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Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessenby David Sax
Synopses & Reviews
"With insight, passion, and a digestive system at which one can only marvel, Sax peers between the layers of a pastrami sandwich and glimpses the evolution of Jewish community and identity." Roger Bennett, author of Bar Mitzvah Disco
As a journalist and life-long deli obsessive, David Sax was understandably alarmed by the state of Jewish delicatessen. A cuisine that had once thrived as the very center of Jewish life had become endangered by assimilation, homogenization, and health food trends. He watched in dismay as one beloved deli after another—one institution after another—shuttered, only to be reopened as some bland chain-restaurant laying claim to the very culture it just paved over.
And so David set out on a journey across the United States and around the world in search of authentic delicatessen. Was it still possible to Save the Deli?
Join David as he investigates everything deli-- its history, its diaspora, its next generation. He tells about the food itself—how its made, who makes it best, and where to go for particular dishes. And, ultimately, he finds is hope-- deli newly and lovingly made in places like Boulder, traditions maintained in Montreal, and iconic institutions like the 2nd Avenue Deli resurrected in New York.
So grab a pastrami on rye and sit down for a great read-- because Save the Deli is an energetic cultural history of Jewish food, a vibrant travelogue, and a rallying cry for a new generation of food lovers.
"'This is a book about Jewish food,' Sax's prologue reminds, 'and it would be a shame to read it on an empty stomach.' It's true; just a few chapters in, and you'll find yourself hungry for hot pastrami sandwiches, matzo ball soup, maybe even ready to try some gribenes (chicken skin fried in chicken fat). As freelance writer Sax explains, however, it's getting harder and harder for even the best delicatessens to stay open; the profit margins on sandwiches are atrocious, and young Jewish families tend not to embrace the food the way their ancestors did. Still, Sax has found a few truly outstanding delis, and not just in New York City — joyful moments in this otherwise elegiac travelogue come with the discovery of delicious schmaltz in Colorado, or the legendary smoked meats of Montreal. Along the way, he interviews deli owners, meat cutters and customers, digging deep into local histories wherever he visits. The well-crafted portraits don't string together perfectly, but individual chapters shine — such as the passages on the death and rebirth of Manhattan's Second Avenue Deli or the disappointment of Poland's attempts to reinvigorate a Jewish culture almost obliterated by the Holocaust. A helpful appendix includes addresses of all the delis Sax discusses and then some; readers in the right cities are sure to start planning visits straight away." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
As a journalist and life-long deli obsessive, Sax was understandably alarmed that the Jewish delicatessen had become endangered by assimilation and health food trends. The author sets out on a journey across the U.S. and around the world in search of authentic delicatessen.
The story of the Jewish deli follows the story of the Jewish diaspora. But delis and their food have fallen dramatically in number and quality over the past few decades. David Sax set out on a mission to find out why--and whether there is any hope to SAVE THE DELI.
Praise for Save the Deli
"Part elegy, part lament, part rallying cry for a generation whose nitrate levels are already dangerously low, Save the Deli is an unparalleled look at the past, present and possible future of the pastrami, corned beef, smoked meat, kishka and cabbage rolls that have given generations the strength to kvetch and a reason to do so." Michael Wex, author of Born to Kvetch
"A voluptuous mitzvah for schmaltzophiles, Save the Deli also is a singularly practical guide to the best delis from coast to coast and around the world." — Jane and Michael Stern, authors of Roadfood
"What if they gave a pastrami on rye and nobody came? Unthinkable? That's what you think. David Sax knows better, and traces the history of the deli-- its arrival, its rise, its potential fall, its possible salvation-- with passion, humor, chutzpah, and tam. Enjoy." — Ellis Weiner, author of Yiddish with Dick and Jane
"The kid knows how to eat and he knows how to write. You can't ask for more than that, although a glass of cream soda is always nice." —Alan Richman, author of Fork It Over: The Intrepid Adventures of a Professional Eater
David Sax's delightful travelogue is a journey across the United States and around the world that investigates the history, the diaspora, and the next generation of delicatessen.
David Sax was alarmed by the state of Jewish delicatessen. As a journalist and lifelong deli lover, he watched in dismay as one beloved deli after another closed its doors, only to be reopened as some bland chain restaurant laying claim to the cuisine it just paved over. Was it still possible to save the deli? He writes about the food itself—how its made, who makes it best, and where to go for particular dishes—and, ultimately, what he finds is hope: deli newly and lovingly made in places like Boulder, Colorado, longstanding deli traditions thriving in Montreal, and the resurrection of iconic institutions like New York's 2nd Avenue Deli. No cultural history of food has ever tasted so good.
About the Author
David Sax is a writer and journalist whose work has appeared in publications such as New York, GQ, Conde Nast Traveler, Rolling Stone, Wine Spectator, and The New Republic. He has written on everything from food, travel, and drink, to culture and politics. Sax has lived in Toronto, Buenos Aires, and Rio de Janeiro; he travels regularly and is always on the lookout for good deli. He lives in Brooklyn.
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