(Mishpucha: family in Yiddish)
Jody Maroni’s Sausage Factory
An Open Letter
Dear Jordan Monkarsh,
Before I tell you why I’m writing to you, please let me explain who you are to the readers of this blog. You are the gourmet hot dog and sausage king of the Los Angeles area. I first learned of your delicious gourmet dogs at your famous Jody Maroni’s stand on Venice Beach. Soon, you had stands in several places around town, including Dodger Stadium and LAX. Trader Joe’s even started selling your great turkey and chicken sausages.
I thought about writing this letter to you for about a year now, but I always felt embarrassed and "chickened out," as they say in the sausage business. Today, Sophia suggested I blog about you, and hopefully you’ll end up seeing this on Google and respond.
My reason for writing you is quite simple. A year ago, I learned that you, the creator of my favorite gourmet hot dogs, weren’t really a Jody Maroni, but a Jordan Monkarsh. Now Monkarsh is also my mother’s maiden name. I have never met anyone else with that last name. Do you know where this name comes from? Is it the name of a small village in Eastern Europe somewhere perhaps? Who knows, maybe we are long-lost relatives brought together by our love of chicken sausages?
Now, I’ve been reluctant to write to you because I was afraid you would think that I’m a crackpot, or worse – some loony out to ask you for money. I’m sure you’re worth millions by now. Even if we are somehow related, I do not want a penny. I don’t even want any free sausages. OK, one might be nice — just as a gesture for the family.
All I really wanted to do was say hello. I thought that there might be some weird spiritual reason that one of my favorite Los Angeles foods was created by someone with the same last name as my mother’s.
While I have your attention, here’s a little story you might find amusing:
Several years ago, my wife, Sophia Lansky, and I went to Memphis to visit Graceland. While walking around town, we noticed that inside the famed Peabody Hotel was a men’s clothing store named Lansky’s. It was a famous place in town because the Lansky Brothers were Elvis’ official clothiers. They supplied Elvis with his flashy early clothes and his famous Gold Lame’ jacket for his early performance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
We went inside the store and asked one of the salesgirls if there was still a Lansky involved with the store because Sophia’s last name just happened to be Lansky as well. All of sudden, the salesgirl grew concerned and called over a security guard. The store seemed to go on red alert. A curtain opened from the back and an elderly, but dapper, very-successful looking Jewish man entered. This was BERNARD LANSKY himself, the man that clothed Elvis. We were as close to being with Elvis himself as we would ever get.
"So, you say you’re a Lansky," he asked.
"Yes." said Sophia.
"Where were you born?"
"Where in Russia?"
"Odessa, now in Ukraine."
"I know. I know. Do you have two forms of ID on you proving that you are a Lansky?"
Sophia showed him her CA drivers license and her SAG card.
Bernard Lansky eased, but only a little.
"And what do you want?"
"Nothing. Lansky is a fairly rare name. Just curious to meet someone with the same last name."
Bernard Lansky explained that over the years, many people, claiming to be Lanskys, had tried to get money from him. We assured him that we had no interest in his money.
He became friendlier and told us all about clothing Elvis wore and how he personally made Elvis his gold lame jacket. He said that his store on Beale Street became a big success because everyone wanted to dress like Elvis. Bernard Lansky and Sophia talked a bit. It seemed that Bernard’s family came from Russia also. When some customers came in, we decided to leave. Before we left, he told Sophia to "keep in touch."
"One more thing," he said. "I have a gift for you."
He gave Sophia a souvenir from his famous store in Memphis – a hanger. Mind you, it said "Lansky" on the hanger, but it was a hanger.
So, Mr. Monkarsh, as you see, Sophia did not walk away empty-handed. Sophia left Mr. Lansky carrying a precious memento.
What about you? Would it kill you to give one free Tequila Chicken Sausage with Jalapenos, Corn and Fresh Lime sausage to someone who just might be part of the mishpucha?