Sam Singer and the Thanksgiving Gravy Fiasco


 Sam Singer was born in 1914 in Philadelphia, New York, the second son of Meyer and Esther Singer who both came to the United States from Russia in the early 1900’s. Esther, a short, rotund lady who loved to gamble, was also a good cook and shared her precious recipes with Sam. The Singers owned and operated a luncheonette in Elmhurst, New York in the 1940’s and 50’s. Sam and his brother Al also worked at the Store as everyone called it. Sam became a good cook also, but went at it like he did most things: too fast and furious as if speed was of the essence instead of quality. Someone had the job of cleaning up after him and it was no doubt a difficult one. While in the army during World War II, Sam was sent to cooking school and spent much of his service time preparing meals for the troops. When he came home from the war, he and Al again operated the luncheonette along with Mom and Pop, as their parents were called by everyone.

Sam’s wife, Martha Sugg, came from a teensy town in rural North Carolina and they met in Durham at a military dance. They wed in 1943 and my mother moved to New York. That is a whole other story!

One Thanksgiving, the Singer clan was gathering at Sam and Martha’s 2-bedroom apartment which they shared with three children. Space was at a premium with only one bathroom and a tiny galley style kitchen that was too small for even one person to cook in, much less two or three. The dining area held a small table and it was a chore to get the whole family of five around it, but they made it work.

However, with the other relatives coming over, a larger table was set up in the living room so as to accommodate a large and noisy crowd.

For some reason unknown to man, Martha decided this year to delegate the making of the turkey gravy to Sam, since he made such good food for the Store. You would think this would be a good idea. Hah! Little did she know.

First thing, with so little space in the kitchen, Sam cleared everyone out so he could create his masterpiece. Peeking in the doorway, we could see a fury of activity and much banging of pots and pans. There was probably some cussing going on too if Sam ran true to form.

Eventually, we had gravy and it was, no doubt, fine gravy. The kitchen, however, looked like an explosion had gone off! There was gravy on the stove, on the washing machine, dripping down onto the floor and seemingly everywhere! We later joked it was even on the ceiling and perhaps it was true. He had also used up an extraordinary amount of pots, dishes and utensils that seemed quite excessive for such a simple task. Sam didn’t clean up his mess either. He walked out of the kitchen and left that to the women as was befitting such a culinary master.

The whole ordeal was such a disaster that Sam was never asked to make gravy (or anything else) ever again in the home.  We just to laugh about it though and it became one of the family’s favorite stories about Sam.


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