Word games are a genetic tradition, but one essential ingredient of play is the food that accompanies it. In my family we’re all big fans of reading and eating. We disregard most of the nutritionist advice to sever distraction no matter how educational from dining. The truth is there are few things more comforting to me than sitting around a table with my entire family, or extended one, eating soup and reading the paper. I was thinking this today, slurping leftover chicken soup, day 4 of COVID, reading the New Yorker’s review of S&P Lunch, the newly reopened Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop in Flat Iron between 22nd and 23rd. I’ve been fascinated by this storefront for 7 years since I stayed at my friend’s apartment with a view of it from her living room, and I walked past it many times on the way to my New York office, but until it closed I always found an excuse to avoid it. It was too close to home. I feared entering the doors would resurrect my dead deli ancestors. That said, I’ve been following the story of its resurrection and rebranding with curiosity. I’ve also been thinking about the trend of the pandemic sparking a revival of Jewish style delis and why it matters in 2022. But one piece of the story that I’ve reread multiple times is the subject of misremembering. The owner Eric Finkelstein shared stories to the author Hannah Goldstein pointing out all the misremembering of the menu from the inclusion of cottage fries to the taste of the pastrami, which is now from a different supplier. “It’s really interesting talking to people who have spent a lot of time in that space, more than we ever did, and how much information is just completely misremembered.” Thinking about mismemory and food perked my ears up.
I suffer from mismemory like everyone else I know. There’s just too much information to constantly process. But I know my feelings. Most of the time they’re fairly binary especially when it comes to delis.
I don’t go to a famous LA deli because I always thought it was dirty. I saw something dead in the bathroom once. Was it a cockroach? Probably. At some point I probably said it was vermin. My future children will exaggerate. In a few decades the lore might be a dead person. I don’t really know why I never liked the place. Sandwiches were always expensive and the coffee undrinkable. Like most New York delis. But we were in LA. It was supposed to be different. Would I prefer the Nosh over them? Anytime. Why did I love the Nosh so much? Their big soft bagels! But were they always this way? I don’t think so. Like most things, they’ve gotten better over time, like soup and reading, healing and illness, life slowly this coming winter. I’m going to have to try S&P when I visit New York in a few weeks and I’m going to order both the pastrami and the cottage fries because I too need to create some new observations for later mismemory.
Now for some turkey…