A Moveable Feast: A Tale of a Transporting Cookie

Mandel Bread or mandelbrot is an eastern European Jewish culinary tradition. It is not the only answer to the dreary January days or the dreary February days which are still to come– but it certainly helps.

It’s a biscotti-like cookie, meaning it is twice baked, but emerges a little softer and richer from the oven with the help of an out-sized proportion of eggs. The cookies are still crunchy enough to appreciate the company of tea or coffee and you may suddenly find that what seemed irreparable just a few moments ago seems just a little better with a cup of warm coffee and a mandel.

Piedmont: the probable birthplace of the well-traveled mandel bread. This is a hand-colored, glass lantern slide from 1925. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Joan Nathan, fairy-godmother of Jewish cooking in America, has a theory about the journey of this humble cookie. Because of its similarity to the biscotti (and for more demographically sound reasons), she believes that mandel bread traveled to Germany with emigrants from the once robust Italian Jewish community of Piedmont in Northern Italy. Mandel bread with its German name, its Italian roots and its strong foothold in your grandmother’s Midwestern kitchen is a perfect portrait of the wanderings of the modern Jewish populations of North America.

My Grand Aunt (also my great aunt) Laura is my mandel bread expert and I am convinced that the warm almond-y smell haunts her living quarters permanently along with the artifacts and acquisitions of her many travels. Her mother taught her the recipe and on my most recent visit she taught it to me. The autobiographical character in Marcel Proust’s epic In Search of Lost Time finds a flood of memories are unleashed when the crumbs of his madeleine mix in his tea. Mandel bread is without a doubt my madeleine, a humbler more eastern European version, which never fails to bring me back to my Aunt Laura … and Cleveland but let this recipe take you wherever you’d like: perhaps Proust’s Combray in the French country-side or somewhere on the Lower East Side.

Mandel Bread
Pre heat oven to 350
Line cookie sheets (2) with parchment paper

+ 1 stick of butter
+ 1 cup of sugar (white granulated)
+ 2 ½ cups flour
+1 teaspoon baking powder
+ 4 eggs
+ 1 teaspoon vanilla
+ 1 cup or more of chocolate chips, toasted almonds, and/or cranberries

Cream the butter, by hand or with an electric mixer.
Beat in cup of sugar.
Beat in 4 eggs one at a time.
Slowly add flour.
Add teaspoon of vanilla and whichever chocolate, almond or fruit additions you prefer.


Spread 3 or four rows of dough with a spoon on the waiting parchment lined baking sheets.
Cook for twenty minutes and then remove and slice in chunky diagonals.


Rotate diagonal segments so that the cross section of the cookie is face up and cook for another 20 minutes.
Leave them in the oven overnight… if you can!
Otherwise enjoy as soon as they are cool.


Sometimes the best recipes are not found in cookbooks. What is your favorite recipe from your family’s vault ? Share them with us here or on Facebook or Twitter !

Posted by –Julia Berick


Saluting a Queen of New York: Bess Myerson

Bess Myerson representing New York City at the Miss America pagent in 1945. Photo credit Isaac Brekken for Associated Press. Photo courtesy of the New York Times.

Crowned Miss America in 1945, Bess Myerson  first gained fame as a  national beauty queen, but in many ways her lasting reign was that of a New Yorker.

Through her many careers; in music, television and politics Myerson was both burnished and tarnished by the limelight. But in everything she did, she was fighting expectations about the roles of women, and the roles of Jews, in American society. Continue reading

Movies of The Lower East Side: Crossing Delancey (1988)

Movies of The Lower East Side…

Crossing Delancey (1988)

One of the movies that visitors to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum frequently cite is 1988’s Crossing Delancey.  It probably helps that the museum is located on Orchard Street right off of Delancey Street so it is understandable why the movie comes to mind. Many visitors who come from the North actually have to physically “cross Delancey” in order to get to the Museum. Amazingly, as a self-proclaimed film buff – especially of films released in the late 1980’s and set in New York City (I am looking right at you, Big and Working Girl) – I had not seen Crossing Delancey (though I do remember my mom renting it when it was released on VHS back in the day). Last year, after starting to work at The Tenement Museum and hearing folks often reference it when discussing the Lower East Side; I decided to watch it as I was fascinated by it on multiple levels. Continue reading

Emma Goldman: The Firebrand Still Glowing in 2015

Always going somewhere, this photography for the Library of Congress archives shows Goldman on a street car in 1917. Photo courtesy of the LOC.

Unlikely, though it may seem, one of the figures to have the most lasting impact on American labor rights is a Lithuanian born, Russian educated, anarchist named Emma Goldman. A towering and unique figure in the early activism for workers’ rights, Goldman was a charismatic speaker and a prolific writer who championed issues that are still disputed today. When University of California, Berkeley informed the editor of the Emma Goldman Archives, housed there, that after 34 years and $1.2 million in support, funding had run out for her project Prof. Falk’s reaction would have made Goldman proud. Continue reading

Tails and Scales: The Fate of the Fulton Fish Market Hangs in the Balance

The Fulton Fish Market fully-functioning and close to the height of its powers in Manhattan in 1936. Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library.

Long gone are the days  when New York City was a just a market town. At one time, our proud metropolis was just a small seaport with six municipal markets. New Yorkers who hear the word “market” today are more likely to think of Wall Street’s Stock Exchange than a gathering of food vendors. The larger markets that do exist in the city- the Chelsea Market and the Gansevoort Market – feature specialty purveyors rather than the raucous fishmongers in sturdy rubber waders. One man, Robert LaValva, hopes to change all that by bringing a market back to the former space of Manhattan’s Fulton Fish Market. How did such a vital market end up needing to be rescued?  The history of this Market is the perfect example of food consumption in New York. Continue reading

Remembering Governor Mario Cuomo & The Tenement Museum

Last week when former Governor Mario Cuomo passed away at the age of 82, The Lower East Side Tenement Museum lost a friend. The Tenement Museum was created in 1988 when Mr. Cuomo was still governing the State. He didn’t actually visit the museum until a decade after his term ended. Continue reading

Looking Back on 2014

You would think time might pass more slowly here at the Tenement Museum, where the year is often 1863, 1916 or  1935. However, keeping an eye on the past can make us aware of just how quickly the twenty-first century is flying by. Here is a look at what happened in 2014.

A Tenement Museum in 2046

We know what a Tenement Museum looks like in 2014. Our Museum is a standing Tenement building, restored to demonstrate how immigrants lived within its walls from 1863 till 1935 when the building was condemned. This year Annie Polland, Senior Vice President of Education and Programs, wrote a thought-provoking piece for the Huffington Post about what a Tenement Museum might look like in 2046. Put another way, Annie asked important questions about immigrant housing in our present the we ask questions about immigrant housing in the past. Leonard Lopate invited Annie to speak with him about her questions and concerns. Listen in to their conversation on the Leonard Lopate Show.

Obama, Immigrant Families and The Tenement Museum

Here at the Tenement Museum we know immigration is not news.  Every year since our piece of the continent became a nation, immigrants have traveled to the United States to begin a new life. However, new developments, global and local, change the immigrant experience in every day American life. Earlier this year we were proud to welcome Nisha Agarwal, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Commissioner of Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. Agarwal spoke about immigration in New York today and what measures her office will be taking to address future immigration with a little of the past in mind.

Nisha Agarwal, Commissioner for the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs

In November, President Barack Obama made news by changing national policies toward immigrants, specifically immigrant families. Extending amnesty to millions, President Obama passed an executive order to protect most parents of U.S. citizens from deportation. In a further landmark order, Obama extended some benefits to immigrants who have been living in the United States for at least 10 years.

Paul Krugman, The New York Times Editorialist, and Nobel Prize winning economist, reacted to the President’s reforms by citing the Tenement Museum as his favorite museum and as an example of our country’s long relationship with immigrants can be. If you missed it the first time around, you can read the editorial online.

Krugman wrote that he gets especially emotional when touring the Baldizzi apartment, because it is so similar to one where his parents grew up, and because of the intense gratitude the Baldizzi’s have for Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal reforms which made all the difference in assisting the Baldizzi’s through the Great Depression.

Krugman wasn’t the only important visitor to the Baldizzi apartment this year…

The Tenement Museum Welcomes Back a Resident

Rita Ascione with her daughter and grandaughter visiting the Tenement Museum which was once her home.

Rita Ascione is one of the last living former-residents of our tenement on 97 Orchard Street. She lived in the Tenement with her family in the early 1930s as one of the last resident before the building was condemned. She visited this fall at the age of 88. The New York Times joined us in welcoming her home. Rita’s began her lifelong friendship with Josie Baldizzi when she lived above the Baldizzi family at 97 Orchard Street.

Read about her homecoming and watch the incredible video of her visit.

We Really Caught Up On Our Reading!

Among other wonderful guests we welcomed Gary Shteyngart and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as well as Sam Roberts who gave us New York History in a New York minute with his book, A History of New York in 101 Objects. You can watch these and other fascinating Tenement Talks on our Ustream page.

…Helped Others get on a New Learning Track

Our Shared Journeys Program. Photo courtesy of Richard Drew for the Associated Press

We are proud to share the stories of our residents with all our visitors but there are some visitors who have an even deeper connection to our immigrants than others. One of our programs, Shared Journeys reaches specifically speakers of English as a second language,  who are recent immigrants to the United States, just as our original tenants were.

Learn all about it.

…We Let Some Visitors Break the Rules

Our hallway as captured by Tod Seelie, photographer for Gothamist, during Snapshot.

In December we welcomed visitors who were all carrying the same piece of contraband – a camera!

Photography is usually forbidden in the museum because of its deleterious effects the museum experience but on December 5th we opened our doors to shutterbugs of all description. The results were beautiful!  You can track some of the photos on social media through #tenementsnaps

Our visitors were joined by professional Gothamist photographer Tod Seelie. Don’t miss his dynamic images.

Adults Just Wanna Have Fun!

In 2014 we also opened our Tenement Inspector program to adults.

For a few hours, visitors took on the role of New York municipal inspectors, hired to investigate tenements for reforms which were introduced in the Tenement Reform Act of 1901. How did the landlords of 97 Orchard Street fare? New Yorker reporter Sarah Larson  on was on the scene.

What a year!

Thought the tenement has been standing since 1863 the Museum has only been in operation since 1988. We are so grateful to everyone who helped make 2014 another wonderful year for the Tenement Museum. Thanks to our visitors, guests and of course our staff.

Feel like you missed something? Join our enewsletter list to stay informed  of all the excitement we have planned for 2015.

Happy New Year from the Tenement Museum

“Let’s Get Drunk and Make Love”: Lois Long and the Speakeasy


The debonair attitude characteristic of the prohibition, captured in this 1920s cartoon by Russell Patterson. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

On January 17th, 1920, when Prohibition became the law of the land, a new kind of woman was born; a woman who drank, smoked, and (gasp!) danced with members of the opposite sex in illegal watering holes known forever as “speakeasies.” No one, man or woman, described these dens in such delicious detail as The New Yorker magazine’s cabaret-reviewer and resident dancer til dawn, “Lipstick.” “Lipstick,” nom de plume of Connecticut-born Lois Long, was one of the original New Yorker contributors, along with such famous writers as Dorothy Parker, E. B. White, and Alexander Wollcott, and outlasted nearly all of them – her career at The New Yorker spanned nearly 45 years.
Continue reading

Hanukkah’s History? Perhaps Not What You Thought

Being Jewish during the holidays can be confusing for everyone. This card available in our Museum shop might be just the thing.

With the holiday season comes holiday cheer…  for some.  Every year among those happily tuning in to holiday stations, are those who grumble and Grinch. Let’s classify them as two separate groups of people: those who have no love of life or cheer( this type of person has been in business since long before the Dickensian model,  Scrooge, debuted in 1843), and those who insist that Christmas used to be nice but “now is so commercialized that they start advertising before the Halloween candy is out of the CVS.”

Then there is the special subset of people whose grumbling also extends to Hanukkah. Continue reading

Winning Shots: Photography and Tips from our Snapshot Event

On December 5th we opened our doors to visitors, and their cameras, for Snapshot, a special evening event in which guests were given free range to break our strict “no photography” policy.  Visitors were invited to share their pictures and enter them into a contest on social media using #tenementsnaps. We called on friends from the New York Public Library and from The New Museum, as well as our own Vice President of Marketing and Communications to judge the winners. Emily Whetstone won 1st place scoring herself and 14 of her friends a free tour of the Tenement.

Emily Whetstone's winning photograph.

Shou-ping Yu won second place with a $50 gift certificate to the Museum Shop.

Shou-ping Yu 's lovely second place shot.

Rachel Aherin’s timeless staircase photo was awarded 3rd place. Rachel will receieve a book bundle from the Mueseum shop, curated by our shop buyers.

Rachel Ahrin's great Tenenement Snap.

With all these beautiful photographs floating around we got curious about the tricks of the trade. We turned to Tod Seelie, the Gothamist photographer who took his own beautiful shots while reporting on the event.  Tod let us ask him a few questions about what makes for a great photograph in hard to capture spaces.  Take notes!

When shooting in a small space like the Tenement Museum (or any new York apartment) what’s the are there some good cheats and tricks to getting a wide angle?

– I don’t know if there are any “cheats” to getting a wide angle other than having a wide lens. That said, having a wide lens IS the trick for shooting in tight spaces like the Tenement Museum.

Part of the fun of being in the Tenement Museum at night is the low-light. Is there something you try to remember when you are shooting at night or in a dark place?

– When shooting in a space with ambient lighting at night, you have to be careful to make sure you get a balanced exposure. Be careful not to blow out your highlights (light sources) too much, but don’t let your shadows all slip into total black either. Usually I blow out the light source a bit, and then try to work on the shadows in post.

For us amateur photographers flash can sometimes back fire. What’s a common mistake you think people make when using flash?

– I’m not a big fan of flash when shooting environments because my goal is to try to capture what it is actually like to be there, which includes how the ambient lighting looks. If you’re going to use flash I would say to try and be creative with it, and not just blast everything straight ahead. Angle your flash in a different direction, or try using some sort of diffusion to soften it’s look. Try to make it hard to tell if flash was used or not.

Shooting pictures with an iphone must be totally different than using the cameras you use for work. Is there something you really love about the limitations of a phone camera? Something you really hate? Or do you try to avoid using them?

– There’s not much I love about shooting with a phone, aside from the fact that people in public don’t react the same way as they would if you were using a camera. I enjoy that because it can allow me to be more subtle in situations where a camera might be too obtrusive. Other than that, I tend to use my camera phone like most people, just to snap little fun images to share on Instagram. If I’m actually interested in something visually, I will use my camera. When I was photographing at the Tenement Museum, I was so focused on figuring out the space and how to shoot it that I never thought to take out my phone once, I was totally in camera-mode.

What surprised you most about shooting in the museum?


–  How dramatically lit the space was at night was unexpected for me. Luckily I had anticipated it being very tight spaces, so I had brought my wide lens with me.

Thanks to Tod, our winners, judges and all our Snapshot guests. We are planning more fun events for the future. Subscribe to our newsletter to get the scoop on upcoming events and promotions from the Tenement Museum.


–Posted by, Julia Berick