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judyprays's avatar

Are delicatessens jewish or ...?

Asked by judyprays (1309points) December 8th, 2008

is it just eastern european food that ashkenasis appropriated when they came to new york?

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7 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

Many delicatessens are Jewish, but not all, by any means. According to Wikipedia:

Delicatessens can come from a variety of cultural traditions. In the United States, most numerous are Jewish delicatessens,[citation needed] both kosher and “kosher style.” As a result of this, Americans refer to those that specialise in Italian and German cuisine as “European Delicatessens.” In Seattle, Washington, the term “deli” is often used to indicate take-out restaurants mainly serving Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches, particularly in Little Saigon and the University District.

I have never run into the term “European Deli” so I don’t know if I believe that. I do know the best deli’s I’ve been to seem to offer a lot of traditionally Jewish foods, like knishes, latkes and the like.

Many of these stores that may once have been run by Jews have been sold to non-Jews, but they maintain the same items, because they still serve a Jewish population, or because there is a much wider taste for those items. I guess you don’t have to be Jewish to love latkes!

srmorgan's avatar

I think the use of the word “appropriate” is a little harsh to use in this context because it implies that Jewish immigrants took over someone else’s cuisine to make a profit off of it.

Jews and non-Jews lived together, not always peacefully or happily, in the same areas of Russia, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, Slovakia, Germany and Austria and shared indigenous ingredients in their own cuisines and many dishes are similar but prepared differently with different ingredients based on the Jewish dietary laws. These laws forbid the use of pork, shellfish, mixing meat with dairy at the same meal among others. You can’t say that one stole the other’s cooking.

My friend Fred’s dad was a Catholic from Ruthenia and he had bread with schmaltz before dinner every night. So did my Jewish grandfather, but my grandfather ate chicken fat and Fred’s grandfather ate LARD. Same word, different food.

A Jewish salami will not contain pork, but kosher and non-kosher salamis will contain garlic and curing salts.

There are dishes called Pirogie, Pirogen, Pirogy, depending on the place they originated but they all are filled dumplings with sauerkraut or cheese or fruit. But a Jewish deli will not serve a cheese pirogen because of the dietary law.

You just can’t make a blanket statement as you did.
Why were the Jewish deli’s more popular? Better food, better businessmen, more concentrated population.

Maybe gailcalled can chime in here too…...


basp's avatar

A true Jewish deli prepares foods in the kosher way and serves them in the kosher way. Very few delis still abide by kosher laws/rules. Most will advertise as ‘kosher style’ which is not the same for a traditional practicing Jew.

TaoSan's avatar

By the way, it’s a German word.

In German, “delikat” means very tasty, delectable, exquisite flavor.

Thus, things of such qualities are “Delikatessen” (plural, singular omits the n at the end),

It has nothing to do with the English delicate. I always found the use of the word here in the States peculiar, like “Kindergarten” or “Gesundheit”.

srmorgan's avatar

Last year during a visit to Germany, I learned that my colleague’s daughter and son-in-law had opened an “Eis-Deli”. The closest equivalent in English would be an ice cream parlor.

Interesting how a German word travels through English and back to Bavaria.


Zen's avatar

In Hebrew, there is a common slang word “delikates” (phonetically spelt here) which means delicious.

SeventhSense's avatar

I’ve always found the best delicatessens in NY were German or Jewish. It seems to support a German European origin at least in NY.

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