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L.A. continues to champion the Jewish deli

DeliLos Angeles may be one of the few places that’s not losing its authentic Jewish delis, says the author of the book “America’s Great Delis.”

Across the country, Jewish delis are dying out, says Sheryll Bellman. One reason might be that the foods that made them so appealing are available in grocery stores and many other places today -– pastrami at Carl's Jr., bagels at McDonalds –- “not good ones, but bagels,” the author said.

Jewish delis served a specific purpose for the more than 2 million Eastern European Jews who came to the United States from 1881 to 1924, she says.

“The Jews that came from Eastern Europe needed a place to eat the foods they had been used to in their country," Bellman said. "It’s more than a restaurant, It’s a very homey, comforting situation.”

The foods that soothed the immigrant’s soul included pastrami, of course, and Bellman says L.A.’s Langer’s Deli makes the best. But delis also should offer corned beef, pickles, coleslaw, blintzes -– and surly waiters to bring them, she says.

Although every deli has its particular charms, Bellman says, “Canter’s in L.A. is the quintessential New York deli. … It looks like it used to look. It smells the same.”

Bellman, who lives in New York but has spent a lot of time on the West Coast, is scheduled to talk about the world of delis at the Jewish Book Festival on Saturday evening at Temple Beth Israel in Pomona.

Her book, published by Sellers Publishing Inc., includes a timeline of delis and recipes -– cheese blintzes from Barney Greengrass and honey cake from Katz’s Delicatessen, both in New York; smoked whitefish salad from Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Mich., and mushroom barley soup from Langer’s Deli in Los Angeles. Click here to try out one from Zingerman's.

The opening-night Jewish book fest event featuring Bellman is $18 in advance, $20 at the door and includes a reception with deli fare. For reservations and more information about the book festival, call 626-445-0810.

-- Mary MacVean

Image: Book cover, Katz's Deli photo courtesy of Katz's Deli and Yura Dashevsky; pastrami sandwich by Jennifer Andal / Stockphoto; Russ and Daughters courtesy Joshua Tupper / Sellers Publishing

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