, Ohio as the first grandchild from Grandma and Grandpa’s litter of 13 kids of whom 9 lived. He went on to be the first to finish high school, the first to go to college, and the only one of his many cousins to get a PHD. With a heavy load of expectations on his back, he had no choice but to become a psychologist! Now retired for many years, he is enjoying reviewing his life’s experiences.
Len's story "The Four Questions" appeared in the October issue.