I was in college. The New York Deli had the most sublime Liptauer Cheese spread. Taking a glob on the knife and spreading it across a plain bagel until the flat surface was completely paved in its unctuous whiteness. Upon biting down, I was transported to 19th century Vienna. You could taste the court of Franz-Joseph, Emperor of Austria, hear Johann Strauss’ waltzes – a world of refinement and pre-war grace. I loved the stuff.

When I graduated from college I moved into an apartment building resplendent in amazing and extraordinary old women. Tillie Cohen would knock on my door to have me change her lightbulbs and empty her trash. She volunteered at the hospital for 40 years.

One day she said,  “ You must meet Gerda. Her family used to own the New York Deli.” My heart stopped. Gerda and I became friends and I served as her errand boy. I finally broke down and asked her for the Liptauer cheese spread recipe. She obliged in her spidery blue ink handwriting. As she handed it to me, I saw the numbers tattooed on her arm.

I regularly make and eat the Liptauer Cheese spread and I see the tattoo on her arm every time.

Living in the wilds of Henrico fighting off crocodiles and wolverines when I am not creating an alternative universe in the basement.

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