A Place for Baked Goods -- and Everything Else

| 17 Feb 2015 | 05:09

Glaser's reopens after a summer hiatus, and reconnects the neighborhood

I won't lie to you. When we first moved back to the Big Apple this spring upon my husband's retirement, worry danced around the edges of my mind about where I'd get my wisdom fix. That's right. I'm a wisdom junkie, and wherever we've pushed in our tent stakes, I've been able to ferret out life's little lessons and pick up pearls of punditry from the most improbable sources.

Now, a few months later, it's clear there's no shortage of the stuff here, whether it be from subway-riding sages, checkout doyennes, tour guide gurus or your everyday, sidewalk savant. In fact, wherever I plant my feet in this great city, if I tune in and simply listen, I scoop up a nugget or two.

One of my go-to wells of wisdom, Glaser's, recently reopened after a long and lazy summer vacation. The iconic bakeshop on the Upper East Side (1670 First Ave.) has afforded itself the luxury of a month and half-long vacation for as long as anyone can remember. And those of us who go there for more than just the sweets and lovely breads struggle with the pangs of withdrawal during that six-week plus hiatus.

This 112-year old bakeshop-a throwback to the days when Germans ruled Yorkville-is a simple walk from our apartment. More than once, I've willingly waited in line, eyeing the curved glass of mile-high pies, black-and-whites, and mini-meringues, focused more on the hum of conversation than the pastries. Glaser's, like so many other neighborhood joints, is rife with quality chitchat. Thick, chewy stuff-not unlike its Christmas Stollen. You can roll it around in your mouth before slowly ingesting. And then walk away somehow feeling lighter.

The last time I pushed through the heavy, glass door, right before they shut down for vacation, I had dinosaur cookies for my nephews on my mind. Watching the woman behind the counter carefully tie the thin red and white cotton string around my boxed parcel, her colleague shoved something warm and lovely wrapped in wax paper into my hand. A woman on a mission, she did the same to the handful of customers waiting on line.

"Here. Have some Kitchen Sink Cookie." The generous chunk of what is essentially a chocolate chip cookie with white and dark chips, potato chips, pretzels, coconut and who knows what else, would have not made it past my lips on any other day, in any other place, as I am not a sweet-tooth. But, the way she offered it, lighthearted and certain, prompted me to dutifully pop the delicious thing into my mouth.

"Now, that cookie? It's like life, right? A little salt, a little sweet-but overall, delicious. Am I wrong?" I couldn't help but nod. I'd been having a salty day myself. And her simple bit of bakery wisdom, along with the tasty analogy, subtly changed my perspective. Laughter can do that.

But it's my first visit that has prompted me to go back to Glaser's time and again. Then, I stood behind a fellow Upper East sider who ordered a large sampling of pastries. When asked the occasion, he piped up that it was his anniversary.

"Oh! Congratulations. How many years?" From there, the conversation expanded like yeast bread on the rise, and all of us milling around the counter, added our two cents about what makes a good marriage last, with consensus agreeing on communication.

The final word, however, went to the bakeshop mistress.

"Yes, communication is right. But it's not what you say. It's what they say that matters. You gotta to listen to each other. It's all about the listening."

Lenore Skomal can be reached at www.lenoreskomal.net.