Monday, December 26, 2011

Saul's Jewish Delicatessen, Berkeley's secret Christmas tradition?

For the past several years, my family and I have eaten our annual Christmas dinner at Saul's Jewish and Middle Eastern Restaurant and Delicatessen in north Berkeley. One of the few local restaurants open on December 25, Saul's was the perfect holiday alternative for us all: Good food, fast seating, the children liked it and, best of all, I didn't have to cook anything. Dining at Saul's on Christmas Day used to be our own personal family secret tradition.

But not any more!

When we arrived at Saul's on December 25th of this year, it was mobbed. There was a Klezmer band playing out on the sidewalk, a taco-truck in the parking lot selling latkes, and a whole bunch of happy people enthusiastically dancing the hora. It was wonderful. I loved it. But the waiting list to get in to eat at the restaurant proper was half a block long, and it would have been at least another hour before we could eat.

Our little holiday secret hideaway had definitely been discovered.

What to do next?

By this time, we were really really hungry -- so we all packed off to Skates by the Bay and ate our Christmas dinner with a magnificent view of the San Francisco bay instead.

The view from Skates always takes my breath away and the ambiance was full of holiday cheer and the server was excellent and the soup, salad and desserts were all totally delicious and we were all really glad that we had come belatedly to Skates. But the salmon was far too dry for me to finish and definitely not as good as the lox and bagels served at Saul's on Christmas Day -- and after all, long before Jesus's beliefs had been adopted by Christians and Muslims, Christ himself had been Jewish.

And Christ's main teaching was that we human beings should at least all TRY to get along.

PS: My mother, who was raised poor as a church-mouse, used to have a saying that she would trot out whenever anything good happened to her: "Wonder what the poor people are doing." Well, this Christmas I was lucky enough to be able to use this saying a lot.

Not only did I get to dance the hora at Saul's and eat dried salmon within view of the San Francisco Bay, a place that is sacred to the Ohlone First Americans, but later in the day I also had Chinese dim sum at Mena's mom's house.

And on Christmas Eve, I also ate Muslim food at La Mediterranee restaurant (glutton-free tabuli made with quinoa!) and also a wonderful Greek salad at Pizza Rustica in tribute to Orthodox Christmas liturgies at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem -- after it had been bombed by the blasphemously corporatist IDF. And then I ate posole and tamales with our extended Mexican-American family in Richmond.

Hey, now I'm stuffed.

But I bet you anything that Jesus would have approved -- but only if all the poor of the world could have joined me as well.