Save the Deli

Tribute to a Deli Lover


A lot of you have probably been wondering where I’ve been for the past month and a half. Unfortunately, my father in law was quite sick and passed away just over a week ago. Now that I’ve emerged from the mountain of babka and bagels we call “shiva week”, I wanted to pay tribute to him briefly here.

Howard Malach was a deli lover to the core. He grew up with Moe Pancer’s and others in north Toronto, and spread his love to Center Street, Caplansky’s, 2nd Ave Deli, Schwartz’s, Ben’s, and many more. He loved to fress. I’ll always remember him, oohing and ahhing over the chopped liver at the 2nd Ave Deli a few years ago, as How and my brother in law and I feasted one shabbat.

My relationship with Howard really blossomed at the end, but before that, we could always communicate through food and deli. He was there at the launch parties for Save the Deli in New York and Toronto, video camera in one hand, a sandwich or latke in the other.

In the past month of his life, as eating became a minor miracle, it broke my heart when he’d light up at something I brought him. In Florida, where he spent the winter, he was living on a very restricted diet, and had no appetite, when we went to a deli for a talk I was giving. “I’m just going to take a bit of coleslaw, for a shmeck,” he said, but as soon as he hit the buffet, his plate started filling with corned beef, pastrami, pickles, and potato salad. He tore into that sandwich, the last he’d ever devour, with a huge grin on his face (see pic above).

Less than two weeks later he was in the hospital, in much worse shape. After a week on fluids and pudding, he turned to me and asked for some real food “something to shmeck, to smell, even if I don’t eat it”. Over the next few days I ran out and got him everything he desired: cheeseburgers, milkshakes, Caplansky’s smoked meat poutine, whipped cream. One thing that remained constant was Vernor’s Ginger Ale, a deli staple to those in the Toronto-Detroit corridor. By his last two weeks, Vernor’s was all he ate. The bubbles felt good, it has a bracing, powerful flavor, but partially I think it also brought him back to the deli, to a place of love and safety and comfort, a taste of home.

Deli lovers, wherever you are, do How the honor, and pour out a Vernor’s for one of your own. We’ll miss you.

36 Responses to “Tribute to a Deli Lover”

  1. Sy Ginsberg Says:

    Dear David,
    I’ve got a Vernors in my hand, and a fond memory of Mr.Malach in my mind from when I met him at the NYC book launch. Heartfelt condolences to you, your wife and the Malach family.
    Sincerely, Sy and Joan Ginsberg

  2. ken from kenny and zuke's Says:

    Sounds like a lovely man, and a fitting tribute. I regret not having been able to meet him and serve him some pastrami.

  3. Larry Kerman Says:

    So sorry; I was wondering if you had retired; what a shame; it’s only worth living when you can enjoy the food you love!

  4. Empire State Deli, West Palm Beach Says:

    Dear David,
    These type of guys come from an awesome generation, I dig b s ing with them at my Deli.

    I salute you and your wife for catering to Howard’s needs and request.

    Rich Hardy

  5. Eric Riback Says:

    A lovely story and great picture. How I’d like to be remembered. I remember my parents talking about discovering Vernor’s when they traveled the midwest in the carnival in 1936, but at the time it wasn’t available in New York. I hope to go out enjoying a Dr. Brown’s Cream.

  6. Phil Raimi Says:

    Your father-in-law sounds like someone I would have LOVED to fress with! He sounded like a wonderful man and your description of Vernor’s and the “Toronto-Detroit Deli Corridor” brought a huge smile to my face! I grew up in Detroit but moved to San Diego in my mid 20s and missed drinking Vernors for years until some of the grocery stores starting stocking it. That stuff has its own unique wonderful taste and effervescence – I can see why your father-in-law subsisted on it the last week of his wife. Its has a very comforting, warm, rich feeling on one’s palate. My sincere condolences to your family.

  7. Brooke Says:

    The first thing I am doing after reading this post is going to Corky & Lenny’s and ordering a Vernor’s and a Corned Beef on Latkes. All my love to you and Mal.


  8. Kylie Says:

    Dave, This is a beautiful tribute. Your warmth and closeness with Howard is so clear. Will go out and pour out a Vernorís. Much love to you, Lauren and your family. xo

  9. Ralph Says:

    So sorry for your family loss. While I do not care for Vernor’s, I will hoist a can of an appropriate soda in your Father-in-Laws honor the next time a deli is visited…

  10. Ziggy Gruber Says:

    David, even though I never had the pleasure to meet your father-in-law, he sounds like a great man.
    My deepest sympathy goes out to you, your wife and her family.

  11. Dustin- Food Guy Montreal Says:

    Sounds like a great man.
    My condolences to you and your family. I will have a Schwartz’s sandwich in his memory. Take care.

  12. Harry Kluger Says:


    You and your family have my condolences.


  13. Sharon Rosen Says:

    So sorry for your loss…my condolences to you and your family.

  14. Thomas Beck Says:

    That’s such a sweet, sad story. I’m very sorry to you and your family for your loss. Thanks for sharing this (do you also share sandwiches?)

  15. Zane Caplansky Says:

    The “Howard Jack” (chocolate babka French toast) will be a featured special starting this weekend. It was an honor to know and serve Howie. I still have some mustard he gave me. He was a source of loving kindness to all.

  16. David Sax Says:

    God bless you Caplansky.

  17. Teacher Lady Says:

    My heart goes out to you and your family. I wish I’d had the opportunity to meet Howard! At the end of his life, my father longed for something with “tam” and it warms me to know that Howard was able to enjoy that towering “shmeck” which had been so much of his history and his soul.

  18. Manny Blatt Says:

    Our condolences to you, Lauren, and your families. I’ll fress a giant pastrami and Vernor’s in his honour.

  19. Cary Chapnick Says:


    My condeolences to you and Lauren and families. A very fitting tribute and I hope you guys are doing the best one can do at such a tough time.

    I’ll have Vernor’s tonight in Howard’s honour.

  20. susan paul Says:

    I always enjoy reading your posts and this one is certainly no exception. What a loving tribute to a deli lovin man.

    My heartfelt condolences to you and your family. My plan is to make a reuben tonight for dinner with some cel-ray and think of your father-in-law.

  21. Dan Fost Says:

    I’m so sorry to hear it. Sounds like a real mensch and a real loss. I’ll see if I can get a Vernors in SF – if not, I’ll toast with Dr. Brown’s, or mix up an egg cream. My condolences.

  22. sharon lebewohl Says:

    My condolences to you and your family. I cried as I read it. Once my mother had to restrict her diet, life was never the same for her. Your tribute to your father in law made me feel as if I knew him.

  23. sharon lebewohl Says:

    My condolences to you and your family. I cried as I read your tribute. Once my mother had to restrict her diet, life was never the same for her. Your description of your father in law made me feel as if I knew him. He could have been part of my family.

  24. Aaron Levy Says:

    David and family,
    I did not have the pleasure of meeting or knowing your father-in-law. I know the real pleasure of eating good, kosher Deli as did your father-in-law. May he now rest in peace and that you and your family remember him always for both his love of kosher food and most important, his love of family. And if you have an off spring, the name of Howard Malach be carried on.

    aaron levy

  25. david Ouellet Says:

    Hi David, What a wonderful son-in-law you were. I’m proud to know you.

    I’m sure he is smiling down on you.

    My sincerest condolences.

    David Ouellet

  26. Mati Cooper Says:

    Thank you, David, for the sweet article and picture. I’m truly sorry for your loss. I definitely knew How as a fully present devourer of all that was good- from sandwich, to music and all else in between. The picture really says it all.

    May his memory be blessed,

    Mati Cooper

  27. M. David Epstein Says:

    My most sincere condolencers for your loss. I am sure that your special Howard, of blessed memory, is now enjoying a Kosher corned beef on rye in heaven with a Vernor’s and a knish.

  28. Darcie Richler Says:

    What a lovely tribute. Howie would have liked it. When my Zaidie was dying and would not eat, I snuck in Center St. Deli smoked meat and fries for him. Though he could not open his eyes, his hand found his mouth no problem. I have always liked to think that the comfort food of his youth/life made things a little easier at the end.

  29. Pastramiking Says:

    A lovely tribute – David.

  30. Bill Gomberg Says:

    Definitel;y a mensch after my own heart. Every time I chow down at Schwartz’s I’ll drink a toast to thiis lovely man with my Diey Pepsi. ( Sadly , I can’t find wonderful gold standard of gingerale Vernor’s in Montreal.

  31. Daniel Sax Says:

    Of kinder, gentler men there are few. “How” was a great man and it is an honor to have known him so well. May he live on in our hearts and in the big deli in the sky.

  32. Howard Weiss Says:

    David, that was a beautiful tribute and I certainly wish that i could have met him. He must have been so proud of you and how you have become the world’s foremost expert on delis. And thank you for your wonderful recommendations for our L.A. trip. They were perfect.

  33. Norene Gilletz Says:

    A beautiful tribute to your father-in-law. When my mom was very ill and we gathered around her bedside, corned beef and pastrami sandwiches were our ‘comfort food.’ My deepest sympathies. Treasure the memories.

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