Monday, March 18, 2013

The Way Corned Beef Used to Be

Over the weekend I indulged in my usual St. Patrick's Day orgy of corned beef consumption, enjoying a fine corned beef stew Saturday night at Mutt & Jeff's, followed by a nice corned beef sandwich from old favorite Rubins Deli by Midway Mall on the big day Sunday.

Which got me to thinking about what corned beef used to mean to me back in the 1960s – namely the image you see at left.

To my family, corned beef was something that came in a can with a key on it, like Spam. After you got the can open (being careful not to cut yourself), you shook it until the whole block of, er, meat came sliding out.

Then you sliced it (again, like Spam) and make sandwiches out of it or whatever. The texture was kinda crumbly and the large amounts of fat on it gave it a unique look and taste.

It wasn't until several years later that Mom began to buy a whole corned beef brisket in a bag that came with its own spices. Then I finally learned what corned beef and cabbage was all about.

And it wasn't until I worked in Downtown Cleveland in the early 1980s that I discovered what a real corned beef sandwich from a deli tasted like. I was working on E. Ninth Street, and on one St. Patrick's Day, the fellas I worked with and I walked all the way down to Slyman's on St. Claire. I'll never forget that sandwich, or the line we stood in while waiting for it.

Nowadays, you can get a good corned beef sandwich at a lot of different places. For me, one of the best was always at Joe's Deli in Rocky River and it was a convenient stop on the way home.

I still see the canned corned beef on the shelf at the grocery store, but am puzzled as to who would knowingly buy it. I'm not a meat snob – I buy a few cans of Spam each year, and enjoy canned beef stews such as Dinty Moore and Castleberry's. But I'm not nostalgic enough to go back to the days when corned beef came in a can.

1 comment:

Ken said...

I don't know, bro. The canned stuff has a certain charm of its own.