Without knowing the history of the word, everybody pretty much pronounces “delicatessen” the same way. But one day it hit me: “delicate essen”. I thought it must be some kind of German play-on-words brought over from the old country. As it turns out, I wasn’t too far off. The abbreviated colloquialism “deli” is only about 65 years old, whereas a couple of the restaurants we refer to as delis – at least the ones in Montreal – are closer to 90. The oldest deli in the world predates the word itself, dating back to 18th century Germany. Dallmayr was more of a grocery store, then, and still exists today as a purveyor of gourmet delights and coffee.
The word “delicatessen” is, of course, German, from the late 1800’s, by way of French and Latin. But the food we ordinarily seek out at a deli today is anything but delicate.
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