Arts & Culture

We Don’t All Eat Like Pigs

Tania Grossinger, author of Growing Up at Grossinger’s, is guest blogging this week as one of Jewcy‘s Lit Klatsch bloggers.  The book is about her experience growing up at a Jewish resort in the Catskills.  As of this moment I am no … Read More

By / February 9, 2009

Tania Grossinger, author of Growing Up at Grossinger’s, is guest blogging this week as one of Jewcy‘s Lit Klatsch bloggers.  The book is about her experience growing up at a Jewish resort in the Catskills. 

As of this moment I am no longer a virgin. Today I am writing my very first blog post and am delighted to have you along for the ride!

I am not a theater critic and this is not a review of An American Plan, a drama presented by the Manhattan Theatre Club currently playing at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. What caught my interest in the pre-opening promotion material was the sentence, "The play takes place in the Catskill Mountains during the summer of 1960."  How could I not be curious? I caught a performance this past Wednesday matinee. The plot involves a dysfunctional Jewish mother (beautifully portrayed by Mercedes Ruehl) who is an escapee from Nazi Germany, her equally psychologically impaired 21-year-old daughter (peerlessly acted by the lovely Lili Rabe), the daughter’s closeted homosexual swain, an African American housekeeper and the gentile ex-lover of the swain. The primary action takes place at the summer home of the mother and daughter that is located across the lake from a large Jewish resort. It was not the plot that distressed me; it was the way the Jewish resort was depicted.

I am certainly familiar with Catskill resorts. Growing Up at Grossinger’s tells what it was like for me to grow up in one. As a result, I was no stranger to what might have been considered to be certain peculiarities of Jewish vacationers, be it the activities they preferred (i.e. complimentary cha cha classes or "Simon Says" that brought people together), or the manner of dress (showing off furs and jewelry was among some ladies a competitive sport).  I am aware that caricatures and stereotypes have a basis in reality and have never been overly sensitive about my Jewish heritage. But there are certain descriptions in An American Plan to which I took offense, among them the ways Jews behaved at the dinner table. It may sound trite but people’s opinions of others are often formed by the superficial.

A favorite target was the menu and the way guests ‘attacked’ it. One could only infer from the script that all diners at Catskill hotels were gluttons, barbarians, fressers, ill-mannered, and grotesque, stuffing their faces, grabbing at the food.  

I beg to differ. Was the gourmet food served at Grossinger’s an attraction? It certainly was… and deservedly so. Did the dinner menu consist of many courses (fruit, relish, soup, entrée, dinner, vegetables, salad, dessert, hot beverage, assorted nuts and mints )? You bet it did. I have a copy of a menu that is reproduced in my book listing the dinner choices for one particular evening as "Broiled Prime Rib Steak Cressoniere," "Stuffed Breast of Veal with Peach Glaze," "Roast Shoulder of Spring Lamb with Mint Jelly," "Chicken Paprika with Spaetzel," "Roast Philadelphia Capon with Sliced Apple," "Boiled Young Fowl en Pot with Matzoh Ball and Fresh Garden Vegetable Dinner Plate." Offerings to be sneered at? I should hope not. But did our guests make pigs of themselves? No, they ate in a grown-up, civilized manner. There was none of the ugliness and crassness portrayed in the show I saw last week. I was embarrassed by the elderly Jewish audience who guffawed at each insult and for the Gentiles in the crowd who might assume that this was the way Jews probably still behave today.

None of Richard Greenberg’s (the author) verbiage regarding Jews in my estimation was vital to the drama’s plot and performance. In fact, my reservations notwithstanding, it was a most interesting show. My feathers, however, are still ruffled.

 

Tania Grossinger, author of Growing Up at Grossinger’s, is guest blogging on Jewcy, and she’ll be here all week. Stay tuned.

Want a free, autographed copy of Growing Up at Grossinger’s?  Participate in this week’s giveaway contest! Send an email to contests@jewcy.com and at the end of the week we’ll choose five winners. Good luck!

Want to know more about Tania?  E-mail her or visit her web site!