New Yorkers, Montrealers, Chicagoans and the citizens of Miami are all familiar with delis, frequent them and entertain their families and business associates there. Until 1970’s, the word deli was unknown in New York, instead of delicatessen (German for delicacies) stress owned and managed by German immigrants. Then gradually north European Jews who immigrated to New York took over businesses and also started serving light meals, mostly soups and sandwiches to hungry workers of neighbourhoods.
Eventually, the word delicatessen was shortened to deli, and gradually, corned beef, and later on pastrami along with rye bread were introduced.
Corned beef is the dry cured (salt) breast of beef. Today, most corned beef is cured in brine infused with a mixture of spices.
After purchase, it must be boiled and thinly sliced just before service.
Rye bread and prepared strong mustard along with kosher dill pickles go best with corned beef sandwiches.
Some delis serve sandwiches composed of corned beef, sauerkraut and Emmenthal cheese, but for the purist, a lean well-prepared succulent corned beef between two slices of authentic rye bread is all one needs.
Lager is the best alcoholic beverage to accompany corned beef.
Romanian Jews introduced pastrami in New York. It is corned beef covered with peppercorns, and smoked. All one needs to do is heat and slice. Pastrami sandwiches are spicy enough on their own. All they need is a fine lager beer and a crunchy pickle.
Today’s delis in New York offer many more Jewish specialties like latkes, knishes, chicken noodles soup, meat platters, salami sandwiches, cal slaw, and even the ubiquitous French fries with ketch up.
Authentic delis like Carnegie in New York are sparsely decorated. Only pictures of famous personalities who visited the establishment cover the walls.
A deli is always well illuminated, and features booths or two- or four-tops along with regular chairs. Here you eat, pay and leave!
Montreal delis serve fewer dishes than those in New York, but they are more authentic.
Miami’s delis look luxurious and more modern. They were created to cater to wealthy and old Jews from new York who like to spend their winters in Florida.
If you want to experience a deli, go to Carnegie Deli (854 7th Avenue at 55th Street) New York. Open seven days a week from 6.30 a m to 4 a m.