My father was born and raised in a Bavarian village. He came alone to New York City as a young adolescent: August, 1941. When I think of Karl Rossman, in “Amerika,” I see my father: Bewildered, hopeful, and hungry.
Growing up, my sister and I had childhoods decorated with images of food he had lost: Cheeses, breads, and pastries. Whatever longing my father could not put into words was transformed magically into tastes he craved. The pain he felt, the absences of family he would not see again, was remote and so much a part of his early childhood that only food could explain to him who he had lost.
At Cafe Geiger in Yorkville our father would come alive, briefly, with fresh cream and hot chocolate and good strudel.
When I go to a bakery these days I think, too, of Sundays with Walter: At Natale’s in Plainfield, New Jersey, 12 miles SW of Newark, where I grew up, we would go on Sunday for fresh rolls and frozen sausage pizza.
As he breaks open the poppy seeded roll to pull out the hot, doughy center, my father recollects…