Reading Terminal Market Moments

I have a wonderful and bright (as in smart and sunny of disposition) new assistant named Britt. Britt was one of those Craig’s List miracles — an apparent random choice that resulted in a match seemingly made in heaven. Britt’s mother related to her the day Commissary Carrot Cake sent her into labor with her brother. Stories abound at the intersection of my past forty professional years and the lives of many. One of the joys of sitting in Reading Terminal Market selling At Home is the stories related to me by the many people who stop to chat.

From Prep Baker to Food Editor
Over the years thousands of young people have worked for me. It is especially gratifying to hear of stories of how careers connected to food blossomed from seeds planted in our kitchens and restaurants. One visitor this weekend related the direct line from teenage baker’s assistant in The Commissary to food editorship of a major metropolitan newspaper.

Julia and Me
It is the familiar cover of The Frog Commissary Cookbook that is what catches the eye of Reading Terminal passers-by. Frequently this leads to a re-counting of the well-worn condition of their well-used copy of my original book. It seems like a fair proportion on Philadelphians have such a copy. Here’s a favorite: “I have two very worn cookbooks. One is Julia Child’s and the other my Frog Commissary Cookbook.” Now that’s pretty good company! I tell people At Home is The Frog Commissary Cookbook with twenty-five years more experience.

A Family’s Passages
Most gratifying are intersections with the lives of families. One such family related how Frog Commissary catered their wedding…and then their son’s Bar Mitzvah. And lo and behold, there’s their son…a Harvard graduate who spent a year working at Pixar and now visiting from Chicago where he is studying for an advanced degree in math. (It must have been the excellent food!)

International” Oatmeal Cookie Tasting
Then there was the “International Cookie Tasting.” A table visitor related how, in her search for the perfect oatmeal cookie, she carefully selected and baked from four recipes. She sent the cookie samples around the country to scattered friends — including one in London, thus “international.” Being friends, they dutifully filled out and returned the enclosed evaluations. The winner – hands down — was from The Frog Commissary Cookbook.

A Call from the Past
One table visitor recounted how a friend from far away heard me on Radio Times last Wednesday, which reminded her of Philadelphia and her long forgotten friend. This lead to a call — after ten years. Very sweet.

If you have similar memories –career choices, first dates at The Commissary, marriage proposals at Frog, family outings and occasions — please share them with me and others as comments on this blog.

Personal Moments
As book owners know, running along page bottoms where short recipes permit are short notes where I share my own memorable moments. This note is about my meeting my wife, Christina. Sunday, November 29th was Christina’s and my first anniversary. After our wedding we went to Congress Hall in Cape May for a brief honeymoon. That’s where we are this Monday.

Sometimes You Get Lucky!
On a June Saturday we catered a small wedding luncheon for Lenni and Perry at the Rosenbach Museum and Library on tree-lined Delancey Place. Lenni was an old friend who had testified on our behalf at the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board license hearing for little Frog in 1973. The first course was the pea soup with beet heart described on page 109. A spectacular lobster salad followed, making for a lovely luncheon. The next day, Lenni and Perry held a party for their “B-list” at El Vez, a stylish Tex-Mex restaurant. I was on the B-list. Normally, I wouldn’t have gone, as I’m more interested in working behind the scenes than attending big parties. But a wedding planner who had helped with Saturday’s luncheon was also invited, and she was a friend, so I decided to drop by—a life-changing decision. It was at El Vez—amidst margaritas and mojitos, nachos and enchiladas—that I first saw Christina. As she would soon tell me, it was not actually the first time we had met. Our prior meeting was in Lenni’s backyard, where I was cooking on the very best gas grill I ever cooked on—a near-religious experience, from which even Christina’s amazing eyes could not distract me. But at El Vez, it was all apparent and captivating: the eyes, the smile, and, of course, the wit and charm. She told me that Don and Frog Commissary had almost catered two of her almost-weddings. By New Year’s Eve we were engaged. Setting the date proved to be a longer process, but Frog Commissary would finally get to cater a Christina wedding.

Happy Anniversary Gracie.

Steve

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