Outrageous Heritage Revisionism!

It’s enough to make you want to go back to the old-fashioned kind of top-down, expert-driven, monolithic heritage policies! 

Don’t deconstruct my pastrami on rye!

From the Jewish Daily Forward Feb 26:

Can the Jewish Deli Survive the Sustainable Food Movement?

By Sue Fishkoff

Berkeley, Calif. — If you’re trying to defend the Jewish deli to a roomful of locavores and food activists, it’s good to have Michael Pollan on your side.

The Berkeley, Calif.-based author of the 2006 book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” — often referred to as the bible of the sustainable food movement — was on hand February 9 for a panel discussion at the city’s Jewish community center that was billed as a referendum on the future of the Jewish deli.

At issue was whether the famously fatty, gloriously schmaltz-laden cuisine of the Ashkenazic bubbe can mind-meld with the rarefied sensibilities of the Bay Area foodie. More specifically, can a Jewish deli worthy of the name commit to seasonal menus, regional produce and locally sourced meats without sending customers screaming for the door?

Sure, the panelists declared. But they’d had their minds made up before the evening started: This wasn’t so much a referendum as a putsch.

Leading the charge were Karen Adelman and Peter Levitt, co-owners of Saul’s Deli, a kosher-style Jewish deli down the block from Chez Panisse, über-chef Alice Water’s famed eatery, the birthplace of California cuisine, and the place where Levitt got his training.

Adelman and Levitt’s position is clear: What American Jews think of as the authentic Jewish deli is an ossified construct based on post-World War II ideals of abundance that had little to do with how Jews ate in early 20th-century New York, let alone in the Old World. 

That mile-high, fatty pastrami sandwich served at Katz’s or the Carnegie Deli? American, not Jewish, they say. Jewish cooking a century ago was all about thrift, seasonality and resourcefulness. Every part of the animal was used; portions were small; tomatoes were served in summer, and beets in winter.

Today’s customers want everything on the menu year-round; if they don’t get it, Levitt said, “they complain it isn’t a ‘real’ Jewish deli.”

“‘Authentic’ is a moving target,” Adelman added, pointing out how Jewish cuisine in this country has developed with each new immigration wave. “What we’re arguing is, we’re more authentic. What’s authentic about mass-produced food and giant menus?”

[…]

Click here to read more.

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Now this is a debate about heritage authenticity…

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