What I Eat

‘As Michael’s mother, I’m often asked, “What do you eat?”’

Corky Pollan


My father was born in Russia, and he often shared stories with me about helping his mother in her small garden in the shtetl when he was a child. Later, after coming to America, he peddled fruits and vegetables from a horse and wagon in Hempstead, Long Island.

Before he began his route, he would set out in the dark each night from Hempstead and arrive at the Brooklyn Wallabout Market at 6 a.m. to buy the day’s produce. After a few years, he opened a small vegetable store in town. It prospered, and he soon launched a wholesale business in a large warehouse in Farmingdale.

My father was also an avid gardener whose garden grew from a small patch into a quarter-acre spread outside their home in Babylon, New York. My mom, who was a fabulously inventive cook, would turn his surplus bounty into vegetable bread, patties, and muffins. Her zucchini and eggplant fries were crispy and light, and her potato knishes were unbelievably flaky and delicious. My mother was not only a wonderful cook of Jewish classics — brisket, blintzes, matzah balls, Mandelbrot, kreplach, strudel — she also cooked French specialties such as duck a l‘orange, braised sweetbreads, lamb stews, and roast goose.

While my friends were eating carrots, peas, and string beans, usually canned, my…