Carmelli, Golders Green

Decades have passed since I first set foot in Golders Green, a grey afternoon of wintery light and constipated snow. I was escorted by my mother, and we arrived in a black London taxi, her in a faux fur coat and headscarf, and me with my nose pressed against cold, refreshing glass.  I am a man now, and I make my own way, on a series of trains that weave their way underground. But  I love Golders Green still and with the same intensity; it is part of my London, a place that nourishes my spirit, that makes life feel a little richer. It is a lining of glue betwixt past and present, a pair of slippers on an autumn’s night. I come to shop and I come to walk. I come to feel the presence of my tribe, however fleeting our mutual presence, however divergent our interpretations of Jewishness. Here I slip into small supermarkets stocked with familiar foods, more in search of reassurance,  for food is a powerful cultural marker, is it not?  Inside the stores are nostalgically old-fashioned, cans of kosher pickles and jars of Elite instant coffee, fridges with hunks of white cheeses, packets of Bamba, that uniquely Israeli peanut-flavoured salty snack. Olives and halva, Wissotzky tea and sugary biscuits for the sabbath. The pace is gentle, time moves in small steps, following the seasons and festivals. Out in the street I encounter the smell of dough and yeast, the smell of Carmelli’s. Here one can buy huge, golden loaves of Chollah, fresh cakes, pastries filled with melting cheese, donuts and bagels, biscuits to be savoured with glasses of sweet lemon tea as Shabbat draws to an end. Carmelli’s reminds me of bakeries of yesteryear, places that my mother once used, to buy strawberry tarts and eclairs in the seventies. Counters of formica, price charts in sans serif letters…..These days need not be over quite yet, for there is Carmelli’s.

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