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Book review: 'Save the Deli' by David Sax

November 10, 2009 |  8:10 am

Langers
The wandering of the Jews is frozen in the marble of the corned beef on rye. The fall of the Temple, the exile, life in the ghetto, reliance on the cheapest meat and the ensuing need to tenderize and smoke and spice, the crossing to the New World -- it all culminates in the towering sandwich you find at the Carnegie in New York, Junior's in L.A., Manny's in Chicago. Every deli is a synagogue. What remained when the kingdom was smashed and the faithful sent a-wandering.

In his deeply satisfying new book "Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen," David Sax sets out to tell this story one city, one deli, one tradition at a time, traveling from New York to San Francisco to Los Angeles, speaking to deli men, eating smoked meat, working as a cutter at Katz's on Houston Street ("Like snowflakes, no two pastramis are exactly alike, sometimes the flesh would be buttery soft, with very few sinews to impede my carving, but often I'd cut through a maze of tissue"), tasting and kvetching and chronicling the state of the cuisine, all this activity set against a dread premonition -- that the deli is going away, and the long run is over. "Across North America ... Jewish delicatessens are disappearing faster than chicken fingers at a bar mitzvah buffet," he writes. Read the rest of the review here:

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