Wexler’s Deli and “The Post” remind us bagels, lox and truth never go out of style
By Angela Matano
The Sunday paper and a round of bagels used to be one of the great pleasures of my week. When I lived in New York, reading The New York Times with bagels from H&H and cream cheese and lox from Zabar’s could easily comprise half the day. Whiling away the hours that way now feels like a bygone era, a world where carbs were not contraband and bulky periodicals arrived dutifully on my doorstep.
To relive such a feeling, I recommend a trip to Wexler’s Deli in Santa Monica for brunch followed by a matinee of “The Post,” Steven Spielberg’s new film about the challenges the Washington Post faced in publishing The Pentagon Papers.
As Lenny Bruce famously put it, “Even if you’re Catholic, if you live in New York you’re Jewish.” I think the same can be said for Los Angeles, where schools close on Jewish holidays and delicatessens abound.
Wexler’s Deli is relatively new but takes itself very seriously, which is a good thing.
“I’ve always had an appreciation for the craftsmanship that goes into a truly good Jewish deli,” says chef/owner Micah Wexler of the skill that comes through in just about every ingredient in his shop. “We’re curing and smoking all of our meats, fish, mustard and pickles in house and slicing everything by hand.”
The double-smoked pastrami lox are most definitely the best lox I have ever eaten. Gussied up with capers, red onion, lemon and tomato on an everything bagel, this is a breakfast you can wax nostalgia about only minutes after consuming it. And I haven’t even mentioned the matzo ball soup, chocolate phosphates, black and white cookies or chocolate babka.
“We’ve had people tell us how taking a bite out of our bagels or sandwiches or a sip off a phosphate brings them right back to a certain time and place in their life, as though they’re right there. Food has this unique ability to hit all of our senses at once and transport us through time in an incredible way,” says Wexler.
And while “The Post” takes us back to the 1970s, the story echoes quite a bit of today’s issues regarding “fake news” and the role of journalism in democracy.
Meryl Streep, brilliant as always, plays Washington Post owner/publisher Kay Graham. Thrust into power by happenstance, and woefully timid to modern eyes, Graham struggles to find her voice — indeed herself — under a highly lacquered veneer of overbred gentility. A pleaser by nature and well-connected to men in high places, Streep’s Graham must blast through layers and layers of her carefully constructed persona. I kept thinking of croissant dough with its 27 layers of pastry — imagine trying to peel each layer apart.
Like “Molly’s Game,” “Phantom Thread” and “Lady Macbeth,” “The Post” speaks to Hollywood’s current reckoning of gender vs. power, illustrating the inner struggles women have had to overcome to speak up and speak out, own their own space and command respect from others. For me, these times make Graham’s triumphant battle to vanquish her own demons resonate all the more.
The main focus of the film — journalism’s power struggle with government pushback under the guise of national security — also reverberates in 2018: a president at war with the press, some who would impede the truth to “protect” the American people from it, and the Mueller investigation building toward what could be our generation’s Pentagon Papers.
In the spirit of everything old being new again, a heaping bagelful of lox and a civics lesson from Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks could help talk you off the ledge we find ourselves thrust upon.
Wexler’s Deli is at 616 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica. (424) 744-8671; wexlersdeli.com
“The Post” is showing at AMC Dine-In Theatres Marina 6, Cinemark Playa Vista and XD, and two Santa Monica theaters.