Amer­i­ca’s Great Delis: Recipes and Tra­di­tions from Coast to Coast

  • Review
By – September 2, 2011

The per­fume of steam­ing gar­licky meats and chick­en soup. The shine on a fresh­ly wiped Formi­ca coun­ter­top. A tow­er of corned beef between slices of rye bread. Close your eyes and you’re there, in your favorite Jew­ish delicatessen.

To their fans, America’s Jew­ish delis are as holy as tem­ples, and Mrs. Bell­man is clear­ly a devout attendee. Her pas­sion for the his­to­ry, cul­ture, and fla­vors of the Jew­ish del­i­catessen, as well as her respect for its own­ers, wait­ers, and innu­mer­able char­ac­ters shape and inform this visu­al feast. Pre­sent­ed as a hybrid cof­fee table book and cook­book, Bell­man has unearthed sto­ries, fac­toids, and images that bring these hal­lowed insti­tu­tions to schmaltzy life. She cap­tures the essence of great del­i­catessens like Katz’s, Canter’s, and Attman’s, while pre­serv­ing the lega­cy of long-gone stal­warts, such as Detroit’s Darby’s, or New York’s famed Ratner’s. The book is worth it for the imagery alone: an unsur­passed col­lec­tion of del­i­catessen ephemera. But it’s the recipes that real­ly make it a must-have for any deli lover. The author has coaxed some close­ly guard­ed secrets out of these own­ers, includ­ing the 2nd Ave Deli’s chopped liv­er recipes, and spe­cif­ic advice from Norm Langer on how to prop­er­ly trim, steam, and slice pas­tra­mi. The recipes not only give read­ers the chance to exper­i­ment at home, they allow these foods to live on past the all too brief life of their cre­ators. Food and Yid­dish glos­sary, index.

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