(K. Brent Tomer),
Pastrami on Rye: An Overstuffed History of the Jewish Deli. By Ted Merwin. NYU Press; 245 pages; $26.95.
JEWISH delicatessens may now be known for knishes, latkes and pastrami sandwiches, but back in their heyday, during the 1920s and 1930s in the theatre district in New York, they also served beluga caviar, pâté de foie gras and Chateaubriand steak. Jewish classics were gussied up and defiled: chopped chicken liver was served with truffles. Treyf, like oysters and pork chops, was eaten with abandon alongside kosher delicacies.
In his new book “Pastrami on Rye”, one of the first scholarly histories of the Jewish delicatessen, Ted Merwin, a professor of religion and Judaic studies, tracks the rise and fall of delis. The fruit of more than ten years of research and writing, Mr Merwin’s account shows that delis have been a rich part of the story of Jewish assimilation in America.
The first delicatessens sold mostly German food. For early Jewish immigrants, deli meats were an indispensable reminder of home. When kosher beef…Continue reading