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Wanted: Trademark Toronto deli

 

 

 

 

 

Anna MOrgan

 

My family spends August rediscovering Toronto and, like most things we do, everything tends to revolve around food. This year, it occurred to me that in many ways the history of our city can be written in its deli.

 

Top-quality Montreal smoked meat with a New York sour dill is easy to find around town. It's possible to find Polish potato latkes or stuff yourself with a Russian kishke. But where can you get Toronto-style anything?

 

It's not that Toronto doesn't have great Jewish delis. We've got the best New York pastrami money can buy, and you don't have to go far to get lox and cream cheese on an oven-baked Montreal bagel.

 

Indeed, anyone looking for a good deli can find restaurants up and down Bathurst St. For the strictly kosher set, there's Dairy Treats and Marky's Deli, to name but two, and for bagel aficionados there is United Bakers and Bagel Plus, amongst others. And for those willing to venture slightly off Bathurst, the downtown crowd has an excellent Bay St. lunch spot actually called the New Yorker Deli, and Thornhill's popular Centre Street Deli imports the best of Montreal's Snowdon Deli cuisine.

 

All great restaurants – I recommend each of them – but none features anything that Torontonians can distinctively call their own.

 

Deli, of course, didn't begin in Toronto. European Jews, with their taste for pickled meats and cabbage, came to New York, mingled with the Irish and their taste for boiled meat and cabbage, and New York's corned beef and coleslaw sandwich was born. The same thing happened in the bakeries, where the European oddity of boiled buns met the American ingenuity for mass production, creating the now ubiquitous bagel.

 

A similar phenomenon happened in Quebec, where Jews and their bagels encountered the pizzeria, giving birth to the oven-baked delicacy now known as the Montreal bagel. Likewise, corned beef met the northern and rural penchant for curing in a smokehouse, eventually adding Montreal's distinctive smoked meat to the deli mix.

 

Now back to my original question: Given our "world class city" aspirations, where's the uniquely Toronto deli food?

 

Everyone loves a Shopsy's or Kwinter's hot dog. But similar tube steaks are found in ballparks from Boston to Miami. Likewise, while there is nothing better than a crisp Strub's pickle, delicious gherkins can be fished out of brine in barrels and jars all over America.

 

Here's my theory. When Jews came to English Canada in the late 19th and early 20th century, they settled with their taste for deli and created bustling centres like Toronto's Kensington Market. But back then, before massive immigration from across the globe, the best fare the locals had to offer – peameal bacon – was hardly something that melded with the Jewish palate. It may have been tasty, but it just didn't fit the bill.

 

So even though there might be nothing more Canadian than the image of Doug and Bob McKenzie sipping on suds and frying up some savoury back bacon, there is also nothing less kosher. You can't even dress it up as kosher-style. Try as the early deli pioneers might, the culinary graft just didn't take.

 

And now with multiculturalism firmly in place, we may be stuck with having the best of everyone else's deli but nothing distinctively our own. In the meantime, as summer ends, I'm planning to shed my Toronto-style vanity, swallow my pride and order up a Montreal smoked meat sandwich (medium, not lean).

 

That is unless someone comes up with Toronto's very own kosher Canadian bacon-style deli meat. Sounds delish, eh?

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J'ai rencontré des torontois et new yorkais à cancun il y a quelques jours et ils me parlaient comment ils adorent venir faire le party chez nous.

 

Nous world class on l'est pour le party ;-)

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J'ai rencontré des torontois et new yorkais à cancun il y a quelques jours et ils me parlaient comment ils adorent venir faire le party chez nous.

 

Nous world class on l'est pour le party ;-)

 

Pas juste le Party, mais les femmes, la bouffe, l'architecture, les festivals d'été, etc.

 

Au moins tu ne lira pas un journaliste ou une editorialiste de Montréal dire que sa ville est World Class a toutes les 2 minutes.:rolleyes:

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le pire c'est qu'on faisait juste se parler et c'est les gars qui lancent: "oh Montreal! We go there really often to party with friends, last time I was at Opera what an incredible club, blalblabla..."

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As usual, MTLskyline you vomit your dislike of Toronto. The opportunity was litteraly offered to you on a silver plate.

Now, I'm sorry for Anna Morgan but somes would say that what makes Montréal's smoked meat outstandingly better than New-York's has to do with the specific quality of Montréal's water. Therefore, Torontonians could not surpass Montréal on this one unless they import our water by cargo ship !! ;)

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I criticize Toronto just as much as I have criticized Montreal. There are things both cities need to improve on. (Don Cherry and the English Canadian media lead in part to me having a bit of a distaste for Toronto)

 

But maybe I'm too negative, there's definitely lots to love as well. They have a great film festival there, and I root for their baseball team.

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