Interesting report on a recent panel discussion in Berkeley: will the Jewish deli survive the sustainable food movement?
One critical historical note courtesy of Karen Adelman and Peter Levitt (owners of a Bay Area deli that uses local, grass-fed meat, fish from sustainable farms and homemade celery soda) :
What American Jews think of as the authentic Jewish deli is an ossified construct based on post-World War II ideals of abundance that had little to do with how Jews ate in early 20th-century New York, let alone in the Old World.
That mile-high, fatty pastrami sandwich served at Katz’s or the Carnegie Deli? American, not Jewish, they say. Jewish cooking a century ago was all about thrift, seasonality and resourcefulness. Every part of the animal was used; portions were small; tomatoes were served in summer and beets in winter.
Today’s customers want everything on the menu year-round; if they don’t get it, Levitt said, “they complain it isn’t a ‘real’ Jewish deli.”
“‘Authentic’ is a moving target,” Adelman added, pointing out how Jewish cuisine in this country has developed with each new immigration wave. “What we’re arguing is, we’re more authentic. What’s authentic about mass-produced food and giant menus?”
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