Deli Memories

Mounds of roast beef piled high smothered with gravy and onions, soggy rye bread under this mess, soggy bread that tastes luxurious when combined with the sewage looking mound of meat and brown sauce, small fish like onion slivers poke their heads through trying to breath oxygen before being mixed back into the mix with my fork, heaping mounds of ice cream scoop shaped mashed potatoes, the reflection of which can be seen in the old worn silver bowl containing the welcoming coleslaw bowl situated next to a pile of pickles on one of those long silver trays, lumps of garlic that clung to the pickles as they were scooped out of the barrel on Grand Street are visible if you look hard enough. Across from the mound of meat and sauce is one of those overstuffed pastrami sandwiches that open the floodgates of the memories of youth, stacked high under seeded rye bread, the kind that pop brought home from the bakery, neatly sliced and ready to receive their toasting and eventual spreading of whipped butter, the pastrami is held together by a toothpick with those little colored pieces of clear tape at the top of the tooth pick, the kind that add color to the pink and white sandwich, neatly hugging the side of the sandwich is a quick sliver of half sour pickle with the peppercorns that filled the barrel at Gusses Pickles scattered about the little area of juice that has leaked off the pickle and is slowly creeping toward the center of the plate so it can meat up with the sandwich and make the left corner of the middle of the sandwich soggy.

Edna’s, Fischer Brothers, 2nd Avenue Deli, huge jars of pickled tomatoes that when you bite into them juice flies into your eyes and onto your shirt, hanging salamis drying slowly on the window, the nice old man who slices your meat and puts it into the white wax paper and then ties it with string, lines of knishes kasha, potato, spinach, cherry, blueberry, more pickles, barrels of them beaconing one to stick their hands inside the vinegary concoction to try and find the largest treasure inside, salads in their tin foil pans with little price tacks stuck in with tooth picks, like a flag on top of a mountain, piles of egg salad, coleslaw, kasha varnikas, sliced cucumber salad, Swedish meatballs, all have bright spices or chives neatly sliced to garnish them, little flowers made out of radishes, containers of all shapes and sizes scattered around, covers too, the man cannot find the right cover for your ¼ pound of coleslaw, I just had them I swear it, he mumbles as you plaster you head against the large brightly lit flickering lighted display case, fog forms from your excited breathing as you think of your over stuffed pastrami sandwich smothered in Russian dressing with a half sour pickle, the little black pieces of spicy ends of the meat that scatter around your plate with every bite, or maybe a hot open faced sandwich, stuffed cabbage, carrot stew, free coleslaw that is given out at every deli, the excitement when the small cubed pieces of rye bread in a small brown basket come- signaling your ever present sandwich that is being carved at the slicer, lean or fat, hot or cold, pickle or no pickle, knish, brown deli mustard, honey mustard, Dijon, Russian dressing, fried onions, diagonally cut seedless rye, with the cute tooth picks, after dinner mints in a small silver tray as the old guy behind the counter pushes buttons on an ancient cash register. Chewing on toothpicks because my father does it, satiated from the deli experience.