Blintzes, kasha varnishkes, Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray, pastrami on rye, chicken soup, chopped liver — Aaron Rezny has lovingly photographed these and other Jewish delicacies in an homage he and co-author Jordan Schaps have created to preserve and memorialize the foods of their youth. “Let’s talk knishes,” writes Joan Rivers in the book’s foreword, joined by a long roster of contributors eager to talk about their food memories: Jackie Mason, Joshua Bell, Milton Glaser, Bette Midler, and Isaac Mizrachi are only a few of the food memoirists who tickle the reader’s appetite.
Eating Delancey is a big family dinner at which everyone is interrupting everyone else with a better story. The reminiscences and photographs — Rezny’s own as well as archival and personal selections — are topped by Borscht Belt jokes, quips from Franz Kafka to Woody Allen to Milton Berle, and recipes for classic Jewish dishes. Profiles of Lower East Side landmarks like Yonah Schimmel, Russ and Daughters, and Sammy’s Roumanian are a reminder of those that are gone — including Ratner’s and Streit’s Matzos, which has sold its 1925 buildings and is moving its factory out of New York. At present no such kosher restaurants remain on the Lower East Side.
With its wealth of color photographs and large format, Eating Delancey is designed to inspire both memories and a trip to the kitchen to whip up some tried and true favorites.
Maron L. Waxman, retired editorial director, special projects, at the American Museum of Natural History, was also an editorial director at HarperCollins and Book-of-the-Month Club.