From the Preface

In the center of the kitchen, a large, oval wooden table, surrounded by eight unmatched wooden chairs, was the gathering place for the men who rented rooms upstairs – the immigrant boarders who worked shifts at Bethlehem Steel and who took their meals in the kitchen. Speaking Windish, Polish, Hungarian, or Slovak, they wore old sweaters, plaid flannel shirts, and steel-tipped shoes. Their hands, even after diligent washing, bore the traces of the grit and grime in which they worked. Their nails were outlined in black and their coughing filled the kitchen with the faint, unmistakable odor of the gases and fumes which they breathed into their lungs at the steel mill. Shots of liquor helped to 'cut the cough,' and when their meals were finished they leaned back in their chairs, lit their pipes or cigars, and talked about work, families, religion, and the old country. Women from the neighborhood sometimes sat at the table to gossip with Theresa or wait for the take-home platters she prepared for them. They, too, talked about their neighbors, families, churches, and husbands. They told each other things they would never tell anyone else. The confidentiality of the kitchen table was sacrosanct.


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