People have asked me how I ended up with an aunt and first cousins in London if the rest of my immediate family is here in the US. Ask and you shall receive…here’s the answer:
My grandfather Maurice was young when he died. He died of a heart attack when he was 42. His body was found in his car on the side of the road just outside the Lincoln tunnel on the New Jersey side, which is where the family lived. At the time, my father was just a teenager (I think 12 or 13), his older brother was 14 or 15, and my aunt was three.
My grandmother who was evacuated from Germany before WWII never received a proper education (wars seem to disrupt stuff like that), and when she wasn’t a full-time mom, like most women were back then, she was often times making clothes and working for tailors. She had an eye for design and a real talent that developed over the years and as such was known as a “finisher.” In those days, a finisher was someone who could sew on a perfect ribbon or add a bit of lace and trim to a plain dress, transforming it into something elegant and beautiful. It required very technical seamstress capabilities, which she had.
After my grandfather passed away, leaving my grandmother alone with three boys money wasn’t as easy to come by and manage. She was able to live off the funds from the sale of my grandfather’s auto body shop and whatever she brought in from her finishing work.
Around that same time, her foster mother (Millie) back in London got sick and passed away. My grandmother was very close to Millie, but when she died, she’d left her foster father (Alec) alone in London. Alec wanted my grandmother Edith to come back to London to stay with him and take care of him, but Edith had the kids to take care of and make sure they went to university and she was concerned with making any decisions that would further disrupt their lives in the wake of losing their father.
But Alec was persistent and pressed and pressed. We can’t be sure, but some of the pressure he applied was probably riddled with guilt since Alec adopted Edith during WWII and was responsible for getting both of her parents out of Germany before the war started. That and he made promises to put the kids through school and to support her financially if she’d come back, and well, she eventually did.
My uncle was older and practically living on his own at that point. My dad spent his senior year of high school living with his best friend’s family. My aunt on the other hand was nine, and couldn’t be left in New Jersey, so she came back to London with my grandmother who ended up moving in with Alec in an apartment in St John’s Wood.
My aunt went to the equivalent of middle and high school in London, and eventually went on to medical school just to prove Alec wrong, because he didn’t think she could. Apparently he didn’t think she would amount to much. Boy was he wrong. She graduated from one of the UK’s premiere medical programs and met a nice Jewish boy from Leeds who was also a general practitioner. They got married. They had three kids, and…well…there’s a whole lot more to tell, but in short, that’s I got three cousins, an aunt, and an uncle living in Hampstead Garden Suburbs, London.
Hampstead London Crepe Cart
With family in the UK, we’ve made many trips across the pond over the years. The weather and the itineraries are never the same, but the one true constant has always been the Hampstead London Crepe Cart.
No matter where we’re going or what time it is, we’ll always figure out a way to fit a crepe or two or three into our London trips. They have both sweet and savory crepes. The crepe makers are never the same, but they’re always a Parisian teenage exchange student, practicing their English for a few months. Their English may need some work, but their ability to whip up a perfectly cooked crepe in minutes is perfect.
Anything you order off the menu is going to be pretty damn good, but the sweet crepes are my favorite. If I’m in the mood for something savory, the garlic and mushroom or garlic and spinach crepes are traditional, simple, and delicious.
After a day of walking around London from Baker Street to Covent Garden and back again, we started heading back to Golders Green for Shabbat dinner before sundown. On our way, we stopped in Hampstead and got these crepes.
My philosophy on ordering when I’m indecisive about what to get is that ‘less is more unless more is more.’ So Jonathan and I shared a dark chocolate crepe with bananas.
And my cousin Esther got a milk chocolate crepe with bananas and chopped hazelnuts.
Both were delicious and covered in salty butter. Nothing go thrown away and once again, I was reminded of how a crepe is supposed to taste!