July 26, 2010
New York Magazine: Ask a Seltzer Man
Check out the latest issue of New York Magazine for a fun interview with the NYC seltzer delivery icon, Walter Backerman:
Ask a Seltzer Man
Third-generation seltzermonger Walter Backerman on the dying art of H2O delivery.
By Sarah Bernard
Published Jul 25, 2010
With bottled seltzer at every corner store, why do people still call you?
Taste. The other day, I bought a seltzer at Walmart, brought it home, drank it, and spilled it out. I tasted the plastic! I use beautiful glass bottles with metal caps, never plastic. My seltzer is five times more expensive—it’s $35 for a case of ten—but people are willing to pay for what they want.
They must feel some loyalty too.
People like to support the little man. Then there’s this thing called nostalgia. I’m going to be 58, and customers remember the day I was born because my father delivered to them. The problem is, when people die you have to hope you get your bottles back.
Describe a typical day.
My van holds 40 cases, and I drive from the Bronx to New Jersey to Brooklyn for my steady customers. Three days a week I go to fill up the bottles. In the whole city, there’s one siphon filling machine still working—in Canarsie. You start with tap water, put it through a triple filtration system, plus a charcoal filter. You have to chill the water to 38 degrees, then infuse the carbon dioxide.
Is there going to be a fourth generation of Backerman seltzer men?
All the old guys used to tell me the business won’t last five years. The route has no place in 2010. But it had no place in the eighties either, and here I am still going.
To sign up for seltzer delivery, e-mail email@example.com or call 718-468-4047.
I will be on WAMC's The Roundtable in August
WAMC's The Roundtable is an award-winning, nationally recognized three-hour eclectic talk program. The show airs from 9AM - noon each weekday and features news, interviews, in-depth discussion, listener call-ins, music, and much (much) more! Hosted by Joe Donahue and produced by Sarah LaDuke, The Roundtable tackles serious and lighthearted subjects, looking to explore the many facets of the human condition with civility, respect and responsibility. The show's hallmark is thoughtful interviews with A-list newsmakers, authors, artists, sports figures, actors, and people with interesting stories to tell. Since hitting the airwaves in May of 2001, The Roundtable has interviewed the likes of Arthur Miller, Kurt Vonnegut, Maya Angelou, Madeleine Albright, Jimmy Carter, John McCain, Bob Dole, Bill O'Reilly, Steve Martin, James Taylor, Bill Cosby, Stephen King, Melissa Etheridge and lots of other really cool people. Plus, Wilco does our theme song. What more can you ask for?
It should be a lot of fun and my first interview since I started the book from scratch last Fall. As they podcast their show, I look forward to sharing it here once it's live.
And of course, if you live in the Albany area, check it out live and let me know the 411 on the show.
July 04, 2010
Seltzer Bottlers of Staten Island
I happened to be celebrating July 4th today with my family at Old Richmond Town, the historic preservation on Staten Island. I was surprised and delighted to find, within their museum, a history of seltzer bottling and beer brewing on the island, starting out with this exhibit below. And they mentioned the conflict between the two industries, which is exactly the subject of the current section I have been laboring over this past month!
Note, this was a factory that manufactured not bottles (that was left to Europe) but the seltzer heads.
July 01, 2010
Don't Forget Your Cup
This great article from YIVO on European Jewry and health has this fantastic image from the 1920s from a spa:
Sara Berland and her daughter, Felicja, from Chełm, visiting Krynica, a town in Poland famous for its spa, 1920s. It was traditional for visitors to a spa to carry around their own cups, which they used for drinking the mineral waters distinctive to each spa. (YIVO)