Being Jewish, you'd think that it would be in my blood, but not so much. I didn't have the New York deli experience, as far as I can remember. My father was born and raised in New York, and as young children, we'd go and visit my grandparents in Jamaica, NY, near JFK Airport, but I really don't remember eating at a deli while there. My only remembered meals, aside from at my Grandma's, were at the automat.
Growing up in single digits years, we lived in small town Wisconsin. Again, I don't recall eating deli. When we'd visit my mother's family in Chicago, usually we'd eat at their homes, so again, no deli.
It was when we moved to Southern California that I began to have deli experiences. At least one of them is gone now, replaced by a large electronics store, on Ventura Blvd. However, I do have recollections from my dating years of eating at Art's Deli in Studio City, and standing in line behind men from the business end of the motion picture industry, discussing deals that were in negotiation, while behind me waited Ali McGraw.
Since forestcats and I moved to California in 1986, we haven't exactly lived in areas well-stocked with delis. We've eaten at Art's maybe twice in that time; Jerry's (not my favorite) twice, including once in Marina del Rey; Cantor's twice; Brent's twice. It surprised me to realize that I've eaten at Thai places more in a year, than Jewish places in the whole time I've been in SoCal since medical school.
The one place we've been to the most of that type would be Solly's in Van Nuys. We've eaten there about six times. The last time we ate there was four years ago. The night my father died, axelicious and themodeinliz took forestcats and I out there, to make sure I ate something, and oddly enough, that was what I needed at the time. It was comforting, and deeply appreciated.
So, having read the book mentioned in a previous post, I feel a bit...well, embarrassed. I do like a lot of the things that they offer at a Jewish delicatessen, though some of them my wife makes brilliantly (say, for example, matzoh ball soup!). Still, there's dishes that I've never tried, and dishes that I miss that I think I should pursue. I foresee a sea change in my attitude here!