Happy “Special” Birthday Ruth Wilensky
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Yesterday I wrote about a great deli man. Today, I’ll toast a great Deli Woman. Possibly the greatest of all.
Tomorrow, Oct 3rd, Ruth Wilensky, of Montreal’s venerable Wilensky’s Light Lunch, has a very significant birthday. How significant? So significant I have sworn not to reveal the number, but let’s say it ends in a 0 and most of us only dream of getting there. So happy birthday to you Ruth!
Her husband Moe Wilensky opened their small corner store, barbershop, and delicatessen in 1932 (when Ruth was just 13), at the height of the Great Depression. Moe invented a “special” sandwich as a way of bringing in extra business. It features two slices each of six kinds of beef salami, and one slice of bologna, and pressed them on a sandwich griddle, then slid them into a cornmeal dusted pletzl, spread with mustard, and pressed it all together. The result was something so crisp, greasy, and perfect that the Wilensky’s eventually abandoned the barber shop, the salads, eggs, and other foods and focused exclusively on Specials. Since then, pretty much nothing has changed. You can read more about it here.
Moe Wilensky died of cancer 25 years ago, but Ruth just kept on doing things the same way at Wilensky’s, with her son Asher, her daughter Sharon, and her late son Bernard, who passed a few years. If you go to Wilensky’s today, Ruth will likely be there, making your sandwich, making sure you don’t linger, clearing the counter or just sitting there, peacefully…that is unless you dare ask for no mustard or some ridiculous request. She’s a woman of few words, but those she speaks count, and her uncompromising way is what’s undoubtedly preserved Wilensky’s as a delicious shrine to simple deli in Montreal.
And so Ruth, we salute you! You are a real maven of deli and the queen of all Deli Women out there. Mazel tov. May you live to see 100 more years.
Wilensky Light Lunch
34 avenue Fairmount Ouest
Montréal, QC H2T 2M1, Canada
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