Friday, June 14, 2013

Roads Not Taken

Growing up in the Bronx’s Kingsbridge in the 1970s, I faithfully attended Sunday Mass after Sunday Mass—and Mass on Holy Days of Obligation, too—at St. John’s Church. It was a pretty impressive-looking place on the inside in those days, but I can’t honestly say I got anything out of the repetitive Mass thing. There was no Mass appeal if you will. The sermons from the various men of the cloth were largely uninspiring and totally unmemorable. But to paraphrase comedian Jackie Mason: “I say this with all due respect.” My mother used to say, “You get out of it what you put into it.” That cliché evidently meant something to her, but it left the young me cold.

What I mostly recall from this largely benign but monotonous experience was Sunday morning breakfast. That is, getting to Pat Mitchell’s Irish Food Center—aka “Pat’s”—before the Mass’s masses. In stark contrast with the parish priests’ sermons, Pat’s chocolate frosted donuts, miniature jellies, and fresh rolls were unforgettable. They meant an awful lot to an awful lot of people in the neighborhood, which explained why hightailing out of the church at Mass’s end as quickly as humanly possible was the order of the day. Long lines and a survival-of-the-fittest jostling in this small, but iconic neighborhood grocery store were the Sunday morning norm after the various Masses.

But this blog isn’t about Pat Mitchell’s and his tasty donuts. (I’ve tackled this important historical and culinary subject before.) It’s about a road not taken. A special announcement—a footnote of sorts—was always made at the end of the Sunday morning Mass that I normally attended. Those of us on hand were informed that coffee and donuts would be served in the church’s adjoining “Pebble Patio”—on the house of worship as it were—immediately after we all went in peace. Foremost, I was intrigued by the moniker—Pebble Patio. It somehow struck me as funny, and I wondered, too, what kinds of donuts were being served there. Were they Pat’s, from a wholesale bakery called Willow Sunny, or perhaps from nearby Twin Donut? While appealing to the palate, the latter’s donuts left an aftertaste that sometimes lasted an entire day. Could it possibly be they were purchased from Shelvyn’s Bakery? No, not a chance—their donuts were pretty big, comparatively expensive, and thus unsuitable for any of the church’s come one, come all gatherings.

What I feared most of all, I think, was that the Pebble Patio donuts came from a supermarket. You know—the old-fashioned, powdered sugar, and cinnamon-coated varieties churned out by Hostess and various generic bakers. But, alas, I didn’t venture down that road to the Pebble Patio even once. There’s an important life lesson here, and I believe it’s that we should call upon pebble patios—one and all—when afforded the chance, because what we might find there may surprise us.

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