The herring incident and how I am transformed into local supermarket hero

10 Nov

Picture the scene – it’s Friday afternoon, just a few hours before the holy Sabbath, and I’m browsing the local supermarket in my newly adopted New York neighbourhood, minding my own business, when I come face to face with an elderly lady brandishing a trolley contraption of sorts. We size each other up before she cries out that most majestic of cries (with an unmistakeable just-got-off-the-boat-from-Eastern-Europe-yesterday accent, rolling her tongue deliciously over the double “rr”):


She looks at me expectantly. Puffed up with pride that I can be of such use to another human being, I oblige. I help her make her choice through the dizzying array of  jars and plastic containers of herrings bursting off the shelves of the kosher fridge section, handing her different flavours (in cream sauce, schmaltz, plain, in wine sauce etc), and different brands (Gold’s, Miller’s etc), each of which she scrutinises thanks to the magnifying glass she brandishes in her right hand. Hurrah! She finds her perfect herring choice – right flavour, right brand, and thanks me profusely. We both walk off beaming.

I round the corner to the next aisle, and another old lady, about a quarter my height and with suspiciously gleaming jet-black locks, comes at me.  “Am I glad you’re so tall!” she cries out with that most Semitic of New York intonations, as she indicates for me to stretch up to the lofty heights of the top shelf to reach for her favourite type of “kasha”, all the while extolling the praises of this most versatile of Shtetl grains (starch? pulse?) with a dreamy look in her eye. “Oh how good this tastes with the juice from your roast chicken!”

I walk over to the cheese section. It’s only a matter of time until another elderly lady looks to me for succour, I can feel it in my bones. And sure enough, a more portly middle-aged woman, looking half in my direction and half at the cheese display, pronounces out loud, with deep irritation: “Now where have those herrings gone, they’ve moved them again!” Bristling with usefulness, I swiftly set her in the right direction and assure her that her chosen brand is well stocked.

I see a dazzling new career path opening up to me:

“Herring Consultant and High Shelf Reacher”

knew the streets of this new Goldener Medina would be lined with gold, but little did I realise how soon it would be before I found my calling in life.

New York life beckons, brimming with new opportunities.


22 Responses to “The herring incident and how I am transformed into local supermarket hero”

  1. Simon November 10, 2009 at 09:16 #

    You’re very cool Red – that was really well written – informative yet very amusing – are you sure there wasn’t a tad of “Mum’s exaggerating stories to make them sound much better” syndrome, at play over there!!!! Keep up the blog, you’ve got at least one fan (albeit could be as we don’t have such exciting herring incidents in little Gib)

  2. Abigail November 10, 2009 at 09:46 #

    BRILLIANT story Red!!!! Made me cackle out loud with glee- they do say “new place, new mazal” eh eh?? tee hee;P xxxxx Abs

  3. Abbi (Shapiro) November 10, 2009 at 12:13 #

    You’re living in New York? That’s fantastic! Email me, and let me know, I’ll try to give you tips based on my New York adventures circa 1998. 🙂

  4. Simy Goldstein November 10, 2009 at 13:38 #

    Trop drôle Rebbecca !!!
    Tu es à N Y à présent ? Génial ! Be Hatzlaha !!!
    Si j’y passe je te contacterai avec plaisir Bli neder !
    à plus

  5. Aurélien November 10, 2009 at 21:47 #

    Very funny, U’ve just found your way in life, haven’t U? It’s well written (anyway it seems to me, the French quite fluent reader in English) and I had just to check 1 or 2 words in the dictionnary. Bise, salue ton mari.
    +donne nous des nouvelles de tes pérégrinations dans la Grande Pomme! 😉

  6. yael kestecher November 11, 2009 at 18:14 #

    maybe you will find your calling in the ny old folks home rebbek

  7. Valerie Tesler November 12, 2009 at 13:36 #… look forward to reading about more escapades!! x

  8. Skai November 13, 2009 at 03:43 #

    come visit me. i’ll make you kasha and roasted chicken. and herring if you want. my house is a shtetl!

  9. Carmith November 13, 2009 at 04:36 #

    Becca… (this is how THEY will call you here)… Great post! I love these stories, I could imagine perfectly the scene and you in action! I can’t wait reading your next post…. See you soon Chamuda!

  10. Jonny Persey November 13, 2009 at 06:23 #

    Loving it Red. Keep it coming. Can you provide a virtual service for online shopping at Tesco? I can never find the herring (or the chocolate soya milk). I think there’s quite a market there for a new business… x

  11. Rivka Azair November 13, 2009 at 07:13 #

    Great Blog – might inspire me to start my own one day …. hope to be HERRING more from you soon! (sorry …)

  12. Gary November 13, 2009 at 09:09 #

    Hmm – there’s something a bit fishy about this, if you ask me.

    Very enjoyable, and good to hear from you!

  13. Deborah Landau November 13, 2009 at 09:45 #

    hilarious – but why limit yourself to herring – the world is your oyster! and i think you should team up with someone “vertically challenged” to offer the complete service of high and low shelf reacher (for all those unable or just to lazy to bend down to the lower shelves)…

  14. Cousin Rachel November 13, 2009 at 10:03 #

    Was going to leave you with a host of fishy puns (starting with ‘it’s a ‘bream’ of a story…and going steadily downhill from there) but thought I’d spare you :-)) love it! keep on blogging will enjoy reading the follow-up – what next – rescuing old ladies cats from trees??? xxx

  15. rebeccainspace November 13, 2009 at 13:05 #

    merci friends for such encouraging responses! I only hope I will not be a “one-hit wonder”!! x

  16. Eli Hillman November 13, 2009 at 16:52 #

    Just a bit worried one or other of these ladies will remember and make a beeline to you at a kiddush, pointing a wet toothpick in your face saying the herring was “wunnerful”.

  17. Ortal (Shani) Menashri November 13, 2009 at 20:34 #

    Lol red, that was very.. should I say “Herring…eeee”(which includes funny, nontheless), I could almost hear those old luvs with their New York accent..

    N E way, just wanted to ask u… r u pickin up old ladies in supermarkets?? hehe xxx

  18. Pietro Roversi November 14, 2009 at 12:02 #

    Herr Ring? who is this Herr Ring?

    xxx P

  19. Tanya November 14, 2009 at 19:42 #

    And those are only your superficial skills! If only they knew!
    Is ood you’re over your veggie fling othrwise all those herrings and chickens would have been left on their tall shelves!

  20. Jonathan November 25, 2009 at 11:39 #

    Great story 🙂 You should do a slot on cnn!

  21. ayster November 25, 2009 at 22:26 #

    you are hylerious redster! keep em coming.


  1. My top ten New York moments of 2010 « rebeccainspace - January 19, 2011

    […] 10) And even though this pre-dated 2010, how can I forget that unforgettable herring incident at my local New York supermarket which started off this whole blogging adventure: Click here for a recap of “The Herring Incident and how I am transformed into local supermarke…. […]

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