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The Deli as Academic Pursuit

October 5, 2009

I haven’t been very good recently about promoting events that are near and dear to my heart.  A long time ago, I put up a Facebook invite to one of the Honest Weight Food Co-Op: Food for Thought film screenings.  But for the last film, I didn’t even tweet about it on my way out the door.

And I promised myself I would get ahead of the next event.

Now I have heard about a free interactive multimedia lecture on the Jewish Deli in America.  Deli?  Jewish Deli!  And it just occurred to me how painfully little I have written on the subject of a food that is so close to my heart (and arteries).

So I will encourage all of you who are local to join me at this event.  And for those of you around the rest of the country who could not possibly make it to Albany for the lecture, I will hopefully delight you with my thoughts on deli over the next several days. And perhaps several days of deli posts will motivate more people to make it out next Thursday.  It is always a genuine treat to meet readers of the FLB.

For the sake of full disclosure, the University at Albany Center for Jewish Studies is sponsoring this event.  And somehow, someone, somewhere thought it would be a good idea for me to sit on the board of that organization.  But this is a free event, so it’s not as if I have something to gain as a result of promoting the lecture.

Here is the gist of the program:

In New York, Baltimore, and other cities, the delicatessen was the lifeblood and the linchpin of the Jewish community. The “soul food” that it dished up became a quintessential part of American culture for Jews and non-Jews alike.  But as Jews moved into the suburban middle class, the deli lost its bite, giving way to Chinese food and later to sushi.

Can the deli be resurrected?

Prof. Ted Merwin from Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA) will give an interactive, multimedia lecture on the changing place of the Jewish deli in American life.  He will show how the deli, which originated in Germany and Eastern Europe, developed in this country into a neighborhood institution on par with the synagogue. He will also discuss how the deli became an icon of both television shows and films about the Jewish experience, ranging from “When Harry Met Sally” to “The Larry David Sandwich.”

Regardless of whether the deli can be resurrected, the next several days will be the deli days here at the FUSSYlittleBLOG.  I’m getting excited just thinking about chopped liver, pastrami, corned beef, pickles, coleslaw, creamed herring, chicken soup, whitefish and Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray.  This is the food of my people.

And while you get ready for those posts, mark Thursday, October 15 on your calendars.  Professor Merwin will be in the Standish Room at the Science Library of the University at Albany’s uptown campus, 1400 Washington Avenue.  The lecture begins at 7:00 pm and is expected to run until 8:30 pm.

You can get to the Facebook invitation to RSVP, if you are so inclined.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. brownie permalink
    October 5, 2009 11:12 am

    Creamed herring? Eeeeeewwwwww. Otherwise I’m all for this. Wish I could come!

  2. October 5, 2009 12:22 pm

    I will still be on the other coast when this happens, otherwise wild horses could not keep me from it. I would love to be sitting there noshing on a half sour pickle though I guess food is probably not permitted in the classroom…

    Profusser, I hope you will post some nearby recommended deli locations prior to the event so interested parties can stock up beforehand.

  3. NY Deli Man permalink
    October 5, 2009 1:10 pm

    As a true NY Deli guy, that is someone who worked at a handful of real KOSHER (not Kosher Style), you would not have creamed herring in the same place where meat is also served.

    My old NYC neighborhood had a kosher dairy shop. They had creamed herring and lox.

    I was around when we served the first faux cheeseburgers and Ruben sandwich. It was some kind of parve soy oil based cheese concoction. Today’s soy cheese is 1000% better although I still wont eat it due to the flashbacks ;)

    OK, here was my main sandwich when I was really hungry and didn’t want to eat yet another corned beef sandwich:

    Club Roll with inside scooped out – we didnt have sourdough back then :(
    Russian Dressing on one side
    Real deli Mustard on the other side
    Fresh Turkey Breast (not that processed stuff) sliced thin on slicer
    Very RARE roast beef sliced very thin on slicer… almost shaved so the meat falls apart in your mouth
    a thin layer of cole slaw …. and
    FATTY Pastrami (“Belly Pastrami”) trimmed in the middle to remove the tough interior fat, but leave the outside fat there!

    You don’t need to pile the meat up too high, that is just a show for the tourists and TV.

  4. October 5, 2009 10:26 pm

    as of now, i’m not sure how i am still coherent from the food coma earlier in the night, but i could get down with trying creamed herring. not sure if i’d buy it, but i wouldnt turn it down if offered. baby steps, right/

  5. October 17, 2009 12:40 am

    OK, so… we are well beyond 24 hours after the event and not a peep about how it went down. Not all of could make it to UofA to enjoy the celery tonic and cider donuts, unfortunately. Can we have a report please?

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