Ph.D. Octopus

Politics, media, music, capitalism, scholarship, and ephemera since 2010

Mile End Smoked Meat: Food as Living (and tasty) History

with 3 comments

by Weiner

Much has been written about Mile End, the Brooklyn delicatessen named after a Montreal neighbourhood once heavily populated by Jewish immigrants. The latest comes in the New York Times, where owner Noah Bernamoff, a law-school dropout and former bassist of The Lovely Feathers, demonstrates an understanding that by serving delicious deli food, he is participating in a culinary tradition:

“Other ethnicities have reinvented their comfort food, their grandmothers’ recipes, and made great restaurants,” Mr. Bernamoff said. “Where is ours?”

Bernamoff, by making such delicious food, is doing his part. David Sax, author of Save the Deli, has made his pitch to maintain the tradition. In order for a tradition to survive, however, it has to adapt, to develop organically, without losing that which made it great in the first place. Indeed, in her book, Hungering for America, historian Hasia Diner demonstrates how Italians and Jewish immigrants adapted their foodways in the United States, blending the old with the new to create a wonderful hybrid.

The point then, is that when you bite into a delicious smoked meat sandwich at Mile End, and wash it down with some poutine, you are tasting Montreal Jewish and Québécois history. Sure it’s not healthy. So don’t eat it every day. But do try it. Because the health nuts, and the vegetarians, and even those Jews who insist on keeping kosher are turning their backs not only on delicious food, but on living history and tradition, as Jewish as matzoh ball soup. And as Tevye the Milkman said, “without our traditions, life would be as unsteady as a fiddler on the roof.”


Written by David Weinfeld

April 14, 2010 at 19:10

3 Responses

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  1. I get it that kosher keeping consumers are turning their backs on some delicious food. Undoubtedly. Kosher cuisine can be amazing in the hands of a skilled chef or cook, but it has huge limitations, by definition.

    But the assertion that they are turning their backs on living history and tradition is as laughably obtuse a statement as I have ever read. Love kosher or leave it, there is little in the world that more perfectly exemplifies living history and tradition than maintaining fidelity with guidelines and strictures that have persisted, even with some evolution, for 3 thousand years.

    All that being said, that is one scrumptious smoked meat sandwich you have pictured here.


    April 15, 2010 at 09:42

  2. […] my Montreal deli pride, I think something important is emerging here. It’s interesting that a lot of Israeli’s […]

  3. […] in line with all the modern techniques of nouveau cousine, but with a nod to the old country. Like my friend Noah Bernamoff of Mile End Deli, these Jewish culinary adventurers get to explore strange new worlds of food […]

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