Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Getting closer to Schwartz's

(A Montreal landmark still worth visiting
though it's now owned, in part, by
Celine Dion's husband.)
When I was growing up, Schwartz's seemed miles away physically and sociologically, and its famous smoked meat was a bit spicy for my taste. Ours was more a Chalet Bar-B-Q family.

But as I've explored my native Montreal by bicycle on recent trips, I've been amazed at how close Boulevard St. Laurent (you'll know the street if you've read Mordecai Richler) is to downtown.  And I've grown to love smoked meat, medium.

Boulevard St. Laurent, home of Schwartz's, is often referred to locally as "The Main," and one sign of its importance to Montreal culture is that, even though public signs are by law supposed to be French-only here, banners and billboards tout "Le Main."  In addition to the smoked meat, it was a pleasure to talk about Philadelphia with the countermen and to say things like "Your brother is ... ? Well I know somebody who ... Why don't you give me a card?" I felt less like an interloper and more like I'd been sitting at the counter making deals for fifty years.

And it was nice to hear that amiable verbal swagger of Anglophone Montrealers speaking and conducting business in French, proud, I imagine, that they can function in multiple languages, when so many people I run into seem questionably able to function in one.

Today, back to Philly.
As much as I like trains, at unpredictable intervals this trip back from Montreal was a good advertisement for the relaxed comfort of modern air travel. America needs to catch up with twentieth-century Europe and give passenger rail sufficient track to avoid congestion and enough track that it owns, so it does not have to surrender right of way to freight and other trains. And why did the WiFi connection work in the café car but not from my seat?

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great. Sounds like a wonderful delicatessen.

However, isn't anyone worried about cholesterol, clogged arteries and such?

Everyone I know middle-aged or older has totally modified their diets. No one goes to delis any more -- sad, but true. No one eats pastrami, corned beef or salami any more.

It's all grilled salmon and vegetables up here.

September 19, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, I did have a piece of salmon for dinner last night and a fruit salad and juice for breakfast this morning.

September 19, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And Schwartz's does offer the option of extra-lean smoked meat.

September 19, 2012  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

Try ordering the extra-lean, Peter. You might as well ask for the smoked and swiss cheese you could get at Ben's...

Sure, I can't go to a deli as often as I used to but I can't give it up completely.

And I like to hear about Anglos having some swagger in Montreal.

September 20, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, yeah, they even thrust their chins out when they speak French. Or at least I imagine they do. I get the sentimental idea that Anglos who live and work and deal with people in Montreal are practical folks and speak French not because they necessarily give a rap about Quebecois culture and the version thereof peddled in the media, but because that's what they have to do. Speaking French in Schwartz's is an Anglophone Montrealer's way of living in the moment.

Sadly I am back in Philadelphia, so no medium, extra-lean, or extra fat for a while.

I also saw an exhibition of political cartoons at the McCord Museum. Aislin was in it, of course, with some gorgeous color drawings as well as the familiar black and white. And this guy Garnotte from Le Devoir is also pretty good.

September 20, 2012  

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