Anatomy of a Pastrami Sandwich

Interesting report on a recent panel discussion in Berkeley: will the Jewish deli survive the sustainable food movement?

One critical historical note courtesy of Karen Adelman and Peter Levitt (owners of a Bay Area deli that uses local, grass-fed meat, fish from sustainable farms and homemade celery soda) :

What American Jews think of as the authentic Jewish deli is an ossified construct based on post-World War II ideals of abundance that had little to do with how Jews ate in early 20th-century New York, let alone in the Old World.

That mile-high, fatty pastrami sandwich served at Katz’s or the Carnegie Deli? American, not Jewish, they say. Jewish cooking a century ago was all about thrift, seasonality and resourcefulness. Every part of the animal was used; portions were small; tomatoes were served in summer and beets in winter.

Today’s customers want everything on the menu year-round; if they don’t get it, Levitt said, “they complain it isn’t a ‘real’ Jewish deli.”

“‘Authentic’ is a moving target,” Adelman added, pointing out how Jewish cuisine in this country has developed with each new immigration wave. “What we’re arguing is, we’re more authentic. What’s authentic about mass-produced food and giant menus?”

Click here to consume the full article

4 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Pastrami Sandwich

  1. OK, I read the whole article. That should be our biggest worry. And, do we have a “Jewish deli”? I don’t think so. We do have The Bagel, but that’s hardly a deli. Then there’s Kaufman’s, but it doesn’t have table service. I think Judaism will survive without the East Coast model of a deli.

  2. Wow. That giant close-up of a pastrami sandwich…doesn’t make me rethink my vegetarianism at all. But to each his own.

    One of these days we should really banish the word ‘authenticity’ from our collective vocabulary. It’s a paradox at best.

  3. Okay Brant…at last you have gone too far. Don’t even THINK of taking away my pastrami! What the hell do you think I converted for?

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