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"Bronx Buns"


It's always been incredible to me that one simple taste or fragrance could transport you to another place and time in an instant.

We were headed to Riverdale, New York to see my niece Sally's new apartment. As my sister and I traveled down the lush Saw Mill River Parkway toward the city, nostalgia was already seeping into my senses. The changing sunlight breaking through the trees felt familiar as the car hugged the curves in the road. Whether taking autumn trips north to Vermont, or family dinner outings south to City Island, this was a road often traveled during my childhood. Even though I've lived in South Carolina for over 40 years, I felt I was home.

As she drove, my sister Gen told me about the neighborhood near the apartment. She said "wait till you taste the buns from this great Jewish bakery!"

When we were growing up, my Dad called all breakfast pastries "buns". "Crumb buns" were his particular favorite . Whenever we would have these, Daddy would tell us the story of my Grandmother Pia sending him to the store with a nickel to get a bag of crumb buns. When he returned, his treat was simple... yet one he would keep as a treasured childhood memory.

After Grandma emptied the bag, she returned it to Daddy. He would tear a small hole in the bottom corner of the bag, hold it up, and wait as the crumbs and sugar snowed onto his expectant tongue. If we heard this story once, we heard it a thousand times.... and loved it, just to see the joy in Daddy's eyes as he traveled back to his childhood.

As we walked into Gruenbaum's bakery, just for a second I was 8 years old again. It was the sight and smell of my childhood; the wooden shelves filled with fresh baked bread behind the counter, the old clock on the wall, that buttery sweet aroma, and the display case brimming with cookies, bagels, cakes and yes.... "buns"!! It didn't take Gen long to select our favorites, and we could hardly wait to get in the car to tear open the bag.

Gen ripped the corner off a crumb bun and handed it to me with a knowing smile. I took a bite. It was like eating a cloud laced with cinnamon and covered in sweetness. I said, "Oh my God, it tastes just like Daddy"! My taste buds were jolted into the past at warp speed. Instantly, I was back in my Dad's convertible, as he tore off a piece of crumb bun and handed it to me. I was a happy kid again... and it felt great!

Celia Cerasoli ©

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