The Borscht Belt
The Last of the Kosher Alps / Delightful Gluttony
Kutcher’s Resort is the last of the mountain resorts in the Catskills, a remnant of the delightful Jewish resorts in what New Yorkers call the “Mountains”. There was the Concord, Grossinger’s, Brown’s, and many more of various sizes. These were the places that had a “yiddische tam”. A kosher place to go for a weekend or a week and enjoy all the foods that the older American Jews of mostly eastern European descent would enjoy if they had a few dollars to spend and didn’t have the means or the spirit to travel too far from their homes. They could laugh at the insider jokes, often made at their expense, meet their cohorts, and most of all eat to their hearts' content. The fare consisted of krepplach, gefillte fish, matzoh ball or chicken noodle soup, tongue, farfel, chopped liver, cheese cake like their Mama used to bake, and much much more. Who cared about calories, “treifene Sach” or a “few” pounds that might result from the Fressereien that were “Oh so delicious, had so much tam.” After all it was usually just once a year, that the Fressers would eat that much, besides the other Fress fests like Pessach, Rosch Hashonoh, Schabbes, and much more. After all, “es steht geschrieben” that one must keep one's body fed. “Ein Kemach ein Torah” (without nourishment we can not study Torah). Any excuse was used to eat as much as possible in the kosher Alps. After all, “We paid for our holiday; we must not leave one delicious dish untasted.” It is a nevere (a sin) to waste good food. Lieber soll man sich den Magen verderben eh dem Wirt was schenken (Better to ruin your stomach than give your “host” something for nothing). Who would worry about a little stomach ache when those tantalizing aromas reached the nostrils.
The older folk who went there would feel young again. They would frequently join a group of seniors who would get a discounted price to spend a week vacationing. The widows usually outnumbered the widowers and they had the opportunity to enjoy the company of the opposite sex. The men had their pick of women and they felt like roosters in a large chicken coop. Soon after a sumptuous meal was over they would discuss the evening's entertainment and what snacks would be served at the dance or other entertainments. Meals were the most discussed items as were criticisms of the women by the other women in the group.
I had the good fortune of accompanying groups of citizens to the kosher resorts once or twice a year for a number of summer seasons. There were some humorous situations that took place that are noteworthy. One genteel lady was so hungry that she could not control herself long enough for the soup to be ladled out. She took her soup spoon and swallowed the salad dressing that stood in the middle of the table which she occupied with several other women. She complained of the sharp, cold “soup” that she believed had been served. Another thrice widowed person approached an older gentleman who was sitting in the resort’s beautiful flower garden reading a newspaper. She tapped him on the arm and asked unabashedly: Do you want to marry? The man shook his head and kept on reading! There was a gentleman who would dance with at least five women at a dance that occurred after the usual comedy show. He assured himself that he was doing a good deed by doing so. In the interim he was laughing and joking and having a very good time. There were also some unfortunate occurrences that took place. One elderly lady burned herself with hot water in the bathtub since she wanted to be the first to enjoy the cocktail party that followed a dinner. Several others suffered from gastrointestinal difficulties and needed some assistance with odoriferous excretions which had been brought on by massive doses of delicious food; they were ill prepared for the aftermath. The friendly tour leader followed the unfortunate person(s) thus stricken in order not to be noticed or embarrassed by the would be observers.
The ride home was always an adventure with the group, who were in a bus where they were led in singing well known songs. The memory of these trips, the camaraderie, and especially the delicious food were long re-enjoyed, discussed and remembered!
Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.