Pastrami on Rye: An Overstuffed History of the Jewish Deli

PASTRAMI ON RYE                                        TED MERWIN

Pastrami on Rye is the first full-length history of the New York Jewish deli. The deli, argues Ted Merwin, reached its full flowering not in the immigrant period, as some might assume, but in the interwar era, when the children of Jewish immigrants celebrated the first flush of their success in America by downing sandwiches and cheesecake in theater district delis. But it was the kosher deli that followed Jews as they settled in the outer boroughs of the city, and that became the most tangible symbol of their continuing desire to maintain a connection to their heritage. Ultimately, upwardly mobile American Jews discarded the deli as they transitioned from outsider to insider status in the middle of the century. Now contemporary Jews are returning the deli to cult status as they seek to reclaim their cultural identities. 

Richly researched and compellingly told, Pastrami on Rye gives us the surprising story of a quintessential New York institution.


A wonderful book that took me back to my childhood and listening to my father telling stories of his childhood in New York City, and then him took me to different delis in the Los Angeles area. In the sixties and seventies there were a lot more now I still take my family to Cantor’s Deli in L.A. But even the area around it has changed a lot over the years. This is what this book is about the change in his culture and the lost art in a way of homemade pickling and curing. When people had the time or made time to make food the way it was passed down from generation to generation. Like other ethnic foods that have gone slowly as well like the Italian deli, for one it still comes down to what we have been willing to replace. For me since grandparents have passed and parents now I find myself teaching my children the Italian recipes that were passed down to me and the homemade pickles that my grandmother would make in her kitchen. Maybe we can save the few Deli’s that are still around. This is a wonderful book and brought back many memories. So now I close this review because I am going to make an Italian sandwich with mortadella, capicola, salami, prosciutto, the good provolone cheese, a little oil and vinegar with some pickled veggies on the side and that was the way I was raised. A good book. I received this book from I gave it 5 stars. Follow us at

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