Whether it was Katz' Deli on Manhattan's lower East side, Lindy's in Midtown, or the Second Avenue Deli originally located in the East Village the sights, smells, and sounds of meats like pastrami, corned beef, and tongue, and glass cases filled with pickled delicacies and just the atmosphere and hubbub created by customers, lingering locals, and deli workers belonged to only one place: the neighborhood delicatessen. For Jew living in New York in the early to mid-twentieth century the deli was not only a place to purchase authentic kosher and Jewish cuisine but for many immigrants and their children it was also a place to socialize, bond, and network.
In his new book, Pastrami on Rye: An Overstuffed History Of The Jewish Deli, Ted Merwin traces the rise and fall of the delicatessen in American Jewish culture. Ted Merwin is the Associate Professor of religion and Judaic studies at Dickinson College where he is the founding director Milton B. Asbell Center for Jewish Life. He writes about Jewish theater, dance, and food for New York Jewish Week and other major news papers.