Remember the old song: “Love and marriage…go together like a horse and carriage?”
So do Rosh Hashanah and The Butcherie—like a horse and carriage they go together.
If you’ve never been to The Butcherie kosher market and deli on Harvard Street in Brookline on the High Holidays, you are truly missing out. For starters, there’s the challenge of gaming the timing—when will it be the least crowded? A few days before the chag? That’s impossible to gauge, but still worth the calculation. Then there’s the parking issue: for me, parking on a Brookline side street nearby is hands-down the best strategy. Finally, there’s the question of whether there will even be a shopping cart available once you enter the crowded store. In my case, there was no shopping cart, but no worries; I was able to quickly retrieve one from a customer checking out.
My standard purchases are the store-prepared kugel and tzimmes, of which there are several varieties. These are located, of course, in the most congested section of this congested market—in the back opposite the packed deli counter. But no matter; you wait your turn and then lunge for the goods. This area of the store is where I invariably run into at least one or two Jewish acquaintances who take the opportunity to catch me up on their recent activities, as do I. (The worst possible area of the crowded store to do so, but it’s part of the experience and why I love to shop there before Rosh Hashanah.)
As is my custom, I also fill up on Israeli wines until my cart is overflowing. Then it’s time to find the checkout line, which winds its way throughout the small market. This line also offers excellent opportunities to schmooze with friends or strangers. I spoke briefly with a young newly arrived Israeli woman whose physician husband is doing a post doc in Boston. We only had enough time for her to tell me the Brookline street they live on. If we had 30 more seconds, I would have invited her for coffee, but the checkout line worked more efficiently than expected!
So, who’s shopping at The Butcherie, you may ask? A representative sample of the entire Jewish community. There are members of the Orthodox community and secular Israelis. There are shoppers who no doubt observe kashrut who come to The Butcherie on a regular basis, and there are people like me, who essentially shop there twice a year—Rosh Hashanah and Pesach. The prepared foods, by the way, are consistently tasty, and when, like me, you entertain large groups in your home and do not cook, there’s nothing like it!
After checkout, I, of course, held onto my shopping cart to shlep all the goods to my car, parked a bit of a distance on a side street. As luck would have it, after loading my car and beginning the return trek to the store, I noted a driver waiting for my spot. Of course she was also on her way to The Butcherie, and of course she was delighted to take custody of my cart. Win-win, as they say! No wonder there are no shopping carts to be found inside the store—they are no doubt changing hands all day long on the side streets of Brookline!
So, despite my dear mother’s annual warning as to how crowded and unpleasant it is to shop at The Butcherie right before a holiday, I loudly proclaim: Not true! Where else can you feel the pre-Jewish holiday excitement and anticipation than at 428 Harvard St. in Brookline? It’s a cultural experience for the ages.
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