Sunday, October 21, 2007

My Food Will Kill You

Today's New York Times has a bittersweet article about New York "kosher-style" delicatessens, a restaurant genre that refuses to die. Those of us who grew up in New York (or any major American city) during or before the 1970's will remember the wonderful food you could get at these places: chopped liver, pickled herring, smoked whitefish, matzoh-ball soup, overstuffed pastrami sandwiches, kishka, and (non-dairy) noodle kugel for dessert. (The only thing I refused to try was tongue.) With all the NIH-grant-motivated food fascism we get these days, it's nice to be reminded of a time when people ate great-tasting, skillfully-prepared food for the deep pleasure and cultural continuity it provided. Levine's Deli, in the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx, was where my family would go when we visited my grandmother. Levine's was supposedly burned down by a boxer over a love triangle – a classic Bronx story. If you didn't finish your meal, one of the ancient waiters who worked there would inevitably ask, "Whassa matta? Ya didn' like it?"

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