Friday, January 06, 2006

"If the pastrami sandwich goes down the drain, there's no hope for this country at all."

Jackie Mason wasn't trying to be funny when he said that. That man doesn't have to try. But the truth be told, he's right.

Portia sent me this horrific story from today's New York Times. The Second Avenue Deli is shutting down.

Did you hear that? That was the sound of my gentile heart breaking.

The Second Ave. Deli has been a staple of the Lower East Side since the year I was born. And no matter where I roamed, I could sleep at night just knowing that there was a heaping mound of hot, lean pastrami skulking between slabs of good seeded rye waiting for me at Second Avenue and East 10th St. Now those dreams are dashed forever. Gone like a bowl of free pickles. The world has grown darker.

You think I'm exaggerating, don't you. Well, I am...but not by much. The Second Ave. Deli was a Kosher Mecca for delicatessen junkies such as myself. Most of the time I was in the City, I'd be working 50 blocks north of 10th Street, and so I would have to haunt the Carnegie Deli,
or the Stage Deli. They were excellent, especially the Carnegie. I mean where else on earth could you get a corned beef, chicken liver, and tongue sandwich (don't forget the bermuda onion) at 10 o'clock at night? In fact, I remember getting scolded by my boss when she looked at my receipts for a week's stay and discovered that I had eaten every single meal at either the Carnegie or the Stage. "You're going to kill yourself eating like that," she said as she handed me an apple. She was right of course. But everybody's gotta go sometime, so give me some kasha and don't hold back on the chicken fat.

The Second Avenue Deli, however, that was more than just a mind-blowing sandwich. It was an adventure. Just going that far down the island was a trip. It was like climbing out of the subway into another country. In every store window there were signs in both Hebrew and Spanish. Hasidic men in black homburgs and payot (side curls) shared the sidewalks with transvestites and artists and junkies. The sounds of Yiddish mixed with Latino rhythms and cab horns in an other-worldly symphony. It was the essence of New York City. It was cool. And everybody knew about it, even people in San Francisco. And the Second Avenue Deli served the best sandwiches on Earth. Period.

And now they've killed the Second Avenue Deli.
And now I am going to cry.
Is there no hope for New York? For America?


portia said...

You ate at the Carnegie Deli every day for a week??? Good Lord, I mean Oy Vey! Those sandwiches are as "thick as a brick." I'm impressed...that you lived:)

spd rdr said...

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and sometimes a late night "snack." I didn't always eat the sandwiches - they are huge! Sometimes I just got borsch and pickled herring... for breakfast. Hey, I was living n Atlanta at the time. I had to "stock up" on the beautiful heart-stopping goodness of real Kosher deli food before I got back to the land of my other culinary passion: barbeque.

But that is the topic of another post.

Ookami Snow said...

Very impressive. Not something that i could do.

Cassandra said...

My love affair with pastrami was when I was pregnant with my first boy and working at the Navy Exchange in Norfolk on NOB.

For some reason I was seized with a passion for Reuben sandwiches. I think I ate one every day for nine months. I can't understand why I didn't weigh a ton - maybe that's why I had a ten-pound bouncing baby boy, though.

And maybe that explains the red hair from two black-haired parents...who knows. Anyway, for years I used to make these tiny Reubens at the Superbowl - they were a huge hit with the Marines or whatever friends we had over. I haven't made them now for years.

spd rdr said...

Well, you've still got the time!

Pooke said...

I feel your pain. There's always Ben Ash in midtown where you can feed an American family of four, or Ethopia, on one sandwich.

spd rdr said...

Pooke, aren't you in the Garden State? Close enough for sliders, pizza, and cheese steaks, baby; all the way.

My Lord, why is it that I crave everything that is the worst for me?

portia said...

OK, curiosity got the best of me. What the heck are sliders?
And if they're so "bad" for you, how is it I don't know about 'em?

spd rdr said...

White Castle steamed cheeseburgers!
Best eaten on Hempstead Turnpike at about 1:30 a.m. while several sheets to the wind.

And that's why you don't know about them, Miss Goody Two-Shoes! :-)

Cassandra said...

I don't eat like I used to. But I still love Carolina Barbecue - that's my one vice - that and fresh seafood, which I adore. Actually I'm lying. I do like a good steak too. That's not very feminine. Oh well.

We have a local brew place that we go to and I always get a big barbecue sandwich with a big pile of cole slaw on top and I eat the whole thing with *two* beers (which I can't always finish but one isn't quite enough) and then I feel gloriously sick afterwards because I rarely eat a lot anymore even though I've always had an appetite like a small horse (or at least a Shetland pony) all my life. I should be 3 feet wide by now - I'm not really sure why I'm not.

spd rdr said...

Barbeque is about as fattening as Jesus.
But slightly less inspiring.

portia said...

Ohhhhhhhhhh, White Castle. Never been to one; in fact, I don't even remember being invited:) But I've had enough of these
after a night out to more than make up for the trips I missed to Hempstead Tpke. I'll have a Cheese wit to go, heavy on the Cheez Whiz, please.

spd rdr said...

I love 'em. In fact, I've even been to Pat's in South Philly once.
Philly's got great food. In fact, I will recommend without any hesitation that you immediately go to the Reading Terminal Market in dowtown Philly to try an Italian hoagie at Spataro's. It is, without question, the best Italian smndwich ever made.
Go. Now.

portia said...

I can be there in two hours!
Hoagie, hero, sub, grinder. Euphonious, no matter how you say it.