By: Milt Montague
This a true story about latkes and how such a simple item can play such an important
role in life.
Milt’s favorite food was potato latkes [pancakes] especially as they were fried to perfection by his mother, [with chopped onions added to the batter] thin and well browned. When he went to high school Milt had his program arranged so that all five courses were consecutive and the study and lunch periods were numbers six and seven. This way he could be home for lunch and help work in the retail store that was the family’s source of income. On several days of the week, Milt could smell his mother’s hot pancakes sizzling in the frying pan when he was only half way home. When he got there, he could barely wait to dive into the dozen or so brown beauties, after they were well sprinkled with sugar, as his mother stood there, quietly, and “kvelled” [beamed] as he devoured his favorite funch.
It was a cold and windy night in the winter of 1954-5 that Milt and his bride, Sivia, came home, after a long day’s work, hungry and exhausted, to their warm and cozy apartment in Brooklyn. It was about 9 PM and as Milt opened the door, the scrumptious aroma of fried latkes tantalized his nostrils. He dashed into the kitchen and there, on the stove covered in foil wrap, awaiting their pleasure, sat a large platter of gorgeous, brown, sumptuous, potato latkes.
The only person that could have done this was his mother-in-law, Minnie. Minnie worked as a seamstress in a small dress factory in Brooklyn, and apparently after a full day of hard labor, had traveled to their apartment to prepare this treat for Milt and then taken the subway home. She was aware of Milt’s favorite food and decided to prepare a surprise treat for him.
As they were eagerly devouring their unexpected bonanza, the phone rang. It was a medic from an ambulance calling to say that Minnie Cohen had an accident on a subway platform and he was calling the next of kin, her daughter Sivia. Milt and Sivia dashed out of the apartment and drove quickly to the subway station and ran to the platform where Minnie lay on a stretcher on the floor of the open air station covered with a blanket under an exposed bright light as the snow fell gently on the blanket. She was obviously in pain and moaning softy as Milt and Sivia raced to her side.
With tears streaming down their faces, they tried to comfort Minnie, Sivia’s mother, and then turned to the medic for an explanation.
The medic told them that she must have slipped on the icy steps and may have dislocated or fractured her shoulder and possibly had internal injuries as well. He would take her to the hospital as soon as he got some vital information.
It was very cold on the starkly lit and deserted train platform as the wind blew the lightly falling snow into ascending swirls. Milt looked down at this elderly woman, who after a long hard day working on a sewing machine had traveled to their apartment, in the cold and snow, and prepared his favorite treat and then quietly left them as her gift of love.
She must have been lying here, in pain and the bitter cold and for almost an hour and this jerk wanted, WHAT ?
Milt suddenly exploded and shouted,
“WHAT THE F—’S WRONG WITH YOU ?
ARE YOU NUTS ?
THIS POOR WOMAN IS INJURED AND YOU ALLOWED HER TO LIE OUT HERE
IN THE FREEZING COLD …..FOR AN HOUR……. GET HER TO THE GODDAMN HOSPITAL…..RIGHT NOW……… I’LL TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY. !!”
The medic looked up at Milt as if he was insane. Then he and the driver silently lifted the stretcher into the ambulance and they all drove to the hospital.
Fortunately MInnie’s worst injury was a dislocated shoulder and some bruises. After
a few days rest in the hospital she was sent home.