The Authentic Deli

What ails the Jewish Deli? The same thing that ails the rest of the world: Industrial scale, impersonal, unsustainable. Behold the rise of the the authentic deli:

At Saul’s Restaurant and Deli in Berkeley, Calif., the eggs are organic and cage free, and the ground beef in the stuffed cabbage is grass fed. Its owners, Karen Adelman and Peter Levitt, yanked salami from the menu in November, saying that they could no longer in good conscience serve commercial kosher salami.

“It’s industrially produced meat that gets blessed by a rabbi,” said Mr. Levitt, who came to Saul’s two decades ago from Chez Panisse, just down the street. “We all know that isn’t good enough.”

The two are still trying to find, or make, salami that will align with their vision of the deli of the future: individual, sustainable, affordable and ethical.



Best sentences I read today

And while much of the authenticity search is absurd, not all of it is so easily separable from the self-criticism that has been foundational to Western success. The extremes of Rousseau's heirs are just one of the tolls we'll have to keep paying for freedom of thought and philosophical self-examination



Authenticity Watch: Slum tourism edition

California's a competitive place, perhaps no more so than when it comes to the hamster-wheel of one-upmanship known as competitive authenticity. And so when a group of well-meaning civic activists inaugurated gang tours of LA ("giving tourists a look at the cradle of the nation's gang culture"), it was perhaps inevitable that San Franciscans might look on with some jealousy. Which brings us to Tenderloin Tourism:

But now San Francisco’s civic boosters have decided they want to add a highly unlikely stop to the tourist itinerary: the Uptown Tenderloin, the ragged, druggy and determinedly dingy domain of the city’s most down and out.

And what is the appeal?

“We offer a kind of grittiness you can’t find much anymore,” said Randy Shaw, a longtime San Francisco housing advocate and a driving force behind the idea of Tenderloin tourism. “And what is grittier than the Tenderloin?

Of course, if it's serious gritty authenticity you are looking for, nothing beats getting a tour of Naples by a genuine former mafioso.




I was asked by Open Book Toronto to answer what they call the "Proust Questionnaire" -- basically a bunch of questions designed to elicit quirky or profound answers. I hate doing these sorts of things (do I have a favourite colour? not really), but here are the results. Not so much quirky or profound as by turns ironic, glib, and sincere.


Palin the Phony

Andrew Sullivan takes issue with David Carr's contention that whatever else she may be, Sarah Palin is certainly authentic:

If anyone is phony in American culture, it is Palin. And those who profit off her. They have a right to do that, as she has a right to invent a past and an identity and a politics from minute to minute. But please drop the idea that she is authentic.


On stage with Nora Young

I'm really looking forward to this event next week in Toronto. On Tuesday April 13th, I'll be on stage at the Gladstone Hotel as part of the This is Not a Reading Series series. The real attraction isn't me but rather Nora Young, the broadcaster, writer, and tweeter who you know from the CBC's Sparks and, once upon a time, Definitely Not the Opera. 

7:30pm, Gladstone Hotel Ballroom, 1214 Queen St. W.




The official launch date of the book is April 6, but both Chapters and Amazon have been shipping copies for a couple of weeks, and it seems to on bookshelves everywhere now. I don't think my publicist is too happy, but it's fine with me, I've never been big fan of the publishing industry's idea of embargoing books until some artificial launch date.

A few reviews have already been published, and Maclean's magazine is publishing an excerpt in the issue being published this week. The Ottawa Citizen has bought the second serial rights, and will run an excerpt either this coming weekend or next.

I have a bunch of media lined up over the next few weeks; I'll put the dates and times and places up as soon as I know what they are.


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