New-York Historical Society “I’ll Have What She’s Have”: The Jewish Deli, the mouth-watering origins of quintessential New York cuisine
This fall, the New York Historical Society presents “I’ll Have What She Has”: The Jewish Deli, a fascinating exploration of the rich history of the Jewish immigrant experience that made delicatessen an integral part of New York culture. Running from November 11, 2022 to April 2, 2023, the exhibition, hosted by the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where it is on view until September 18, examines how Jewish immigrants, mostly from Central and Eastern Europe, imported and adapted the traditions. to create a cuisine that has become a cornerstone of popular culture with global influence. The exhibit explores immigrant food; the heyday of charcuterie in the interwar period; the delicatessens of New York’s theater district; stories of Holocaust survivors and war refugees who found community in delis; the changing and shrinking landscapes of delicatessens across the country; and delis in popular culture. Neon signs, menus, advertisements and deli uniforms are on display, along with film clips and video documentaries. The expanded New-York Historical display includes additional artwork, artifacts, photographs of local establishments and objects from deli owners, as well as costumes from The Marvelous Mrs. Maiselan engaging interactive and Bloomberg Connects audio tour.
“It gives us great pleasure to present an exhibit on a subject so near and dear to the hearts of New Yorkers from all walks of life,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of New-York Historical. “‘I’ll Have What She Has’: The Jewish Deli tells a deeply moving story about the American experience of immigration – how immigrants adapted their cuisine to create a new culture that both retained and transcended their own traditions. I hope visitors leave with a new appreciation for Jewish deli meats and, with it, American history.
“Whether you grew up eating matzo dumpling soup or are new to lox, this exhibit shows how Jewish cuisine has become a cultural touchstone, familiar to Americans of all ethnic backgrounds,” they said. said co-curators Cate Thurston and Laura Mart. “This exhibit reveals facets of Jewish immigrant life in Central and Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that echo contemporary immigrant experiences. It shows how people adapt and transform their own cultural traditions over time, resulting in a lifestyle of cooking, eating and communal sharing that is both deeply rooted in their own heritage and constantly evolving. .
“I will have what she has” is co-curated by Skirball curators Cate Thurston and Laura Mart and Lara Rabinovitch, renowned writer, producer and scholar of immigrant food cultures. It is coordinated at New-York Historical by Cristian Petru Panaite, curator of exhibitions. The exhibit explores topics such as deli culture, the proliferation of delicatessens alongside the expansion of New York’s Jewish communities, the manufacture of kosher meat, shortages during World War II, and the advertising campaigns that helped popularize Jewish foods throughout the city.
Highlights include a letter from the collection of the New-York Historical’s Patricia D. Klingenstein Library from a soldier fighting in Italy during World War II writing to his fiancée that he “had delicious Jewish food like at home” thanks to the salami his mother had sent—a poignant addition to Katz’s famous “Send a salami to your boy in the army” campaign. The footage shows politicians and other notables eating and campaigning in delis. Movie clips and stills include iconic scene from Nora Ephron’s romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally…, which inspired the title of the exhibition. This movie scene and others highlight the prominent role of Jewish delis in American popular culture.
Unique to New-York Historical’s presentation is a closer look at the expansion of Jewish communities at the turn of the 20th century, not only on the Lower East Side, but also in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. By the 1930s, some 3,000 delicatessens operated in the city; today there are only about a dozen left. The exhibit pays particular attention to dairy restaurants, which provided a safe meat-free food experience; part of the neon sign of the famous Upper West Side dairy restaurant is on display. Salvaged artifacts, like the 2nd Avenue Delicatessen sign and vintage meat slicers and scales from other delis, are also on display, along with costumes by Emmy Award-winning costume designer Donna Zakowska, the popular Prime Video series. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Visitors are invited to create their own sandwiches named after celebrities, such as Milton Berle, Sophie Tucker, Frank Sinatra, Ethel Merman and Sammy Davis Jr., in a digital interaction inspired by menu items from Reuben’s Deli and Stage Deli. On the Bloomberg Connects app, expo visitors can listen to popular songs like “Hot Dogs and Knishes” from the 1920s, as well as clips of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia discussing the price of kosher meat, radio ads from 1950s and interviews with deli owners forced to close during the pandemic lockdown.
In a nostalgic homage to the defunct delis that continue to hold a place in the hearts of many New Yorkers, photographs show restaurants that have closed in recent years. Restaurants include Fine & Schapiro Kosher Delicatessen on the Upper West Side, Jay & Lloyd’s Kosher Delicatessen in Brooklyn, and Loeser’s Kosher Deli in the Bronx. An exuberant hot dog-shaped sign from Jay & Lloyds Delicatessen, which closed in May 2020, and folk artist Harry Glaubach’s monumental carved and painted signage for Ben’s Best Kosher Delicatessen in Queens, also pay homage to beloved establishments. The exhibit ends on a hopeful note, highlighting new delis that have opened over the past decade, such as Mile End and Frankel’s, both in Brooklyn, and USA Brooklyn Delicatessen, located just a few not from the site of the former Carnegies and Stage Delis in Manhattan.