Saturday, July 28, 2012
The Birth of the Pastrami Sandwich
There's just something about a Pastrami Sandwich. Visions of one can often cause weak knees, sweaty brows, or even a nervous eye twitch that doesn't go away for a week until you do a voodoo dance with the blood of a chicken poured over your head (thankfully that only happened once.) Good Pastrami, the kind that melts in your mouth, is prepared with a thoughtfulness that considers the history of the fine meat in our culture, especially here in NYC.
The birthplace of the Pastrami Sandwich...right?
According to some, the recipe for creating delicious Pastrami comes from a Romanian ancestry, and brought to the United States by Romanian Jewish immigrants in the late 19th century. Originally it was called Pastrama from the Romanian original, but many believe it was changed to Pastrami to make it sound related to Italian Salami. The Pastrami Sandwich is said to have been first served in 1887 by Sussman Volk who converted his butcher shop to make the incredibly popular sandwiches, but some believe the sandwich had already made an appearance 10 years earlier, sold in food carts on the Lower East Side. Of course it's all up for debate since the owner of Katz Delicatessen believe that they were the first ones to serve the sandwich back when they opened in 1888. Bottom line, the Pastrami Sandwich was born in New York City.
For me it's the smell because before you even take a bite out of a sandwich you walk into a deli and that aroma smacks you right in the face. At least that's how I like my food to treat me. Wouldn't it be truly amazing for all food to be able to do that?
History. It's an important thing to me, as it should everyone. Thinking back to how those early immigrants risked their lives coming to this country, to bring their culture, their food, what an honor. New York City is built upon the backs of these immigrants. Built upon my ancestors who fought to live everyday in a country where they thought the streets were lined with gold. They brought their food for others to enjoy and to this day their mark is still stamped on this city that I love so much.
I'm just talking about a piece of cured meat, that's all it is, and a sandwich that represents America as much as a slice of Pizza, or a Hamburger or a Hot Dog.
Katz Delicatessen is a shrine to Pastrami Sandwiches. A shrine to those who struggled to make a new life for themselves against the greatest of odds. It had meager beginnings, created to serve the poor who could barely afford to eat.
The Uptown crowd didn't know and didn't care what they were missing, dining in their fancy restaurants, and holding their pinkies high during tea. You see the greatest foods of this country were created by the poor for the poor, an enduring tradition that has continued through generations.
New York City. The Birthplace of the Pastrami Sandwich.