Jewtina: Savoring My Culinary Roots

24 Nov

My mom is Jewish and my dad’s Salvadorean, that combo makes me a Jewtina. Thankfully, there is a clothing line for people like me but there isn’t a special restaurant that combines the two cuisines. Fortunately, this last week I had the best Jewish deli sandwich of my life and some great Salvadorean food.

There are some iconic LA restaurants that I am simply in no rush to try. For instance, it took me 5 years to try a Father’s Office burger. The reason for my hesitation is normally anticipated and then actual disappointment. That is not the case with Langer’s Deli. I have wanted to go for the last 5 years but their hours, never open past 4pm and closed on Sundays, have been a barrier for me. When Josie called and said that she was so sorry she missed roller disco and asked how she could make it up to me, I immediately had a resolution. I had to get my car serviced and suggested that she pick me up at Toyota and that we grab lunch at Langer’s. She was totally game and we arrived with rather large appetites. The location of Langer’s, in the heart of MacArthur Park, brings to mind smells of urine and memories of purchasing my first fake ID. We are tough girls and walked in to a packed lunch crowd. The hostess took down my name and said it would be a 20 minute wait. I spotted a seat at the counter and there was a second that appeared to be opening up quickly. A nice Jewish man was in the middle of the two empty seats offered to scoot down for us. He ended up chatting with the cute younger woman, soon to be seatmate, all about her upcoming wedding. Josie and I were thrilled and I told her that all of our Twitter friends said we must stick to the Number 19. We didn’t stray. Josie, not a huge rye fan, asked for sourdough and we decided to split an order of fries. The waitress was quick talking and clearly a New Yorker. When Josie asked me if we needed to clarify to the waitress about the order, since she didn’t write anything down, I stopped her. I could tell this woman has been doing this for years and had the order perfect and with no confusion. I was correct.

The number 19 has thick pieces of pastrami, swiss cheese, coleslaw, and russian dressing. In the words of Joe Jackson, “Nineteen Forever!” It was so OMG! Anyone that knows me knows that I am a huge bread snob and this rye was fresh and perfect. I think Josie ended up regretting her sourdough choice. I would normally be the quintessential Jew and complain about paying nearly $14 for a sandwich, but not here. It was so worth it. Those complaints can be saved for the always disappointing and overpriced Jerry’s Deli. I do not necessarily heart New York but I do love a good NYC deli where people come from all walks of life and chat over a good sandwich. That is what happened at Langer’s and it was all delectable! If you live in LA and have not been, this is a place that is not to be missed.

Josie and I share some Salvadorean blood but rarely do we eat the food together. We are far more likely to head to Highland Park together for huaraches and tacos or to San Gabriel for Chinese food (the other food of the Jewish people) than to seek out some pupusas. Although, we were asked at one point if we like to bump pupusas together. It’s on tape, in case you don’t believe us. Anyway, Josie is now on her 11th iPhone and while she was at the Apple store, or as she like to call it the home of her saviors, I handed her my BlackBerry (I am only on my 2nd) and told her to use the Yelp app and find us somewhere for dinner. She chose La Caravana, which is pretty far up Lake in Pasadena, nearly at the Altadena border. I agreed but walked in with very low expectations. After my first sip of the ensalada, a fresh fruit drink, I was sold. Never have I had such a refreshingly delicious beverage. As soon as I saw the menu I knew that I needed the Plato Tipico Loco, which translates to the typical crazy plate. We are Uncouth Gourmands how could we not order that? It came with your choice of pupusa, a sweet corn tamale, fried yucca, plantain, mixed rice and beans, a slice of queso fresco, and sour cream. I went with the chicken and cheese pupusa and Josie was torn between the zucchini and cheese and the loroco. Despite the vast amount of food, she ordered both. All the food was delicious and the plate was only ten dollars, which is a good deal considering an individual pupusa is $3. I know that it isn’t that much but I have a hard time justifying more than a $1.50 for a taco and more than $2.50 for a pupusa. All of the food was superb and Josie and I were screaming at each other to try this or try that. We had identical plates but that didn’t stop us from sharing.

Whatever your cultural background may be, might I suggest that you partake in gobbling its culinary roots. You will feel proud, satiated, and it is a good thing to be on the hunt for. Everyone loves finding the “Best” something and it might as well be something that your ancestors have loved and enjoyed.

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