Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What a Crock...

The previous post made the case that we all - producers and consumers alike - have an obligation to reach high. Such lofty sentiments and high-flown language... Make every bite a sacrament.

Well sometimes, to paraphrase Freud, a sandwich is just a sandwich. Try telling my youngest son - or most of society for that matter - that they should prepare and eat only extraordinary things. Or, failing that, at least properly regret the compromise.

To quote many a New Yorker - fuhgeddaboudit.

Impractical. Effete. Pompous. Insufferable.

Guilty as charged - and eating very well, thank you.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Adventures In Deli - Teachings of the Deli Scrolls - Book Two

Translators Note - The Deli Scrolls, though recently discovered (by me) are ancient and venerable texts that guide us in the righteous path of true Deli.

Herewith, the second recovered bits of ancient Deli Law (and commentary thereon).

Start with the best meat. Check. (addressed in Book One).

So now, how do THE DELI SCROLLS further instruct us?
Back in the day, this was no mere metaphor. Cured meats - like cheese, pickles, beer, and some of mankind's other most important achievements - began as a means of safely preserving food. And before the age of refrigeration, these techniques were critical to making the most of one's gatherings, harvest or kill - and assuring access to nutrition over time. Done right, people enjoyed delicious foods through the seasons. Done improperly, spoilage could set in. People might go hungry. Or worse - foods could become dangerous.

So when the Deli Scrolls tell us to CURE AND SPICE AS IF YOUR LIFE DEPENDED ON IT
we don't need to dig too far to understand the historical importance of this Law.
But here we are in the modern world. Today, foodie-spiritual considerations, or tailgating before a cold game aside, most of us don't eat preserved meats literally to make it through the winter. And with refrigeration and modern manufacturing hygiene, dangers of the past - though not unknown today - are statistically unlikely. So what are we to make of this Law today?

And what are we to make of BE WORTHY? Or the instruction to REVEL IN THE GLORY? It would be easy to dismiss such language as religious boilerplate - the sort of thing we see in scriptures the world over. But here in the Deli Scrolls - as elsewhere for religious scholars of serious intent - every word counts and deserves deep consideration.

Let us take these Instructions in order, the way they appear in the Text. Today's chapter will be concerned with the notion of worthiness. What must we live up to in our efforts if we are to honor the Teachings?

We are bombarded these days with guidance about our diet. Cut back on fat, salt, meat, calories, and so on is a constant refrain in the media, from our doctors, nutritionists, politicians, Bono... Deli, let's face it, isn't exactly politically correct. Done right, there will be salt. Fat. Meat. Even calories. Why not just eat rice-cakes (preferably brown) and tofu?

But we are instructed to REVEL IN THE GLORY, and try as I might, I can't manage suitable revelry with an abstemious diet. How 'bout an occasional Twinky, or hot-pastrami sub down at the corner sub-shop to break things up? We've all been there - but it's hard to make a good-faith case for worthiness.

No - given the increased awareness of diet and health, we have an obligation (religious and otherwise) to indulge with discretion and purpose. The first modern-day corollary to this scripture, the consumer's side of the bargain is this:

"If you're gonna be bad - it better be good"

Set the bar as high as you can, and enjoy sensibly. Perhaps not every day. And definitely not consuming mass quantities. REVEL IN THE GLORY - As consumers, we are instructed to enjoy ourselves, the majesty of creation, and culinary achievement with discretion, discernment, and appreciation.

The second modern-day corollary to today's portion, the chef's or producer's side of the bargain is this:

"More Flavor Per Pound. It's the LAW!"

We have an obligation to the meat, to our customers, and to our tradition - to make every bite the best it can be - a worthy celebration, not just a sandwich, but a sacrament.

Words to consider at this time of year as we approach next week's high-holiday:
Thursday, January 14th is National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day.

Only the best,