If you surveyed a hundred people about what kind of food New York City is known for, you’d probably get an even split between pizza and deli sandwiches. As we know from the dollar slice boom, pizza’s still going strong. But according to the LA Times, the Jewish Deli is dying out. The reporter would like to respond “what a shtik fleisch mit tzvei eigen!”
First of all, LA Times, what are you doing talking about NYC? Don’t you have to get from the 405 to the exit ramp in Baja, then onto onto Beverly Glen and made a quick right onto Carmelita (NYU Local cannot confirm that this is a really route).
Basically, the LA Times is reporting that time goes on, the city changes, and not everyone likes the same kind of food as they did in 1950s. This is, apparently, breaking news. “In the first half of the 20th century, several thousand Jewish delis were operating in New York. But as Jewish immigration to the East Coast ebbed after World War II and younger generations splintered into the suburbs, the number has shrunk to a few dozen.” Here are some other things that a different in NYC since sixty years ago: Jim Crow laws, rock and roll was the devil’s music, and Joe McCarthy thought everyone was a communist. Sometimes, change is good.
Also, the demographics of NYC have changed drastically since the influx of immigrants in the early to mid 20th century. The Lower East Side isn’t Yiddish-only anymore. Remember when the New York Times reported that there was no Jewish candidate in the NYC mayoral race. The Grey Lady speculated that the lack of Jews “reflects the city’s shifting demographics and a splintered electorate that comprises mostly smaller blocs often aligned by geography, class and ideology rather than by religion, ethnicity and race…” Change is gonna come, and we can’t stop it.
The article goes on to cite stats on the rising costs of beef, fish, and other food products, the same problem that many restaurants are facing. But what separates a deli from, let’s say, a bibimbap place or a hotdog spot? The deli was an institution, and now they’re going way. And it’s scary seeing a big part of a city get smaller.
Though it wouldn’t be a piece about time moving on and The Good Old Times getting left in the dust with out blaming the millenials. A deli co-owner swears that the youngins “don’t understand delis or comfort food” and are “used to quick food and instant gratification, going through a drive-thru in 10 seconds.” Young people can tell the difference between a Second Avenue deli sandwich and a Subway. One is cheap and one is delicious, and the cheap one might come up more because it is five dollars. But saying that millenials don’t appreciate “comfort food” is like saying they don’t know how to speak without irony; there’s something wrong with those kids! You’re young, so you don’t appreciate this, so you’re running my life.
Don’t worry, everyone – the future the right to eat a monster tower of meat away from the city. When lines of tourists stop waiting for a sandwich from that deli in When Harry Met Sally, then we can worry. Until then, stop blaming the future for destroying the past. pastrami on rye, extra pickles, extra Russian, and a chocolate soda, please.