Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

The Eternal Mystery That Is Corned Beef and Cabbage

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

The Eternal Mystery That Is Corned Beef and Cabbage

Article excerpt

An Italian, a Jew and an Irishman walk into a bar.

No, seriously.

I think the year was 1978. The Italian was yours truly.

The Jew was my friend Scott.

The Irishman was my friend Bob. (Well, half-Italian, half-Irish. Close enough.)

Yes, it was St. Patrick's Day. But in those days, we went to bars every night of the week. What else was there to do?

We had no Internet. No Facebook. No Twitter. No Instagram. How did we survive?

Anyway, we walked into the bar and the bartender told us we were in for a treat.

"I made my famous corned beef and cabbage!" he said.

Bob was excited. I pretended to be excited. Scott made a face.

"I don't like corned beef and cabbage," Scott noted once the bartender was out of earshot. "I don't like the looks of it."

I found this amusing, since Scott -- who was my roommate in 1978 - - always kept gefilte fish in our refrigerator.

Anytime I opened our fridge and saw it floating in its jar -- top shelf, front and center -- I'd push it as far back as possible and hide it behind milk containers, orange juice ... whatever was handy.

Just the sight of it made me nauseated.

Anyway, Bob was the first to try our bartender's corned beef and declared it to be "otherworldly."

"Is that good or bad?" I asked, since I had yet to visit other worlds and had no idea what they ate.

"I'm [expletive deleted] serious," he said as he pushed another forkful into his mouth. "This is the best corned beef and cabbage I've ever tasted!"

Scott was still unimpressed. But my curiosity was aroused enough to go over to the buffet table and give it a shot.

I had tried this concoction only twice before in my life, and didn't care for it. I found it mushy and unappealing.

But, after a couple of forkfuls, I had to agree with Bob: It was really, really good.

We eventually persuaded Scott to try some. But it took some doing.

"I thought Jewish people loved corned beef," I said as I waved a forkful of the stuff in front of his face.

"Yeah," he replied. "On rye. With pickles and coleslaw. And maybe a few latkes."

Scott finally gave in and wound up having three plates of the stuff.

We asked the bartender his secret, but he refused to tell us. …

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