Imagine it is the 1930’s.
You are a young German Jewish girl in your teens.
The Nazi’s are coming.
There were half a million German Jews in 1933.
But legal repression and physical violence is increasing.
Your parents are frightened.
Arrangements are attempted but America strictly enforced immigration back then.
Crossing the border into France appeared the only option.
The Nuremberg Laws were passed in 1935 making it nearly impossible to bring your money with you.
Then Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass in 1938 made clear you had to go.
Jews found themselves persecuted at home and unwanted abroad.
But some, like our young heroine Ellen Backer,
made it safely into France.
She spent years growing up there, becoming slowly French, picking up the accent, and memorizing local French recipes.
By 1939 the remaining 200,000 Jews were rounded up, packed into trucks and murdered in concentration camps.
But Ellen made it safely to New York. I met her in 1978.
She introduced me to Bill Cunnningham at an artist party in her home on east 74th street.
She’s gone now, passed away.
But I loved her and I loved her kitchen,
and she loved me for that,
and she taught me everything I wanted to know.
I still make her salad dressing.
Funny how those we love so much can live on in oil and vinegar.