PROVISION STORE

Lebensmittel und Delicatessen

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by

Ralph Harpuder  

Most of us Shanghailanders that are alive today were, as already mentioned in previous reports, children or teens during the war years.
    Some of our childhood recollections of foods our parents could afford, and had put on the table, may be recalled today by our readers. Much of the type and quantity of food depended, of course, on their financial status, or their resources, i.e. what heirlooms they were willing to sell to buy more food.
    Most refugees that lived in the Hongkew Ghetto had to skimp, and did the best they could to get by from one day to the next.
   Many of our refugees lived in the Heime and had to be content with the usual mundane food that was provided for them. A more taste appealing variety of foods had to be purchased at delicatessen stores, better referred to at the time as Provision Stores that were spread throughout Hongkew.
An advertisement of my parent’s provision store, Elite, in the early forties prior to the Proclamation, is shown in figure one. A partial list of the provision stores that were operated by Jewish refugees is illustrated in figure two

Who remembers the following food items available in those days, and the way they were sold?

a)   Leberwurst (liver sausage) with a heavy layer of pork fat inside the casing.
(An advertisement from one of the major sausage makers is shown in figure three.)

b)   Koch Käse mit Kümmel (processed cheese with caraway seeds) and the more popular and affordable soya cheese. Some provision stores added paprika to the soya cheese and sold it as Liptauer cheese.

c)   Rollmops (pickled herring), available at Pinkus on Kumping Road.

d)   Caviar, yes caviar, sold at the Russian provision store in the early forties, also located on Kumping Road immediately outside the Designated Area. 

e)   Hard Salami, preferred from Pikarski on Ward Road, because he had a sharp knife to cut thinner slices then other provision stores were able to produce. 
(And speaking of Pikarski, who can recall when he meticulously balanced an empty cup, brought from our home, on the scale, like it was gold, to weigh 1/4 pound of orange marmalade from a bulk container.)

j)    Butter in a blue can, imported from Australia. 

g)   Swiss cheese, also imported from Australia, sliced from inside the original can, sold at Hahn‘s Provision Store on Dalny Road. 

h)   Because refugees were unaware that eggs in a white shell came from white chickens, and eggs in a brown shell came from brown chickens, and that both types tasted the same, they only bought the later. Most provision stores sold only the brown eggs. A typical Chinese straw basket used at the provision store to display their eggs is shown in figure four

i)    A few other food products that were obtainable at provision stores are shown in figure five

    Fresh butter was a rarity and was bought only for someone to regain strength after a serious illness. It was handled like precious gold, and was sold by the one-half ounce from a quarter pound stick.
    A common substitute for butter was margarine, processed under the trade name “Parrot.” The quarter pound stick had the tropical bird illustrated on the package. Although margarine was much less expensive then butter, it was still too expensive for many refugees to buy. Because of the price difference, margarine was sold more often and usually by the full ounce. A few other brands of margarine are illustrated in figure six.
    Fatty pork was readily available at the Chusan Road Market. The lard was obtained by rendering the fatty pork and was commonly produced by the consumer himself. It was often spread on bread and served well as a school lunch. Not accepted by the Shanghai Jewish Orthodox community, it provided one of the essential food groups that most probably helped many to survive.
    A major supplier of bread that distributed their product to provision stores was “European Bakery” in Hongkew, shown in figure seven. A few smaller bakeries, shown in figure eight, sold their bakery products independently.
   Coffee was also a rare and expensive commodity, especially during the war. Coffee drinkers had to re-brew their coffee grind several times to make it last. An advertisement of a popular coffee producer in Hongkew at the time is shown in figure nine.
    Not all important food items such as meats and vegetables could be purchased at provision stores. In figure ten we see two advertisements from the Chusan Road Market, also referred to as “Die Markthalle, Chusan Road,” where food items for the main course could be bought. Refugees in Shanghai usually followed the European tradition, and ate their main course around noon time.
    The dilemma of only dreaming about delicious food that we were most of the time deprived of while living in Shanghai, did not escape us. Because, in the meantime, medical research has proven that fatty foods can cause heart disease and shorten our lives, we again cannot enjoy the morsels that we so much yearned for in Shanghai.
    Thus, Shanghai did not only save our lives, but for reason of the great scarcity of rich food, and the absence of chocolate and other “goodies”.
 Shanghai may have also extended our longevity.