Pale Wire (Popscene)

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Nibble Nosh
A night at the deli


Dining at the local deli tonight with book and pad, my table was bordered by a mirthful family of churchgoers whose bubbly speculation about tomorrow's ecclesiastical offerings spilled over into its examination of the menu.

"What is this?" the group's matronly head inquired with an elevated, expectant chin. The genteel women possessed the brassy air of confidence, well-tailored trousers and sharp coif my imagination associates with the Hollywood stars of mid-century who managed to age honorably before plastic surgery became as common as amphetamine abuse. "What is this hereā€”in the picture?" she asked.

"Actually, we don't know," said the waitress, craning over the woman's shoulder in a display of due diligence, if not genuine curiosity, for a focused squint. "It could be anything on the whole menu."

"Oh! But it looks so good," the woman said.

"It is," the waitress said.

I'm pleased to report that my new hometown is host to a surfeit of quality restaurants, not least among them a species I had no expection of encountering so near our nation's capital: The New York Deli. Whether the outpost of displaced New Yorkers or the kitsch creation of cynical restaurateurs, I am unqualified to judge. (Though the vulgar quality and sheer weight of the effort to populate the dining area with signs and symbols of New York is itself a bit suspicious. At tonight's choice, The Celebrity Deli, not just any photo of John Lennon adorns the wall, but a photo of John Lennon in a New York City t-shirt. A fact which begs the question: dost thou represent too much?) Of course, being a far-flung correspondent with no claim to tasting the fruits of the self-proclaimed capital of the world, it doesn't matter to me if tonight's corned beef and pastrami was an imitation; I wouldn't have known the difference. And, regardless, I think even the most orthodox adherent to New York's culinary customs would agree that any corned beef and pastrami is certainly better than no corned beef and pastrami at all.