Brooklyn Johnny Pumps

I headed to Bushwick a few weeks ago with a car full of Rockaway people. Our friends Jairo and Gio were playing at Alphaville. The parking situation wasn’t looking good. Bobby in the back seat points, “Over there, on your right!” I responded, “Eh no, there’s a Johnny pump.” Heads turned and they all looked deeply confused.”

Realizing my besties had no clue what a Johnny pump is made me sad. I continued to search for parking, simultaneously ruminating on how estranged this made me feel.

I thought “Johnny pump” was common city slang. I grew up with it. Our family has Brooklyn roots. For most of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, a “Johnny pump” is an old-school word for a fire hydrant.

Johnny Pump
People like to paint Johnny pumps, it’s a thing. It’s illegal but know one seems to care. The art is often heavily influenced by patriotism and Andy Warhol

This whole thing was eye-opening and started an investigation. At the bar that night, I asked everyone I knew and a few random drunk people, if they knew the term “Johnny pump”? Bushwick isn’t really “Brooklyn” these days but I was still surprised, not one person knew!

I brought it up everywhere I went. My Italian, native New Yorker friends, without hesitation, knew exactly what I was talking about. Some were insulted that I even asked. My Long Island girlfriends know. My friend Anna, a Jewish, Staten Island native, 32 years old, got very close. She first said delicately, “Umm is that a slur… for a type of person?” This is true. Johnny Pump is also slang for an obnoxious, entitled, Italian goombah.  Example: “Look at this (bleep’n) Johnny Pump double parked in front of  (bleep’n) Gino’s.” But Anna’s final answer was, “I think it’s a tool for a car.”

The results of my very loose polling of about 100 friends (30-50 yrs olds) are as follows:

  • A  person of any age, of Italian descent who grew up in Brooklyn or their parents did, 100% know what a Johnny pump is.
  • A person over the age of 40, Italian, did not grow up in Brooklyn but has a close connection to the borough) – 30%
  • A person over the age of 40, non-Italian, grew up in Brooklyn (or close connection) – 20%
  • A person under the age of 40, non-Italian, grew up in Brooklyn –  3% chance they know what a Johnny pump is.
  • A person of any age, any ethnicity, a non-native New Yorker, there’s a 0% chance of knowing what a Johnny pump is.*

By this point, you’re wondering about the etymology…. Back in 1830, inventor John Giraud unleashed his inner genius and birthed a hydrant powered by compressed air –  because regular hydrants were too boring. Firefighters rejoiced as they got to wield longer hoses. The city embraced Giraud’s creation so much that they ditched their old hydrants faster than you can say “Johnny’s Pump,” a name bestowed upon it by New York firefighters.

For more on old NYC Italian things, visit and follow me Instagramming Johnny pumps around the peninsula – @theglorifiedtomato.

Gold Johnny Pump
Phot0 by Katie Honan.

*This is actually untrue but it sounded way funnier to say 0%. A buddy of mine, Brandon Zwagerman (42) of Dutch descent, is a midwestern transplant with 17 solid years in NYC. He knew what a Johnny pump was when I asked. As a community board member (QCB5 royalty) and a biking encyclopedia of everything NYC, this checks.

tagged in rockaway

M&M Christmas Cookies

M&M Christmas Cookies

In my unending quest to be seasonally appropriate and my yearning to learn how to bake sweets and eat them, I decided it was necessary to make M&M Christmas Cookies.

I wanted chewy cookies (my fav), so I began an internet search. Multiple sources said 2-3 hours of dough refrigeration is needed, adding cornstarch and undercooking creates the perfect soft texture. Chilling the dough for three hours was troublesome considering my column was already past the deadline. With that in mind, I sourced the internet for the fastest, easiest, chewiest, M&M Christmas cookie recipe out there.

But I lost focus, distracted and alarmed by the names of these baking blogs…  I Heart Naptime, The Seasoned Mom, Two Peas In A Pod, Dessert for TwoLive Well, Bake Often. It gets “better” – One Happy Housewife, A Diary Of A Real Housewife. What’s a fake housewife? And to make it more cringe, all of the blogs have the same ugly, cookie-cutter template design (pun intended.) The June Cleaver vibe of these sites are disappointing. I thought we moved past the feminine mystique decades ago?

The recipe from I Heart Naptime actually seemed the best,  but I just couldn’t, so I decided on another recipe from a blog I can identify with –  A Dash Of Sanity.

While my dough was refrigerating for hours, I wondered about the origin of the Christmas cookie. It must go deeper than Santa gluttonously eating housewives’ home-baked cookies. And subsequently getting stuck in chimneys while delivering presents worldwide – in record time – despite getting stuck in chimneys.

Fortunately, there’s more cultural context and as one would assume, we have the Germans to thank for that and for the inception of the cherished Christmas cookie. Weihnachtsplätzchen means “cookie” or “holiday treat.” The cookie is tied to medieval German monasteries where monks used spices like cinnamon and cloves in their baking. The treats gained popularity due to their long shelf life, allowing for advanced baking and storage in the absence of refrigeration. They were easier to transport than cakes or pie and share with townspeople, making them ideal for establishing Christmas cookie traditions worldwide.*


M&M Christmas Cookies

1 1/2 sticks butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups + 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup red and green M&M’s


  1. Soften butter ahead of time or melt in the microwave.
  2. In a mixing bowl combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cornstarch. Combine, set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl add butter, brown sugar, and sugar. Cream using a hand mixer for one minute or until completely smooth. Or handmix.
  4. Beat in eggs and vanilla to butter mixture.
  5. Add flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix well.
  6. Carefully with the flat part of a knife, crush half the M&M’s, combine. Set the other half, whole M&M’s aside
  7. Cover dough and set in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour / 3 ideally, or store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  8. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Scoop dough and place on a baking sheet 2 inches apart. Top with the reminder of M&M’s
  9. Place in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.  Don’t over bake for a chewy cookie! Allow to cool, then eat!

I’m very happy with homemade batch of cookies! They were soft and chewy, I was pleasantly shocked. The flavoring was a bit salty but the mistake made for a nice salty/sweet contrast. I’d definitely recommend this Christmas cookie recipe. Share with your neighbors and share your pictures with me on IG and I will repost – @theglorifiedtomato.


M&M Christmas Cookies2 M&M Christmas Cookies1

M&M Christmas Cookies3

tagged in baking, christmas, cookies

Beach Walks Inspire Business – It Was Kismet.

In our close-knit town, nothing goes unnoticed. When wooden flower boxes suddenly adorned the building at the corner of 91st street this summer, my curiosity was piqued. I needed to find out more. I entered through the side door and was greeted by the soothing, soft scent of incense. I smiled when I discovered this was a new brick and mortar boutique, housing beautiful, hand-crafted offerings.

The flower box signaled care and commitment, telling signs, to the larger story…

Last year, Rockaway resident Nicole Dubensky opened Kismet. A cozy shop with a selection of curated maker items – jewelry, stones, candles, ceramics, hand-drawn note cards, purses, and other bespoke items. Jewelry is the focal point of the boutique. The line featured is Sweetpeas & Gypsies, handmade by Nicole. The front-facing space is retail. The back half is Nicole’s silversmith studio where she welds silver and gold, some embellished with stones and all creatively made with intention and devotion. The open layout provides a unique peek into the process of jewelry-making, where you can envision the pieces from inception to showroom.

Kismet is women-owned and operated by Rockaway resident Nicole Dubensky. Support her artistry and our other local businesses on Small Business Saturday, Nov.24.

After Nicole Dubensky completed her studies at SUNY Cortland in 2010, she discovered her passion for silversmithing upon relocating to Puerto Rico. It was a time to reflect on her next steps. Those steps lead her to the shoreline, where she’d comb the beaches collecting shells and sea glass. Nicole found inspiration in the nature surrounding her and in the rich culture of artisans she befriended in Puerto Rico. Nicole began exploring the art of jewelry-making, using the shells and stones she collected from her daily beach walks. Before long, she became consumed by the possibilities of creative expression. During her returns to Rockaway, compliments poured in from friends, family, and colleagues who admired the jewelry she made and wore. In response to the growing interest, Nicole’s life path and vision became clear. It was Kismet.

Join Nicole on Small Business Saturday (Nov. 25) for Kismet’s One Year Anniversary Party and an intimate, personal shopping experience. Products not to miss at this sip and shop event: a new selection of 14k gold jewelry, giftables: local artisan-made candles, knits, soaps, and luxury hair and skin care items. Nicole will be happy to answer questions about her craft and Kismet’s new custom order service for special occasions. Trending now is permanent jewelry. Find out more about that offering on Saturday and sign up for workshops at the studio.

Shopping small is vital to Rockaway’s economic growth. Supporting our independent businesses contributes directly to our neighborhood’s prosperity and maintains our unique and diverse artist culture. Please consider this as you make purchases this holiday season.

Kismet is located at, 90-20 Rockaway Beach Blvd. Shop hours: Thursday- Sunday 11am-6pm. Follow Kismet on Instagram to keep up-to-date on new products and workshops – @kismet_rockaway. Visit the website for more information and online shopping:



tagged in community, rockaway

Stuffed Pumpkin with Alpine Cheese and Bread

This recipe popped up on my Instagram feed and I wanted to share it with you. The stuffed Pumpkin is delicious and will be perfect on your Thanksgiving table next week! The rich, nutty cheese flavor infuses with the sweet pumpkin. The cheese melts into the tender pumpkin and forms a creamy texture. I added a hint of hot pepper for a jolt. The result: a warm, tasty comfort food that will serve as an impressive appetizer for your family and friends.

A stunning centerpiece on your Thanksgiving table, the stuffed pumpkin with Alpine cheese is a delicious blend of nutty richness and seasonal warmth.

Which cheeses are alpine? They are a diverse grouping from mountainous regions of Europe. Varieties include gruyère, emmental, comté, taleggio, swiss and raclette. Alpine has a long history dating back centuries, rooted in the traditional practices of alpine communities where cheese-making served as a crucial means of preserving surplus milk. These cheeses are crafted with attention to detail and benefit from the high-altitude alpine vegetation and flora. This creates their distinctive, robust taste – nuttiness, earthiness, and a touch of sweetness.

Makes 2 stuffed pumpkins

2 sugar pumpkins
½ loaf semolina bread (or preferred bread)
2 cups, cubed alpine cheese
2 tablespoons butter, more for coating pumpkin and baking sheet
1 3/4 cup creme fraiche or substitute with sour cream
1 tablespoon nutmeg
½ tablespoon or more, hot pepper flakes
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

FYI Lisena Garden Center (125 Cross Bay Blvd.) has sweet pumpkins for a sweet price!


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and adjust the oven racks if needed. With a sharp knife, cut the top of the pumpkin off, as if you were making a jack o’lantern. Then  scoop out the seeds. Save the seeds for toasting. Salt the inside of the pumpkin. Lightly coat the pumpkin and baking sheet with butter. Roast for 25 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, cut the cheese and bread into half inch cubes. In a bowl combine the bread, cheese and spices with the creme fraiche, mix.
  3. Remove the half-baked pumpkins. Keep the oven on. Let the pumpkins cool a little until you can handle them. Stuff the pumpkin and put them back in the oven without tops for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Transfer to a plate and serve hot!