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A Tie-In To Deli History

A Tie-In To Deli History

Sandee is the arts and culture editor at the Jewish Week.

Father’s Day and overstuffed pastrami sandwiches are like Christmas Eve and fried wontons.

This year, you can surprise your pastrami-craving dad with a pastrami-printed necktie, to go along with his favorite sandwich. Ted Merwin, author of “Pastrami on Rye: An Overstuffed History of the Jewish Deli” who writes about theater and culture for The Jewish Week, has created a literal tie-in to his award-winning book, available for Father’s Day.

Merwin says that he got the idea after hearing frequently that his book makes an ideal gift for Jewish fathers and grandfathers of a certain age who grew up going to delis. Through giving many talks around the country about the book, he’s come to see how much people — especially men — enjoy reminiscing about delis they have loved. His “Pastrami on Tie” can make for a great conversation piece.

In researching the book and in his own continued interest in the subject, Merwin has been searching thrift shops for deli-related memorabilia, whether tableware from delicatessens, or other paraphernalia or kitsch. He did find a pair of boxer shorts printed with hot dogs, which got him thinking about a pastrami print fabric.

His design for the tie is a kaleidoscopic view of an overstuffed sandwich, mustard and all. You might call it abstract pastrami.

Merwin, who is associate professor of religion and Judaic studies at Dickinson College, where he is also founding director of the Milton B. Asbell Center for Jewish Life, says that the most popular courses he teaches are about Jews and food and Jews and fashion. So creating a tie — beginning from working with a seamstress to make them — is a way of combining his academic interests with merchandising.

“Perhaps I’ll start a trend among professors in the humanities,” he says.

The idea of selling merchandise tied in with books took off in the ’70s, with cat books and cat pillows. Now, museums also do extensive merchandising to tie in with their shows: At The Jewish Museum, you can buy an Isaac Mizrahi bandana or deck of cards.

Merwin is considering branching out after neckties: He’s thinking pastrami gift-wrap, wallpaper, shower curtains, and bowties too.

“Pastrami on Ties” cost $50 each, a copy of “Pastrami on Rye” with a tie costs $75. For orders, contact the author at his website,

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