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The film concentrates on the deli culture and what it takes to keep a deli up and running, but Anjou also tells us about the history, the present, and the future (fusion deli?) of the cuisine. I especially loved meeting Ziggy Gruber, who started out as a child working in his grandfather's Manhattan deli, then went to culinary school, and is now a staple of the Houston, Texas, Jewish community.
One of the big takeaways for me was learning about the astonishing decline of the delicatessen since the 1950s. Sure, there are plenty of places to get a corned beef or pastrami sandwich these days, but very few that are still serving in-house cured meats, traditional kugels, chopped liver, kreplach, and hand-sliced nova. It's a sad fact: As the owners of the kosher and Jewish delis age, few younger people are willing to put in the long hours required to keep the food culture alive.
By the end of Deli Man, I had a renewed interest in making more of my grandmothers' recipes. It made me miss so many of the foods of my childhood, which my family ate for Sunday brunch and almost any other time we all got together--happy or sad, holiday or every day.
If you like to eat, if you have interest in food history, and/or if you love a good delicatessen, then you won't want to miss this well-done documentary. Be prepared to crave some good rye bread (impossible to find in my town--sorry, local bakeries and Wegman's). Deli Man is available for streaming on Amazon and perhaps from other sources as well.