Mort Laitner
Mort Laitner

Shtisel’s SodaStream machine

I watched the third season of “Shtisel” on Netflix.

And I loved it.

And I can’t wait for the arrival of season four.

For you see, I am hooked on the show and all of its details.

Well, one of the details, in one of the third season’s episodes — don’t ask me which one — caught my eye, I observed Rabbi Shulem Shtisel sitting at his kitchen table, while the camera panned in on Shulem’s SodaStream machine.

My eyes lit up.

Yes, there was the water machine that miraculously converts plain old wasser into a bubbling, sparkling sensation called seltzer.

Well, it’s not water into wine, but it’s almost as miraculous.

I immediately thought, “Great product placement. How much did SodaStream pay for that shot of their seltzer maker?”

I guessed, “Probably not much, since that machine looked yellowish, like a 20-year-old Israeli-made model.”

Then Shtisel spoon-stirred some fruit juice or purple-colored flavoring into the seltzer and after a quick prayer, he gulped it down.

From Shtisel’s facial expression, I saw how those gaseous, tiny bubbles, pleased him.

Shtisel with his own hands had made a delicious drink.

And I, too, have known Shulem’s pleasure, because I, too, own a SodaStream.

And I, too, love mixing spritzer concoctions with my own hands, like my egg creams with Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup (Yes, A Brooklyn Original Since 1900).

And I, too, have had a long relationship with seltzer — a sixty-plus-year-old relationship, but who’s counting.

And I, too, like Rabbi Shulem Shtisel, am hooked on my SodaStream machine.

In my childhood, I entered Abe Krutman’s Candy Store, with a nickel lodged deep in my pocket.

This tiny 10′ x 16′ candy store was located on Woodridge’s Main Street.

And as a kid, I believed Abe’s store sold every known variety of candy. For it housed shelves of Chunky bars, M&Ms, Raisinettes, bars of Joyva Halvah Marble, Pez, Milk Duds, Whoppers, Pop Rocks, Butternuts, Snickers, Mary Janes, Tootsie Rolls, and Goobers.

Also residing in Krutman’s was a noisy, nickel pinball machine — the first machine I fell in love with. My fingers caressed the flipper buttons as I and the machine shook, rattled and rolled.

Krutman’s also accommodated a newspaper and magazine rack, There I bought my comic books: Sad Sack, Felix the Cat, and Popeye, my parents’ weeklies, like Life and Look magazines and hidden in the back of the top shelf, were the raunchy men’s magazines: Rage, Man’s Conquest, True Men, Wildcat, Gala, and Joker.

Of course, I was too short to reach or touch what was on that top rack.

And that addiction would rise up at a later date.

After scanning the store for customers, I stood next to the cash register, removed the red plastic lid, from the beveled glass canister and pulled out a 2-cent pretzel rod.

You guessed it, I had a salt addiction.

I handed Abe the nickel, I politely asked “Mr. Krutman, how about a two-cent plain?”

As I licked and sucked all of the salt crystals off of the pretzel, I watched as Abe jerked the soda lever and seltzer shot into the small clear Coke glass.

I watched the effervescence and sipped the carbonated water.

I felt the tickling of cold bubbly liquid rushing down my throat, until the seltzer reached the pit of my gut. There a mixture of my stomach acids and the CO2 exploded and reversed course and raced back up my esophagus and out of my mouth.

Of course, I greptsed (belched) with the force of a Cat 5; and as all children do, I loved it.

For in my home town, of Woodridge, greptsing-out-loud was a local tradition.

You not only heard the guttural sound in Krutman’s but homies got their seltzer fixes at Sol’s,  Charlie’s and Chonin’s luncheonettes, as well as Rashkin’s Pharmacy. A good burp after drinking a chocolate, vanilla or strawberry ice cream soda or a root beer float or a virgin lime rickey meant happiness; and boy, Woodridge kids were happy.

Even my grandmother excused my uncouth behavior by saying, “A good belch out allows good health to come in.”

As my father the doctor said, “Seltzer, the Jewish digestif is required to assist in the digestion of such fatty meats as chopped liver or flanken. Failure to drink a bissel wasser mit gaz leads to an upset stomach.”

So of course, my health-conscious parents ordered cases of seltzer to be delivered to our home. (Note to readers: In the Fifties, Amazon was just a river and a jungle in South America.)

“You remember those silver siphoned, aqua blue bottles?”

“Yup.”

“You remember the wooden cases they came in?”

“Yup.”

“You remember how heavy those filled cases were?

“Yup.”

“You know where you can find those bottles today?”

“Yup, in antique shops and on Etsy. Those heavy, blue bottles are now decorative ornamental pieces. They cost over 50 bucks a bottle,”

And yes, those heavy blue or clear glass bottles were a staple in my kitchen — only decades later to be replaced by the SodaStream machine.

Well, since you’ve gotten this far in the story, you have a right to ask, “Mort, such a long fakakta story, about an old rabbi and his machine that puts CO2 gas into wasser, making fizzy water, what’s your message?

What does this old ultra-orthodox man-of-the-cloth have to teach us seculars?”

Well, my friend, the answer is quite simple.

Rabbi Shulem Shtisel and his SodaStream teach us plenty:

Sometimes in life, you’ve gotta mix things up;

You gotta experiment with new flavors as if you were a chemist;

You gotta learn to operate new machines as if you were a mechanic;

You’ve gotta be creative to macht things besser.

So in the words of Rabbi Shulem Shtisel, “Zei gezunt. And may your life be sparkling and bubbly like a tall, cold glass of seltzer.”

About the Author
Florida's Jewish short-story writer, speaker, film producer and retired attorney. He has authored, "A Hebraic Obsession", "The Hanukkah Bunny" and "The Greatest Gift." He produced an award-winning short film entitled, "The Stairs". Movie can be viewed on my TOI blog. Mort is a correspondent for the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel Jewish Journal.
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