It should surprise no one who’s ever watched ABC’s The Goldbergs that the real Beverly Goldberg is riding out the coronavirus pandemic with “two ka-jumbo bags of cheese” in her freezer.
The mother of Goldbergs creator Adam F. Goldberg, whose comedy about his 1980s boyhood in Jenkintown is in its seventh season, is also the author, with Jenn Fujikawa, of The Goldbergs Cookbook (Universe, $19.95) for which Adam wrote the epilogue.
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The just-released collection features dishes made famous on the show, where the character of Beverly is played by Wendi McLendon-Covey. It includes recipes for all the Goldberg “parms” — cod, crab, eggplant, and, of course, “Bev’s World-Class Shrimp Parm.”
“I’m going to go down in history for my shrimp parm,” Goldberg said in a phone interview from Florida, where her usual six months a year has been extended as she and her husband, Stan, wait until it’s safe to head north to the home in Ventnor where they spend the warmer months. (Her first husband, Dr. Murray Goldberg — portrayed on the show by Jeff Garlin — died in 2008.)
And, yes, she knows what you might be thinking about the shrimp.
When she married Murray in 1964, she knew he had a grandfather who’d hoped he’d become a rabbi. "I said, ‘Do you want me to keep kosher in the house?’ And he said, ‘I like shrimp,’ ” she recalled, laughing. “So I did have shrimp in the house. Not so much pork. And my husband now loves pork, by the way, pork chops.”
As for the bags of cheese, “I was supposed to do these two dinner parties, one in March and one in April,” she said, for 12 to 14 friends each. “So I counted up. I have enough food in my freezer and pantry for 60 meals.”
It might not be the best time to be promoting a new book ("I was all set to do Barnes and Nobles here in Florida, which got canceled”), but it’s a great time to be talking about cooking and baking, which Goldberg said she’s hearing about from friends she’s never known to lift a finger in the kitchen.
“I am here in Florida at a club where all these girls are … like prima donnas. They don’t wash floors, they don’t clean, they don’t cook. One of my friends said yesterday, ‘I scrubbed my bathroom floor after I cooked a chicken.’ I said, ‘Oh my God, hell has frozen over. I never thought I would live to hear you say those words, I cooked a chicken."
Is Goldberg herself doing much baking?
“Well, I’ve been on a diet,” she said. "But I do have in my freezer four banana cakes, just waiting for when my husband says, ‘I feel like a piece of banana cake tonight.’ ”
Her recipe for banana cake was renamed in the book “Bev’s Bananas Banana Bread,” but it is, she insisted, a cake. “I don’t know where they got bread from. It said in big letters when I gave them my recipe — and it is my recipe — cake. It is not a bread. The only thing is that sometimes you can have a slice of it in the morning instead of bread.”
If it sounds as if the sitcom Beverly, “smother” of three, and the real one (also with three, but all boys) might not be so far apart, that’s because they’re not. Goldberg herself estimates that “95% of [The Goldbergs] is based on real things that happened.”
And on things that continue to happen. After she staged an unsuccessful auction two years ago that included her late husband’s chair and a red velvet love seat, it became an episode the following season.
When it didn’t sell, “I actually mailed out to them that red velvet sofa that was in my parents’ living room and then mine, and I had it down the Shore in the spare bedroom. … One of my friends called me and said, ‘I just saw that sofa on television,’ " said Goldberg, who over the years has helped dress The Goldbergs’ set.
When she was moving from Jenkintown down to the Shore, “I was overwhelmed with all the schmatta,” and “threw it in boxes” and moved them, she said. When she offered some of her 1980s sweaters to Adam, he told her to send them out.
“Then it got to the point I was sending even sheets and blankets and they put them on the beds. I get a kick out of it.”
She said it can be hard when people who don’t know her make assumptions based on how she’s portrayed by McLendon-Covey, but she loves the actress and her performance. "Those people that know me pretty well know it’s pretty close, the characterization. I did march into school all the time — that was me,” she said.
"Barry [her middle son, portrayed on the show by Troy Gentile] makes fun of me. He says, ‘Mom, it’s a good version of you. You weren’t so good.’ ”
“Adam tells me he Disney-fied me, that it’s a better version than I really am. Which is nice to hear from your children,” she said, laughing. “My comment to him was, ‘I want to be a fly on the wall 40 years from now and hear what your children say about you.’ ”
Complaints notwithstanding, Beverly and Murray Goldberg raised three successful sons. Barry and Eric (transformed through the magic of television into Erica, who’s played by Hayley Orrantia) are doctors. Her youngest, Adam, has two shows on ABC — the Goldbergs’ 1990-set spin-off, Schooled, is based on his teachers at Penn Charter — and last year signed a big new deal with ABC Studios.
He has yet to make the show she pitched to him about 10 years ago, before she fell for and married Stan, who’d also been widowed.
After Murray died, “I did not date at all for two years. All I did was bake. ... It was therapeutic for me. And then I started to date. And, you know I got married at 20. And I met Murray at 18. I mean, I hadn’t been out in the dating market forever,” she said.
"I called Adam up and, and I said, ‘I have a fabulous idea for a TV show for you. Your mother’s on JDate and Match. She’s dating all these losers.’
“So he said, ‘Mom, read my lips. I will never write a TV show about you,' ” she said, laughing. "He said, ‘I am not ready to let you loose on America.’ ”
1 pound (16 to 20 count) large shrimp, cleaned and deveined
1 cup whole milk
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
1 (24-ounce) jar pasta sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch pan with nonstick spray.
Place the cleaned shrimp into a bowl with the milk. Set aside.
In a shallow dish, whisk together the bread crumbs, flour, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
Remove the shrimp from the milk and dredge them in the breading.
In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 inches of oil, and fry the shrimp until golden brown. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
Pour half the sauce into the prepared pan, then layer the shrimp and half the mozzarella cheese.
Pour over the rest of the sauce and add the remaining mozzarella cheese.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top to serve.