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The deli is American Jewish tradition. In American Jewish tradition, all Jews come from Europe. That’s the only place Jews come from. Deli is the only true Jewish food. Even turkey-pastrami has a certain amount of guilt that it feels from the time it was cut from the body and cured.
Ever since Jewish life opened to other countries, people started eating falafel and shwarma, and wraps. Now there are smokehouses, threatening the existence of delis. Shame on the Jewish people, giving up salt for smoke. When I went to New York to find they were serving sushi at what was my favorite deli, I knew Jewish life was ruined forever. Now nothing is Jewish anymore.
I am here to remind you some of the reasons why we, American born Jews of tradition, love the deli.
It's as close a smell as you can get to socks that have been through a marathon in the rain and then ran in again, and then left in the room with the windows down. Yet, it still smells so good. It is the closest you can get to a stench that is unbearable, and yet it's so appetizing. Which makes me ask why I still do laundry.
It Is Jewish
Every deli reminds a Jew of the Lower East Side. Jews came from Europe and this is the food they took on the ship with them. The pickling connects us to that tradition, as any pickling process done right can keep the food fresh for well over a century. That is where the deli smell is from; Europe, a hundred years ago.
Salami That Hangs
Salami doesn’t smell that bad. But you leave it hanging for two years, something is going to come of that.
Pictures of Random Immigrants
A picture of a guy pushing a wagon in the Lower East Side of New York, in the early 1920s, that every deli owner is related to. And then another picture of a guy standing behind a counter, whose face we can barely see behind the hanging salami. These two pictures unite every deli. Whoever the ancestor in that picture is that every person who opens a deli is related to, it is tradition. I love it.
The Tiled Floor
A restaurant that smells pickled, with a checkered floor that looks like a 1950s washroom. Décor does not get better than that. Love it.
Carpet that Hasn’t Been Cleaned
If you don’t have the bathroom tiles, it’s decked out in speckled red and blue carpet that looks maroon. This way, we cannot tell how much kishka, stuffed-derma, gravy has spilled on it. I love the thriftiness of not needing somebody to clean the place. I love the smell of hanging salami and cured beef brought from Europe in 1910. I love pictures of random immigrants from Time Magazine that look like family.
There is more to this Ode. I will continue next week with more to love, like Batampte pickles and Mother's, a brand that is named after my mom.
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My kids take after me. Due to Kibud Av vEim, they always let me take first.
You get it? ‘Take after me' means to be like their dad. Instead, they let their dad fill his plate first, as per the Mitzvah to honor parents. Very good kids. If we can have a positive influence on the next generation with our puns, that is the blessing.
Giving Tzedakah, I like to know where the charity is going. That charity box in the front is for kids who need help with their artwork.