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My Korean Deli
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My Korean Deli
Risking It All for a Convenience Store
Creators: Ben Ryder Howe
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Pub. date: 03/01/2011
Lib. SRP: 40.00 USD
Ret. SRP: 6.79 USD
Format: OverDrive Read
ISBN: 9781429991377
File size: 0 KB
Age Group: General/Trade
Languages:
   English
Subjects:
   Biography & Autobiography, Family & Relationships, Nonfiction, Humor (Nonfiction)
Keywords:
   Topic / Marriage & Family
  null
Short Description:
   

This sweet and funny tale of a preppy editor buying a Brooklyn deli with his Korean in-laws is about family, culture clash, and the quest for authentic experiences

It starts with a gift, when Ben Ryder Howe's wife, the daughter of Korean immigrants, decides to repay her parents' self-sacrifice by buying them a store. Howe, an editor at the rarefied Paris Review, agrees to go along. Things soon become a lot more complicated. After the business struggles, Howe finds himself living in the basement of his in-laws' Staten Island home, commuting to the Paris Review offices in George Plimpton's Upper East Side townhouse by day, and heading to Brooklyn at night to slice cold cuts and peddle lottery tickets. My Korean Deli follows the store's tumultuous life span, and along the way paints the portrait of an extremely unlikely partnership between characters with shoots across society, from the Brooklyn streets to Seoul to Puritan New England. Owning...

Full Description:
   

This warm and funny tale of an earnest preppy editor finding himself trapped behind the counter of a Brooklyn convenience store is about family, culture and identity in an age of discombobulation.



It starts with a gift, when Ben Ryder Howe's wife, the daughter of Korean immigrants, decides to repay her parents' self-sacrifice by buying them a store. Howe, an editor at the rarefied Paris Review, agrees to go along. Things soon become a lot more complicated. After the business struggles, Howe finds himself living in the basement of his in-laws' Staten Island home, commuting to the Paris Review offices in George Plimpton's Upper East Side townhouse by day, and heading to Brooklyn at night to slice cold cuts and peddle lottery tickets. My Korean Deli follows the store's tumultuous life span, and along the way paints the portrait of an extremely unlikely partnership between characters with shoots across society, from the Brooklyn streets to Seoul to Puritan New England. Owning the deli becomes a transformative experience for everyone involved as they struggle to salvage the original gift—and the family—while sorting out issues of values, work, and identity.


Excerpts:
  Copyright 2011 by Ben Ryder Howe
Published in 2011 by Henry Holt and Company
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited....
     

Steam Table

Fall 2002

Last summer my wife's family and I decided to buy a deli. By fall, with loans from three different relatives, two new credit cards, and a sad kiss good-bye to thirty thousand dollars my wife and I had saved while living in my mother-in-law's Staten Island basement, we had rounded up the money. Now it is November, and we are searching New York City for a place to buy.

We have different ideas about what our store should look like. My mother-in-law, Kay, the Mike Tyson of Korean grandmothers, wants a deli with a steam table, one of those stainless steel, cafeteria-style salad bars that heat the food to just below the temperature that kills bacteria—the zone in which bacteria thrive. She wants to serve food that is either sticky and sweet, or too salty, or somehow all of the above, and that roasts in the dusty air of New York City all day, while roiling crowds examine it at close distance—pushing it around, sampling it, breathing on it. Kay's reason for wanting a deli of this kind is that steam tables bring in a lot of money, up to a few thousand dollars per hour at lunchtime. She also wants a store that is open twenty-four hours and stays open on Christmas and Labor Day. She'd like it to be in the thick of Manhattan, on a street jammed with tourists and office workers.

I don't know what I want, but an all-night deli in midtown with a steam table isn't it. I'm the sort of person who loses my appetite if I walk past an establishment with a steam table. I get palpitations and the sweats just being around sparerib tips. Of course, I don't have to eat the food if we buy a deli with a steam table. I just have to sell it. That's what Kay says she plans to do. But Kay has an unfair advantage: years ago, after she came to America, she lost her sense of smell, and now she can't detect the difference between a bouquet of freesias and a bathroom at the bus station. My nose, on the other hand, is fully functional.

Luckily, I'm in charge of the real estate search, and so far I have successfully steered us from any delis serving hot food. As a result, Kay's frustration is starting to become lethal.

"What's the matter?" she asked me the other day. "You not like money? Why you make us poor?"

These are not unfair questions. I would say that one of my biggest faults as a human being is that I do not love money, which makes me lazy and spoiled. Like finding us a store, for example. Call me a snob, but somehow a deli grocery—a traditional fruit and vegetable market—seems more dignified than a deli dishing out slop by the pound in Styrofoam trays. Is that practical? We are, after all, talking about the acquisition of a deli, not a summer home or a car. If dignity is so important, why not buy a bookstore or a bakery? Why not spend it on a business where I have to dress up for work?

Don't get me wrong: I'm not insecure about becoming a deli owner. I even sort of like the idea. Aside from a few "gentleman farmers," no one can remember the last person in my family who worked with their hands. After blowing off law school and graduate school, after barely getting through college and even more narrowly escaping high school, why would I suddenly get snobbish?

But the truth is, I'm still young (thirty-one is young, right?) and can afford to be blasé. It's like the job I had as a seventeen-year-old pumping gas outside Boston, a gig I remember as brainless heaven. I enjoyed coming home smelly. I enjoyed looking inside people's cars while scraping the crud off their windows. I enjoyed flirting with women drivers twice my age.

Who knows how I would have felt if seventeen were...

Reviews:
  Los Angeles Times
     

"Howe's portrait of the septaugenarian [George] Plimpton is priceless...Howe's combining of the Upper East Side's old world with immigrant survival skills conveys what is absolutely the best of New York. Delightful."

  Publisher's Weekly
     

December 13, 2010
Former senior editor of the Paris Review, Howe recounts his stint as owner and beleaguered worker of a Brooklyn deli in this touching memoir. Howe and his wife, Gab, the daughter of Korean immigrants, decide to buy a deli for her parents as a gesture of goodwill for the sacrifices they have made. His mother-in-law, Kay, whom he describes as “the Mike Tyson of Korean grandmothers,” is gung-ho from the start, and when a store is finally purchased in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn, she immediately takes charge. The work (including manipulating the devilish lottery machine) is more trying than Howe anticipated, not to mention dealing with the eccentric neighborhood characters who complain bitterly about any changes, from coffee prices to shelf rearrangements. Mostly working the night shift, Howe also maintains his position at the magazine. Both establishments are sinking ships: the deli hemorrhages money as bills pile up and revenue falters; the Review grows more disorganized, and subscribership plummets. Howe ably transforms what could have been a string of amusing vignettes about deli ownership into a humorous but heartfelt look into the complexities of family dynamics and the search for identity.

  Publisher's Weekly
     

May 30, 2011
Abandoning the rat race, Howe, a former editor at the Paris Review, and his wife buy a New York City deli for
Howe's Korean mother-in-law in this charming memoir. Bronson Pinchot can be engaging, and he maintains the wit, energy, and momentum of the prose. He shifts character voices quite successfully, particular within scenes that take place
at the deli. but his attempts at Korean
accents, especially his vocalizing of his mother-in-law, are so broad and caricatured as to be almost unbearable. A Holt hardcover.

Creator Marketing:
  Ben Ryder Howe     
      Ben Ryder Howe has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and Outside, and his work has been selected for Best American Travel Writing. He is a former senior editor of The Paris Review. He, his wife, and their two children live on Staten Island. He is the author of My Korean Deli: Risking It All for a Convenience Store.
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