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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 44.
- Review Date: 2009-07-13
- Reviewer: Staff
“This is a book about Jewish food,” Sax's prologue reminds, “and it would be a shame to read it on an empty stomach.” It's true; just a few chapters in, and you'll find yourself hungry for hot pastrami sandwiches, matzo ball soup, maybe even ready to try some gribenes (chicken skin fried in chicken fat). As freelance writer Sax explains, however, it's getting harder and harder for even the best delicatessens to stay open; the profit margins on sandwiches are atrocious, and young Jewish families tend not to embrace the food the way their ancestors did. Still, Sax has found a few truly outstanding delis, and not just in New York City—joyful moments in this otherwise elegiac travelogue come with the discovery of delicious schmaltz in Colorado, or the legendary smoked meats of Montreal. Along the way, he interviews deli owners, meat cutters and customers, digging deep into local histories wherever he visits. The well-crafted portraits don't string together perfectly, but individual chapters shine—such as the passages on the death and rebirth of Manhattan's Second Avenue Deli or the disappointment of Poland's attempts to reinvigorate a Jewish culture almost obliterated by the Holocaust. A helpful appendix includes addresses of all the delis Sax discusses and then some; readers in the right cities are sure to start planning visits straight away. (Oct. 19)