The documentary "Deli Man" is about what it takes to make succulent pastrami and the perfectly fluffy Matzo Ball soup, but it's really about more than that.
It's a film about the vanguards of a great tradition under siege and it is infused with the importance of maintaining a connection to your heritage even in the face of significant change.
The movie really affected me; the stories of individuals such as main subject Ziggy Gruber, the NYC born and raised proprietor of a Houston kosher deli, sent me back to a childhood spent in the kitchens of my mother and grandmother, devouring stuffed cabbage, kreplach, kugel and other Jewish culinary staples.
There were once thousands of Jewish delis across the United States. There are now, according to the film, approximately 150. Documentarian Erik Greenberg Anjou hits the road, visiting local institutions such as the Second Avenue Deli and Ben's Best in Queens, stopping everywhere from Chicago to Los Angeles to learn the stories of the individuals who preserve these communal institutions and fight back against the march of time. You don't have to be Jewish to appreciate the gentle, affectionate strand the movie weaves between generations.
When Gruber says smelling the food makes him feel like his grandpa is standing there with him, you know what he means.