Wednesday, November 30, 2011

For the Love of a Great Book and a Big Pastrami Sandwich

I wasn't exaggerating last night when I briefly hailed Best Friends, Occasional Enemies by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella as me never having been more in love with books. In fact, I may have understated it.

If you're a genuine writer, anything can be written about. Scottoline makes her travails on an elliptical machine very funny. Serritella, Scottoline's daughter, turns an attempt to get rid of the mice in her apartment into three epic parts. All that they write, from occasionally getting at each other, but never with malicious intent, to the powerhouse that is Mother Mary, Scottoline's mother and Serritella's grandmother (Wait until you see the photo of her wearing a lab coat simply because she'd found it at the Dollar Store and likes to wear it), to the occasional references to George Clooney (Scottoline's man of choice) and ex-husbands Thing One and Thing Two (Scottoline's reasons for happily living with her dogs and cats), makes me thankful that I pre-ordered this from Amazon. I'd read Scottoline's Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog and My Nest Egg Isn't Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space (which included a few pieces from Serritella, but not as many as this book), and when I heard this one was coming, I knew it wasn't one I could leave until I got a library card in Henderson. I needed this one now and it was worth every page.

It also made me realize that I can't merely wait for Scottoline and Serritella's next book, and there has to be another. There must be.

I'd been satisfied with going from Scottoline's first book of columns to the next and now this. But suppose her other books hold the same kind of satisfaction? Until I Googled Scottoline's name last night, I didn't know that she writes legal thrillers under the "Rosato and Associates" series, starting with Everywhere That Mary Went from 1993, the latest being Think Twice from last year. And then there's two serial novels she co-wrote with a bevy of authors, as well as six stand-alone novels, the sixth, Come Home, coming out next year.

I know I can't expect the same good-natured writing found in Best Friends, Occasional Enemies to be prevalent in her legal thrillers, but having read the first page of Everywhere That Mary Went last night on Amazon, I know I can expect the same level of knowledgeable insight from her (Being that she had been a trial lawyer) and writing that makes me feel comfortable even before I start on the first page. I ordered that one last night, and as soon as it arrives, it's shooting straight to the top of my reading list. A legal thriller suits me since I read Grisham in 3rd grade and continue to do so today, and one of my interests is the Supreme Court, and the inner workings of the lower courts, so it fits.

Shifting from books to food, Dad's birthday is tomorrow and he wants to go to MacArthur Park in Westlake in Los Angeles to get a picture taken with the sign (because of the song), and to Langer's Deli across the street from MacArthur Park. Being Jewish, we can tell if we're at an honest-to-kishka Jewish deli, and just by looking at the massive menu on the website alone, this feels like it.

For pastrami, I've contentedly subsisted on the pastrami sandwiches offered by Weinerschnitzel. It's the best I can do living in the Santa Clarita Valley where the only things that are Jewish are the little slivers of spaces for Hanukkah stuff at the supermarket. We're not the majority here, and certainly don't expect to be, but what brings in the most profit is what gets the most attention. In Las Vegas, it's different. Supermarkets there have a good-sized aisle for Jewish food. Packaged, sure, but at least it's more attention than we get here.

Compared to what Langer's has, I'm apparently not getting real pastrami from Weinerschnitzel, but I don't mind. It's cut very thinly, and it's good at least. That's all I can ask for from this empty-soul valley. But tomorrow, oh lord. I've scrolled through that menu and I've drooled many times. I'm not intimidated by the size of it, and in fact, I'm never taken aback by any large menu. Give me a 25-page menu and I can reduce it to what I want within two minutes. Speed reading is a major component of that, but I also generally go into restaurants with what I like right at the forefront of my mind. If it's an Italian restaurant, and I've been a good boy with my diet in the weeks before, I order fettucine alfredo. If it's Mexican, I want a quesadilla. If it's a Jewish deli, I want some kind of sandwich, big enough to make me not care about how many calories I'm consuming, just to be in awe of the masterwork in front of me.

Mom looked at the Langer's Deli menu first yesterday and she was intimidated by it. It has everything we've been starved of here, including whitefish and lox, but which, coupled with cream cheese, is a tad pricey at $15.95 for an appetizer. And you can have either the whitefish or the lox. Not both. And they've got matzo ball soup which I hope isn't served as large as it is at Jerry's Deli to try to cover up the fact that it's so-so. I hope there's respect given to the matzo ball in relation to the soup and vice-versa. I'm also harboring high hopes for the cheesecake. I love cheesecake. I can't have it often because I like my thinning frame. With a menu like this (, the hope is justified.

I looked at the menu late yesterday afternoon, scrolling past the hot sandwiches, the "daily entrees" including corned beef and cabbage and "One-Half Boiled Chicken", the steaks, the deli plates, though I had already decided what I wanted when I saw it at the top of the page. I was just seeing what else Langer's offered, just to be assured that this was the Jewish deli I had hoped to find after eight years of not having any.

A pastrami and chopped liver sandwich with "Russian Style Dressing." That's what I want tomorrow. They have chili cheese fries, but I'm not keen on that. It feels disrespectful. They have regular fries, and as long as there's mustard, which undoubtedly there will be, I'm fine with that. I just can't fathom chili and cheese on a separate dish next to a pastrami and chopped liver sandwich. Not when there's kishka and knishes available on the menu.

I told Mom I'd found what I wanted and she was stunned. She had picked out the pastrami and chopped liver sandwich too. For her genes, I'm grateful, as they include a steely resolve, patience, and a love of black olives and cheesecake. This wasn't really a surprise to me because with Jewish delis, what I pick is relatable to Mom or Dad or both. I've been raised well.


  1. MacArthur Park is melting in the dark, all the sweet green icing flowing down. Someone left the cake out in the rain, and I don't think that I can take it cuz it took so long to bake it, and I'll never have that recipe again. Oh nooooooooo.
    Thanks, Rory. Now that stupid song will run through my head all night. Maybe if I sing the Winnie the Pooh song I can get rid of MacArthur Park. And my second husband is three dogs. Or should I say my second husbands are three dogs? Do you have an opinion? Do you care? I hope your dad has a nice birthday tomorrow, and I hope you enjoy yourself.

    Lola in Cougarville

  2. My sister once read an interview with a DJ who said that "MacArthur Park" was known as a bathroom break song because once the DJ put it on, there was an opportunity to go to the bathroom.

    I indeed have an opinion: Dogs are angels in disguise. I've got two I love endlessly, so I can see why your second husband is three dogs.

    And thank you. I'm eager for tomorrow because it not only means that pastrami and chopped liver sandwich (I'm not as enthusiastic about MacArthur Park as my dad is, but it will be interesting to see), but the time spent in the car means reading and mp3 player time. So my day's set.

  3. You are so wise. Dogs definitely are angels in disguise.


  4. Tigger and Kitty are the reasons I don't mind occasionally not sleeping well. Kitty always sleeps under my covers at the foot of the bed, and I never move her when I get in. I settle myself around her. Then Tigger drops by in the morning, and it's a challenge, but it's worth it.