Monday, June 14, 2010

What is Heritage Made of?

This is a picture of Ben's Delicatessen, on de Maisonneuve, now demolished, from Flickr, posted by Julep67, who is clearly a Montreal heritage enthusiast.

I've downloaded it and put it on my desktop, where I often post pictures of interiors of far away restos to feel I am somewhere else, usually London.

This isn't much different: somewhere else just happens to be 'in the past'.

For my first entry in my experiential diary for my Heritage Studies course, I write about Ben's.

I visited Ben's only a few times in my entire life, most memorably, in the wee hours of the morning at my high school graduation.

I was not impressed by the 'art deco' environment. The place looked bleak and tawdry to me. Today, though, I can see what a wonderful example of a 20's deli Ben's was.

Delis are part of Montreal's heritage. Montreal smoked meat is famous (and unique) and Ben's, it is said, had the first in the city.

I have to write a research paper for this online course at Athabasca (Intro to Heritage Studies) and writing about Ben's and the bru ha ha over its demolition in 2007 and 2008, might make for an interesting case study.

Ben's Heritage is worth preserving, no question, but for what reasons? Not just the deco decor (a standard deli decor). No, for the stories, at least according to the McCord Museum that inherited the counter and stools belonging to Ben's.

What is heritage made of? Is it pepper and dill and garlic and salt and ground coriander, the stuff of the ubiquitous Montreal steak spice? A recipe brought to Montreal by a few Lithuanian? immigrants like Ben Kravitz in the early part of the century, in fact in 1909! the year I am writing about right now for my novel in progress, Flo in the City, about a girl coming of age in the pivotal 1908-1913 era in Montreal based on the letters of

Here's an idea. I will have Marion visit Ben's on St. Laurent and eat a smoked meat sandwich. She was very adventurous... Maybe she did eat at this place. St. Laurent near Duluth was where it was prior to 1929. I know because I did some research on that wonderful Google Archive that has the Montreal Gazette. What a treasure!