Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Save the Last Deli

Photo by Marcelo Ithurralde.

My post about David Sax's excellent book, Save the Deli finally went up today on Torontoist. I wrote the first draft last week, but my editor rightly asked me to give it another looking over, at which point I realized it was awful. So, I started again from scratch and also asked one of Torontoist's illustrators, Sasha Plotnikova, to do an original illustration, which I think came out beautifully. David Sax himself even found the post just a few hours after it went up and re-posted it on his blog (yay!).

I read this book in one weekend and I was amazed by how much research and legwork went into it. I can't imagine doing that many interviews, let alone ones with people who are running busy delis and don't have much time to talk. His stamina continues to amaze me as I follow his blog, describing his exhausting book tour.

Everyone seems to be fixated on the book as a deli travel guide, but I think the best part of it is the historical details of Jews in North America that lend context to the current situation—the disappearance of traditional Jewish delis. The point that stuck with me was that the source of this cuisine was all but extinguished during the Holocaust. As Sax says in his book, "Delis are cooking from the fading memories of a time and place that no longer exist."

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