Save the Deli

Saul’s debates deli’s future, an ode to my deli porn, and the bacon files

Lots to talk about today in a week’s end roundup of press and other happenings.

First, if you’re in the Bay Area next tuesday, check out the killer debate Saul’s is putting on in Berkeley. Titled “Can a retro cuisine be part of the avant-garde?”, the debate on the deli menu will tackle issues like sustainability, portion size, and tradition in an event that’s so very very Berkeley, even Michael Pollan is part of the panel.

There’s a great New York Times story about it (I’m briefly quoted), and it’s worth checking out to have your say. Says the Times:

“If there’s one dining experience above others which is pregnant with expectations, it’s the Jewish deli. The pastrami sandwich had better be so large you can barely get your teeth into it. The blintzes had better taste like the ones your grandmother made.

The problem is that the deli menu many people regard as authentic, and which reached its heyday in the 1950s, is rooted in the industrial food system. Those towering pastrami sandwiches are typically created with factory-produced meat. The rye bread? Pasty and processed.

Should deli move beyond the large portions and nostalgic products that defined it for much of the 20th century? Are certain things too unhealthy to keep alive? Should we focus on local, vs stuff brought in from Brooklyn?

Referendum on the Deli Menu (with Michael Pollan, Evan Kleinman, Willow Rosenthal, and Gil Friend)
Time: Tuesday, Feb. 9, 6:30 p.m. (snacks at 6)
Location: JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut (at Rose), Berkeley, (510) 848-0237
Tickets: $9.99 in advance, $15 at the door; proceeds go to the Center for Ecoliteracy.

Next, you should check out this great review/essay on Save the Deli (the book) by Renee Ghert-Zand, on her blog Truth, Praise and Help. In it, she delves into the almost erotic language I use to describe the deli experience…food porn of the most nitty gritty level.

Save the Deli, Canadian author David Sax’s pean to traditional Jewish European cuisine, is essentially deli porn. Porn in the literary sense, since there aren’t any close up color photos of the food in the book. One would be hard pressed to use any other term, what with Sax describing or referring to menu items throughout the book with exclamations such as:

” But the other was an artery-slaying taste sensation. The outer layer of crisp, oily skin gave way to a creamy membrane of sweet fat, which bathed the smooth, earthy liver in an undercurrent of richness that was almost unfathomable.” (Stuffed goose necks)

“Chunky, with a bubbly, almost champagne consistency, fat hunks of garlic, eggs, and flakes of flesh greeted my mouth as I watched Jeremy inhale his piece.” (P’tcha)

And finally, what more could we ask for to top off a controversy filled day, than an article on Jewish cooks incorporating bacon into their dishes. This one comes from Tablet, the online Jewish magazine, that’s consistently impressing me with its examinations of Jewish culture. Here’s a taste from High on the Hog:

Utopia Bagels in Queens is known for its bacon-flecked egg bagel. In Manhattan, the restaurant JoeDoe boasts a sandwich called the “Conflicted Jew”—a concoction made with a bacon, challah and chopped liver. During Hanukkah, the website YumSugar suggested frying latkes in bacon fat. And, last year Top Chef winner Ilan Hall opened his Los Angeles restaurant, The Gorbals, and made a splash with bacon-wrapped matzo balls, pork belly braised in Manischewitz, and Israeli couscous pudding with bacon brittle.

You can read where I stand on the issue in the bottom. While I’m in no way kosher, or even kosher style, and eat a decent quantity of treyf on a daily basis, I stand firmly against incorporating bacon into traditional Jewish food. I find it gimmicky, which is why I’ve challenged several of New York’s top chefs to cook a deli dinner at the James Beard House on march 15th…adhering to the laws of kosher style all the way. It’s called A Schmaltz to Remember, and there’s more info here.

Now I’m off for lunch: pastrami, rye, mustard, and scallops

Just kidding.

5 Responses to “Saul’s debates deli’s future, an ode to my deli porn, and the bacon files”

  1. aaron levy Says:

    Ms Renee Ghert-Zand should not be so proud to declare that neither is she kosher nor does she eat kosher style, and eats tryeyf. Nothing there to be proud of.

  2. Steve Says:

    Heard an interesting interview along these lines yesterday in an unlikely place. Eli Kirshtein, Top Chef contestant and chef at Solo, a haute kosher restaurant in NYC, was discussing Super Bowl eats on the morning sports show on Sirius/XM’s Mad Dog Radio. It turns out that he confesses to being a total pork lover in his personal cooking and dining, despite adhering strictly to Kashruth professionally.

    I keep a kosher home, but am pretty omnivorous outside (yes, it’s hypocritcal to many). Personally, I like shellfish, but not pork. That being said, I firmly believe that traditional Jewish food (and celebrations) should respect the spirit of kasruth, if not the rules.

    Quite simply, it can’t be traditional Jewish food if it uses treyf ingredients.

  3. Anthony Silverbrow Says:

    So is that dinner going to be kosher, using kosher meat etc or just adhering to kashrut laws? Am v tempted to jump on a plane and come over.

  4. Pastramiking Says:

    event is sold out =(

  5. Michale Faustino Says:

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