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  • Writer's pictureEric Elkins

Ode: The #4 at The Bagel Deli and Restaurant


I mean, I guess you could eat the first half and take the rest for later. Put it in a clamshell, shove a frilled toothpick through the Styrofoam, then gingerly transport it home and chomp the rest when your craving picks back up in an hour or two. You could absolutely do that.


You could unhinge your jaw for that first magical mouthful of rye and corned beef and chopped liver — the soft bread strata, chewy meat, crunchy raw red onions, and creamy pate a medley for the Jewish soul, an atavistic return to your Ashkenazi roots, a heart-attack-gut-bomb-taste-of-the-old-country-moment-of-heaven in a single bite, thinking you’ll just barely make it through the whole sandwich.


You could stop for the crunch of a full sour, take a sip of Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda, the bubbles and zing clearing your palate for your next big bite, then go all full mow down on the rest, the bread starting to slip as you work your way through, chunks of warm, sliced corned beef and dollops of salty chopped liver dotting your little plate until you plop the final corner of rye into your mouth and use a fork to scoop the tailings.


You could say, “Whew!” and finish off the pickle. Take a guzzle of celery soda. Eye the second massive half. Chew a forkful of slaw. Look around the table to see where everyone else is in their Jewish deli lunch journey. Realize they’re still making their way into the lox and bagel sandwich, dillydallying through their eggs Bagel-Dict, slowly sipping at their matzah ball soup.


You might put a hand on your belly and say, “Man. I could finish this now. Or maybe save it for later?”


You could think, no need to force it, before you finish off the coleslaw.


But that beautiful mound of Eastern European love, that hearkening to your ancestors, that giant pile of meat and starch is, you know, just sitting there. The green tassel on the toothpick a tiny flag at the top of Everest. Your Everest.


You could, for sure, at that moment, stop there. Sip your soda while everyone else finishes off their meals, content in your full-ish belly. Again, no need to force it.


Or.


Fuck it, you could think to yourself, before gently removing that plastic-topped sliver of wood holding the top slice of rye in place. I’m gonna do it. You could catch the person sitting across the table from you raising an eyebrow, not sure if they’re judging you or egging you on.


You could just be in the moment, mindful and present in the busy deli restaurant where the servers call you sweetie, not concerning yourself with the future, living your life to the (tummy) fullest. You could chow down to the very last bite of that beautiful sandwich, consequences be damned, swiping that final, goopy schmear of chopped liver off the plate with your finger and putting it in your mouth, happy in your chazerai. You could sit back in your chair, your stomach a little distended, and stifle a satisfied yawn.


You could. You could.


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