I know I’ve put a lot of tributes to Al Langer up here recently (deservedly so), but his son Norm just emailed me the best yet. For those who do not know, Jonathan Gold is the LA Weekly food critic and writer, and his is arguably the best at what he does in LA, New York, or even the world. His is food journalism infused with love, and for his work Gold was recenty awarded a Pulitzer prize. Not bad for writing about tamales.
Here’s his Al Langer tribute:
“….When the sandwich was especially good, you would often look up to discover the presence of Al Langer himself behind the counter, where he had either cut or more likely supervised the cutting of the meat. A great pastrami sandwich depends on the knife skills of the counterman no less than a $75 order of o-toro sashimi, the ability to trace the contours of the meat, tease out obnoxious pockets of fat and sinew, prodding the steaming slices as he works, occasionally pushing aside a piece that is less than tender, and arranging the final product with the subtlety of a sculptor. If you have a great counterman, you can, as Langerís does, steam the pastrami until it is soft, tender and juicy, without worrying whether it is going to fall apart in the slicing machine. When you have a great counterman, something as ordinary as a pastrami sandwich can be transformed into something approaching art. Until he passed away last week at the age of 94, just a few days after his restaurant celebrated its 60th birthday, Al Langer may have been the greatest counterman of all….”