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I am a foodie, and so I was somewhat amused and somewhat distraught to see a recent New York Times article about the current updating of the old-school Jewish deli sweeping the nation (or at least some of its cities). You know: making it “organic” and, lord help me, “grass-fed” and “cage free.” It’s not that I am against these things, but being from New York City, these are the last things I am thinking about when I walk up to the counter at Katz’s to order a pastrami sandwich, and then sit down at their diner style formica-topped tables.
Alas. Here is where the deli is apparently headed, according to the article, “Can the Jewish Deli Be Reformed?”:
“At Saul’s Restaurant and Deli in Berkeley, Calif., the eggs are organic and cage free, and the ground beef in the stuffed cabbage is grass fed. Its owners, Karen Adelman and Peter Levitt, yanked salami from the menu in November, saying that they could no longer in good conscience serve commercial kosher salami. “It’s industrially produced meat that gets blessed by a rabbi,” said Mr. Levitt, who came to Saul’s two decades ago from Chez Panisse, just down the street. “We all know that isn’t good enough.” The two are still trying to find, or make, salami that will align with their vision of the deli of the future: individual, sustainable, affordable and ethical.”
I went to get on board. I do. But. But. But I will never stop going to Katz’s and institutions like it. Nothing compares to the traditional Jewish deli. It doesn’t need a makeover! I’ve never had a pastrami sandwich at an upscale place that comes close–they are always so disappointing. So disappointing. The words grass-fed and organic don’t make it taste better–it just makes it sound green. I am hoping and praying that the “new” style Jewish deli will not run the old out of business. That would be tragic. If you’ve ever been to Katz’s, you know exactly what I mean.

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