Skirball Cultural Center Announces Opening of “I’ll Have What She’s Have”: The Jewish Deli

From April 14 to September 4, the exhibit offers a tasty bite of American Jewish immigration history and culture

The Skirball Cultural Center presents “I’ll Have What She’s Have”: The Jewish Deli, an exhibit that explores how American Jews imported traditions, adapted culture and built community through the experience of food.

In addition to showing how Jewish charcuterie forged a whole new quintessentially American cuisine by combining Central and Eastern European dishes with ingredients abundantly available in the United States, the exhibit traces the broader arc of the Jewish experience. in the United States during the twentieth century. On display will be neon signs, menus, advertisements, light fixtures, historical footage, film and television clips, and artifacts that illustrate the evolution of delicatessens from specialty stores catering to immigrant populations to well-established national institutions. -loved as they are today. “I’ll Have What She’s Have”: The Jewish Deli will be on view at Skirball from April 14 to September 4, 2022.

“This exhibit exemplifies the Skirball Cultural Center’s 25-year tradition of sharing distinctively Jewish stories that represent uniquely American experiences. The charcuterie was a place of gathering and familiarity for Jewish immigrants, maintaining the connection to the tastes and customs of the cuisines they left behind and paving the way for new communities and identities,” said President- Skirball’s general manager, Jessie Kornberg. “More broadly, the deli has since become a touchstone of American culture, born in New York but integral to countless communities nationwide, including Los Angeles, home to some of the most enduring institutions and the most emblematic of the country and the cuisine. It is a joy to be able to reflect on this chapter in the history of Jewish American immigrants.

“I’ll Have What She Has”: The Jewish Deli was organized by the Skirball Cultural Center and co-curated by Skirball curators Cate Thurston and Laura Mart, and Lara Rabinovitch, acclaimed writer and producer and scholar of immigrant food cultures .

The exhibition is organized according to the following sections:

Immigration food—”The history of the Jewish deli is as much about immigration as it is about food,” Thurston remarked, “so we open the exhibit by looking closely at how the influx of Jewish immigrants to New York in the mid-19th century meant that Central and European regional foods such as pickles, knishes, gefilte fish, borscht and rugelach were served under one roof. It created an appetite for the mixed cuisine we now know and love as Jewish deli meats. Meanwhile, an increase in beef consumption in the United States was a modern food development that opened up market opportunities for Jewish entrepreneurs. In this first section, artifacts from the collection of the Skirball Museum are exhibited, such as candlesticks, knives, suitcases, passports and textiles brought by the Jews at the turn of the 20th century with their hopes, dreams and habits. food.

The food—From dizzying sandwiches and hot soup to matzo dumplings to rich minced liver over rye, Jewish charcuterie is fusion cuisine. In this section, a colorful display of food images, accessories and helpful definitions of terms will explain to visitors what makes a bagel a bagel, why herring was a mainstay of the Eastern European Jewish diet. Is and what distinguishes pastrami from corned beef, among many fun facts about food. Visitors will appreciate the glossary in the “Yiddishisms” section – from chutzpah to nosh to verklempt – in honor of Yiddish, the mother tongue of newcomers from Central and Eastern Europe which later established itself as the language of charcuterie.

Mid-Century Heyday—This section focuses on the mid-twentieth century, a period of unprecedented growth for the American Jewish community and, by extension, its delicatessens. Although New York remained the epicenter of Jewish deli culture, a plethora of delis opened up across the country. It was during this time that Jewish classics entered the mainstream, delicatessens began to attract a wider clientele, and deli menus began to include local dishes, such as brioches. with cinnamon, rice and beans. In this section, you’ll find mid-century menus from the famed Carnegie Delicatessen and Lindy’s Restaurant in New York’s Theater District – testament to the grocery store’s role as a hub for Broadway types and shoppers alike. theater – and mid-century matchbooks from Los Angeles’ now closed Junior’s. Restaurant in Westwood and Solley’s Restaurant and Delicatessen in the San Fernando Valley.

No substitutions — This section examines people who own and work in delicatessens. Vintage uniforms and tools from classic delis at LA Factor’s, Canter’s and Nate n’ Al’s, along with photographs and video interviews, help tell the stories of the people behind the food. Nearby, visitors are encouraged to tap into their own experiences by writing down their favorite deli dish or favorite deli memory and pinning it to a restaurant-style order line.

Who’s at the table?— Although delicatessens have become the symbol of Jewish culture, or a certain characterization of Jewish culture, they have never existed in isolation. This section reflects on how immigrant-owned delis and their foods have been woven into the American urban landscape. Several posters from the famous “You don’t have to be Jewish to like Levy’s real Jewish rye” advertising campaign are on display, which highlight how the deli was embraced by Jews and non-Jews alike, but also reveals how the Ideas about Jewishness in the United States in the 20th century were rooted in the Ashkenazi Jewish culture of Central and Eastern Europe, leaving out Jews from other parts of the global Jewish diaspora as well as multi-ethnic Jews. Visitors can also see snapshots of political candidates across the aisle stopping at delis during the campaign trail, including Senator Ted Cruz at Shapiro’s Delicatessen in Indianapolis and President Barack Obama at Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles.

Communities of survivors— For many of the four hundred thousand Holocaust survivors and refugees who rebuilt their lives in the United States, delis were a lifeline as they acclimated to a new country. Laura Mart explains, “Delicatessens provided a livelihood and purpose for immigrants who became owners, servers, cooks and customers. One such business was Drexler’s Deli in North Hollywood, which was owned and operated by Rena Drexler, an Auschwitz survivor, and her husband, Harry. For them, the deli was a place of sustenance and a sense of unity for the Orthodox Jewish community that grew up around it. We are honored to display the stunning original neon sign that lit up the entrance to their beloved grocery store.

Pop culture on Rye— Why has the Jewish grocery store inspired generations of creatives in the entertainment industry? Maybe it’s because of the fascinating characters that inhabit delis, their popularity as nighttime dining spots for showbiz people, or the fact that delis are the most visibly Jewish secular spaces on the landscape. American. This section features artifacts and photography that explore the deli’s nightlife as well as a viewing station where visitors can enjoy footage from TV hits such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and movie classics like When Harry Met Sally (1989) and At War with the Army (1950).

Changing landscapes—The last section examines how delicatessens have had to revise their menus, relocate or close due to health trends, real estate prices, family issues or business issues. “Memory is a recurring theme in delicatessen, but so is change,” explains Lara Rabinovitch. “At the end of the 20th century, ethnic diversity began to serve as a point of celebration in food, and new artisan Jewish delicatessens opened in North America and Europe. Young entrepreneurs are reviving the pre-industrial techniques of their ancestors and developing homemade ingredients like schmaltz or new versions of old-fashioned cooking. This section contains menus from restaurants across the country that reflect how delicatessens have changed in recent years, including incorporating influences from Sephardic and Jewish Israeli cuisine, focusing on justice in running their businesses. and adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Related programs – To celebrate “I’ll Have What She’s Have”: The Jewish Deli, the Skirball will present a variety of programs related to the exhibition, including Late Night! The Jewish Deli, Friday, May 20, 6:30-10:00 p.m., featuring exclusive after-hours access to the newly launched exhibit, deli-themed food trucks, and interactive photo ops on the Skirball campus. Over the summer, the Skirball will present an outdoor screening of the classic romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally, featuring the memorable scene from New York’s Katz’s Delicatessen that ends with the hilarious line and title of the homonymous exhibition “I will have what she has.

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