Save the Deli

Matzo Balls by the Dozen at Kenny and Ziggy’s

In the whole world of Ashkenazi cuisine and deli foods there’s nothing I love more than matzo ball soup. Last year, as I drove around the United States, eating at delis coast to coast, I ate a lot of things. Usually I took several bites and moved on, careful not to fill up on pastrami, corned beef, knishes, Reubens, brisket, cabbage rolls, etc… But I always had time for matzo ball soup. It was the one thing I never tired of, and often the most enjoyable part of any deli meal. This must go back to childhood memories, or simply feelings of comfort, but at the end of it, matzo balls are just great in my opinion, and I feel like I could eat them endlessly.

Image courtesy of the Jewish Herald Voice

Well…to an extent. Today I received an email from my friend Ziggy Gruber, the owner of Houston’s Kenny and Ziggy’s about a truly monumental feat of matzo ball consumption. As a fundraiser for the Marvin Zindler Cancer Fund, Ziggy put on a matzo ball eating contest, officially sanctioned by the International Federation of Competitive Eaters. Marvin Zindler, a noted Jewish TV personality in Houston, passed away last year from pancreatic cancer. The event was modeled on a previous one at Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen in New York, and basically featured a long table, a shitload of matzo balls, and some fiercely competitive and surprisingly skinny eaters.

World champion eater Joey Chestnut beat out his nearest rival, Pat Bertoletti, by a tally of 78 to 76 in just eight minutes. I’ve had Ziggy’s matzo balls and they are not only delicious, but substantial. The thought of downing 78 is insane, but perhaps this is my future after all. The event was a huge success, no one threw up, and Ziggy promises to bring it back next year. Gluttony for a good cause! Now that’s what deli’s all about.

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