I took these pictures to accompany an article I wrote called "The Guide to the Jewish Deli" for Serious Eats. They were rejected in favor of in-house studio shots, but the article lives on with someone else's photos. It goes a little something like this:
Despite its name, the Jewish delicatessen is for everyone. If anything, an overstuffed sandwich of pastrami, or corned beef, or brisket is what helped Jews assimilate into the United States after the great migrations of the 1800s and 1900s. The delicatessen is where the children of immigrants became Americans, where the recipes of a global diaspora, inspired by necessity and tradition, came together to form a paradoxical spread of hedonistic abundance: foot-high piles of meat, basins of pickles, heaping scoops of chopped chicken liver, and loaves upon puffy loaves of rye.
It all began more than two thousand years ago. As discussed by Ted Merwin in Pastrami on Rye
, ancient Hebrews ate meat only after a ritual animal sacrifice to God, when the fresh roast was served to the community as a holy feast. They believed that to consume the blessed meat was to actually consume joy (although priests warned that the available joy in the meat would start deteriorating after about two days).
The Hebrews then wanted to know if they could eat sacrificial meat on the night before Tisha B'Av, an annual 25-hour fast commemorating the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, first by the Babylonians, and then 655 years later, on the same day, by the Romans. Might it cause them to be too joyful on this somber anniversary? The priests agreed they could, on one condition: the meat would have to be pickled for two days to ensure that all of the sacrificial joy was gone. Thus, the relationship between Jews and cured meat was born.Read more...