Sunday, 10 May 2015

Deli Man - Where did they all go?

 I spent an enjoyable couple of hours at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival on a sunday afternoon on Mothers Day.  I went to see DELI MAN at the ROM in Toronto.  This film was enjoyable for so many reasons.  The main subject of the film was a guy named Ziggy who has owner a Delicatessen in Austin, Texas for the past 15 years.  An unlikely place for a Jewish New Yorker to set up shop but as it turns out the perfect place for him to be.  This Deli Man has a heart as big as his stature and his smoked meats.  He has given his life to making his Deli a successful venture where it's all about feeding his community and building his deli family.

The film follows Ziggy's journey mostly through winning a Chicken soup contest and finally getting married to the right person for the right reasons.  He is a very charismatic person and it all goes into his food which has brought the best of Deli food to Texas.   Also seen in the film are Deli Men from all over the U.S. and Canada, including the most famous Delis like Katz's Deli, Carnegie Deli, 2nd Ave Deli and Toronto's own Caplansky's and Yitz'.  Once thing all of the Deli Men agree on is the fact that they put in their whole life into their restaurants and they would probably all do it again if given the chance.
Zane Caplansky jokingly says "you have to be Insane to go into the Deli business".

The film was full of historic photos and explanation of the Jewish delis provided by David Sax.
The couple sitting behind me laughed out loud so loud it filled the theatre through most of the film.  The characters are charming and there is a lot of Food Porn with the abundant deli dishes.
I really appreciated the film for it's heart and the focus on the men that keep the old school deli's alive.  This kind of restaurant is almost becoming extinct.   There use to be a couple thousand deli's in the U.S. and now there are probably under a couple hundred.

In Toronto there are probably less than a dozen scattered around the city but mostly in the Bathurst St. area where there are a large concentration of Jewish residents still.

A lot of the traditions of how the deli food is made is still done the same way today, although there a are a couple of guys in San Francisco who are trying to modernize traditional deli food and put their spin on things while still retaining the way it was done for years.

 After the film Toronto Jewish Film Festival director Helen Zuckerberg introduced the films director Erik Greenberg and also Zane Caplansky and David Sax for a Q&A.  Most of the people asked questions about restaurants in Toronto though.

The best part though was that Caplansky provided smoked meet on bread and pickled in the lobby of the theatre after the screening.

I have been to many film festivals in Toronto and this is a practice unique to the Toronto Jewish Film Festival.  They are becoming known for the food they sometimes have provided for people attending screenings or standing in lines.   The film will have a limited release so I suggest you go see it if it's in your area and plan to go to a Deli for some smoked meat after the screening.  You will be hungry.