I just finished reading an advanced copy of David Sax’s marvelous book, “Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen,” and now I can’t shake my hankering for my favorite food on earth. And just in time for Rosh Hashanah!
Sax makes for a marvelous tour guide through the highs and lows of Jewish deli, in North America and Europe. He’s got me desperate to make pilgrimmages to Los Angeles and Montreal, and happy that I live nowhere near Florida. I know my next trip to New York will feature a run to Katz’s – always mandatory anyway, but now even more so after the hilarious scene where Sax gets to work a shift at the counter, slicing meat with the pros.
Sax inspires hope with all the examples of successful delis, as well as despair at the difficulty of keeping them open. The section on Warsaw is heartbreaking — the birthplace of Jewish cuisine is now devoid of Jews, and people keep the tradition alive like white Westerners trying to keep Indian culture alive. And it is here that Sax unearths the real culprit in the decline of deli: the extermination of Jews in the Holocaust, which wiped out the creators and consumers of this cuisine.
The book can be pre-ordered in the U.S. here — can I put in a plug for Powell’s or another independent book-seller?
Sax will be in San Francisco, reading from the book at Book Passage in the Ferry Building at 6 p.m. on Oct. 26.