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The Decline of the Deli

New book chronicles demise, celebrates sandwiches

Ari M. Brostoff
September 02, 2009
Sax and a sandwich.(
Sax and a sandwich.(

Books about food that have imperatives as titles generally implore the reader to Get Fit! or Just Stop Eating So Much! but journalist David Sax’s Save the Deli wishes you will do so much more—like, turn the tide of American Jewish history so we get kosher-style delis back. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that Sax’s book, which comes out in October, follows the deli from its European origins to its mid-century American peak, when there was a large market for semi-kosher homestyle Ashkenazic food: no cheese on the pastrami, but no rabbinic supervision needed. Sax variously blames the rise of the glatt kosher industry and chain restaurants like Jerry’s Famous Deli for the fact that, apparently, in 1931 there were 2,000 delis in New York City, and now there are 25. Oh, and he also says the best rye bread is in Detroit. Who knew?

Ari M. Brostoff is Culture Editor at Jewish Currents.