Nostalgia is a Key Ingredient in Your Pastrami on Rye, Professor Gross Says

Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Photo of Rachel Gross delivering lecture

J. (SAN FRANCISCO) -- The reception catered by Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen set the tone for the evening: a talk about food with San Francisco State University Jewish Studies Professor Rachel Gross.

Though many Jews might claim to be experts on Jewish cuisine or innovators in the kitchen, Gross is one of the region’s most knowledgeable academics when it comes to understanding why certain trends in Jewish commercial cooking exist as they do today.

Why did Michael Siegel, owner-chef of the now-defunct Shorty Goldstein’s Jewish deli, draw on his family tree and family recipes as part of the restaurant’s marketing? What exactly is “kosher-style,” as opposed to “kosher”?

These questions came up in “Feeling Jewish: Buying and Selling American Jewish Nostalgia,” Gross’ inaugural lecture as the John and Marcia Goldman Chair in American Jewish Studies at SFSU, a position she started in August 2016.

The sold-out lecture, which she gave June 15 at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, was in part based on her research for an upcoming book, which will have the same title as the talk.

Photo by Roger Habon