My Korean Deli: Risking It All for a Convenience Store

Thương hiệu: Ben Ryder Howe
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Publisher
Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition (March 1, 2011)
Language
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320 pages
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5.88 x 1.22 x 8.5 inches
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Thông tin sản phẩm My Korean Deli: Risking It All for a Convenience Store
Thương hiệu Ben Ryder Howe là cái tên nổi tiếng được rất nhiều khách hàng trên thế giới chọn lựa. Với kiểu dáng đẹp mắt, sang trọng, sản phẩm My Korean Deli: Risking It All for a Convenience Store là sự lựa chọn hoàn hảo nếu bạn đang tìm mua một món Social Sciences cho riêng mình.
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Mô tả sản phẩm

Product Description

This warm and funny tale of an earnest preppy editor finding himself trapped behind the counter of a Brooklyn convenience store is about family, culture and identity in an age of discombobulation.

It starts with a gift, when Ben Ryder Howe's wife, the daughter of Korean immigrants, decides to repay her parents' self-sacrifice by buying them a store. Howe, an editor at the rarefied Paris Review, agrees to go along. Things soon become a lot more complicated. After the business struggles, Howe finds himself living in the basement of his in-laws' Staten Island home, commuting to the Paris Review offices in George Plimpton's Upper East Side townhouse by day, and heading to Brooklyn at night to slice cold cuts and peddle lottery tickets. My Korean Deli follows the store's tumultuous life span, and along the way paints the portrait of an extremely unlikely partnership between characters with shoots across society, from the Brooklyn streets to Seoul to Puritan New England. Owning the deli becomes a transformative experience for everyone involved as they struggle to salvage the original gift—and the family—while sorting out issues of values, work, and identity.

Amazon.com Review

: In this laugh-out-loud funny memoir, Ben Ryder Howe, a burned out editor at the Paris Review, spends his days concealing his apathy from his eccentric boss (George Plimpton!), avoiding the short story slush pile, and anticipating the day he will move out of his in-laws’ Staten Island basement. When Ben’s wife insists they buy a deli for her mother, he is skeptical but somehow energized by the risk involved, envisioning himself behind the counter at a profitable little deli providing bohemian customers with gourmet groceries. Instead, he ricochets from the magazine by day to the struggling deli by night, where his regular customers drink beer in the aisles, his mother-in-law, the “Mike Tyson of Korean grandmothers,” squares off with Mr. Tortilla Chip, and his pistol-packing employee, Dwayne, conducts X-rated phone calls with his girlfriends while ringing up customers. Howe’s daily interactions with a unique cross-section of humanity and his self-deprecating humor infuse My Korean Deli with insight, hopefulness, and addictive entertainment.-- Seira Wilson

From Publishers Weekly

Former senior editor of the Paris Review, Howe recounts his stint as owner and beleaguered worker of a Brooklyn deli in this touching memoir. Howe and his wife, Gab, the daughter of Korean immigrants, decide to buy a deli for her parents as a gesture of goodwill for the sacrifices they have made. His mother-in-law, Kay, whom he describes as the Mike Tyson of Korean grandmothers, is gung-ho from the start, and when a store is finally purchased in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn, she immediately takes charge. The work (including manipulating the devilish lottery machine) is more trying than Howe anticipated, not to mention dealing with the eccentric neighborhood characters who complain bitterly about any changes, from coffee prices to shelf rearrangements. Mostly working the night shift, Howe also maintains his position at the magazine. Both establishments are sinking ships: the deli hemorrhages money as bills pile up and revenue falters; the Review grows more disorganized, and subscribership plummets. Howe ably transforms what could have been a string of amusing vignettes about deli ownership into a humorous but heartfelt look into the complexities of family dynamics and the search for identity. (Mar.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

When editor-by-day Howe goes along with his wife's idea to buy and start up a Brooklyn deli as a gift for her Korean-immigrant mother, saying he had no idea what he was getting into would be a vast understatement. He certainly didn't know how hard it would be to find a great deli in their price range, to staff the place, to operate a cash register, or to keep the regular customers happy. Poking fun at everything from his stereotypically WASP upbringing to his "tank" (he said it ) of a mother-in-law's hard-headed workaholism and lacking an ounce of sentimentality, Howe artfully lends the reader a keen interest in his and his family's success. Surmounting calamity upon calamity with the kind of tunnel-vision only family disasters can engender, Howe paddles to keep life afloat at home, the deli, and his "day job" at the Paris Review. From his former unenviable position at the bottom of a pile of problems, Howe has created a smartly measured and propulsive read. --Annie Bostrom

Review

"In this WASP-out-of-water tale of a Paris Review editor moonlighting as deli owner--or is it the other way around?--Howe plunges boldly into life’s ultimate mysteries: marriage, money, cohabitation with in-laws, the yin-yang currents of striving and slacking, and--perhaps the biggest mystery of them all--why the store can be empty of customers for hours and hours, and then twenty show up at once. Read this book, and you’ll come away wiser not just in the ways of the world, but of the human heart as well."--Ben Fountain, author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara

"My Korean Deli is about a Korean deli, as I expected. But it's also about love, culture-clashes, family, money and literature. Plus, it happens to be very funny and poignant. So buy a Slim Jim and a Vitamin water and sit down to enjoy it."--A.J. Jacobs, author of The Know It All and The Year of Living Biblically

"I don’t know how else to explain My Korean Deli except to say that Ben Ryder Howe has made kimchi. As in that splendid staple dish of Korea, the mundane (cabbage/Brooklyn) is combined with the piquant (crazy spices/families) and pickled (natural fermentation/a job at the Paris Review). The result is overpoweringly good. But MyKorean Deli will sweeten your reading rather than stinking up your house and will give you deep thoughts not breath that can kill mice in the walls."--P.J. O’Rourke

"It's hard not to fall in love with My Korean Deli...[It] tells a rollicking, made-for-the-movies story in a wonderfully funny deadpan style. By the end, you'll feel that you know the author and his family quite well -- even though you may not be eager to move in with them."--The New York Times Book Review

"As he leapfrogs from Staten Island to Brooklyn to the Review...Howe gains new understanding of life on both sides of the register--the deli is revealed to be a fickle friend, perpetually seesawing between financial promise and ruin, but also magical, a place touched with an unlikely intimacy that holds together the seams of a neighborhood."--The New Yorker

"Howe ably transforms what could have been a string of amusing vignettes about deli ownership into a humorous but heartfelt look into the complexities of family dynamics and the search for identity."--Publishers Weekly

"My Korean Deli serves a love story for our times."--USA Today

“Poking fun at everything from his stereotypically WASP upbringing to his “tank” (he said it) of a mother-in law…Howe has created a smartly measured and propulsive read.”-- Booklist
 
"Howe's portrait of the septaugenarian [George] Plimpton is priceless...Howe's combining of the Upper East Side's old world with immigrant survival skills conveys what is absolutely the best of New York. Delightful."-- Los Angeles Times

 

About the Author

Ben Ryder Howe has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and Outside, and his work has been selected for Best American Travel Writing. He is a former senior editor of The Paris Review. He, his wife, and their two children live on Staten Island. This is his first book.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Steam Table

Fall 2002

Last summer my wife's family and I decided to buy a deli. By fall, with loans from three different relatives, two new credit cards, and a sad kiss good-bye to thirty thousand dollars my wife and I had saved while living in my mother-in-law's Staten Island basement, we had rounded up the money. Now it is November, and we are searching New York City for a place to buy.

We have different ideas about what our store should look like. My mother-in-law, Kay, the Mike Tyson of Korean grandmothers, wants a deli with a steam table, one of those stainless steel, cafeteria-style salad bars that heat the food to just below the temperature that kills bacteria—the zone in which bacteria thrive. She wants to serve food that is either sticky and sweet, or too salty, or somehow all of the above, and that roasts in the dusty air of New York City all day, while roiling crowds examine it at close distance—pushing it around, sampling it, breathing on it. Kay's reason for wanting a deli of this kind is that steam tables bring in a lot of money, up to a few thousand dollars per hour at lunchtime. She also wants a store that is open twenty-four hours and stays open on Christmas and Labor Day. She'd like it to be in the thick of Manhattan, on a street jammed with tourists and office workers.

I don't know what I want, but an all-night deli in midtown with a steam table isn't it. I'm the sort of person who loses my appetite if I walk past an establishment with a steam table. I get palpitations and the sweats just being around sparerib tips. Of course, I don't have to eat the food if we buy a deli with a steam table. I just have to sell it. That's what Kay says she plans to do. But Kay has an unfair advantage: years ago, after she came to America, she lost her sense of smell, and now she can't detect the difference between a bouquet of freesias and a bathroom at the bus station. My nose, on the other hand, is fully functional.

Luckily, I'm in charge of the real estate search, and so far I have successfully steered us from any delis serving hot food. As a result, Kay's frustration is starting to become lethal.

"What's the matter?" she asked me the other day. "You not like money? Why you make us poor?"

These are not unfair questions. I would say that one of my biggest faults as a human being is that I do not love money, which makes me lazy and spoiled. Like finding us a store, for example. Call me a snob, but somehow a deli grocery—a traditional fruit and vegetable market—seems more dignified than a deli dishing out slop by the pound in Styrofoam trays. Is that practical? We are, after all, talking about the acquisition of a deli, not a summer home or a car. If dignity is so important, why not buy a bookstore or a bakery? Why not spend it on a business where I have to dress up for work?

Don't get me wrong: I'm not insecure about becoming a deli owner. I even sort of like the idea. Aside from a few "gentleman farmers," no one can remember the last person in my family who worked with their hands. After blowing off law school and graduate school, after barely getting through college and even more narrowly escaping high school, why would I suddenly get snobbish?

But the truth is, I'm still young (thirty-one is young, right?) and can afford to be blasé. It's like the job I had as a seventeen-year-old pumping gas outside Boston, a gig I remember as brainless heaven. I enjoyed coming home smelly. I enjoyed looking inside people's cars while scraping the crud off their windows. I enjoyed flirting with women drivers twice my age.

Who knows how I would have felt if seventeen were just the beginning, and I could look forward to fifty more years of taking orders from strangers.

Today we are looking at a deli with a steam table. This morning I was informed of the news by a fire-breathing giant, a creature escaped from a horror movie about mutants spawned by an industrial accident, who hovered at my bedside until I awoke with a start, upon which the creature said: For two weeks you be in charge of finding our store, and you not come up with anything. So starting today we do it my way. Then the creature exited, accompanied, it seemed to my half-asleep ears, by the sound of dragging chains.

For the rest of the morning I lie there under the sheets as a form of protest, not intending to get out, until my wife, Gab, sits down on the bed next to me with a cup of coffee.

"I want you and my mother to go together," Gab says. "I can't come because I have things to do at home."

The store is near Times Square and has a name like Luxury Farm or Delicious Mountain. Its Korean owners claim to be making eight thousand dollars a day, a preposterous sum that nevertheless has Kay all excited.

"Don't be afraid of steam table," she says as we drive to the store. "If smelling something stranger, close nose and think of biiig money."

I exhale deeply and try to follow her advice, but instead of fistfuls of cash all I can think of are slabs of desiccated meat loaf slathered in congealed gravy and the smell of boiled ham. So I focus on the drive into midtown—the glowering skyscrapers, the silhouettes of bankers and lawyers behind tinted windows a few stories above the traffic, the gigantic television screens featuring high-cheekboned models talking on cell phones, and at street level my future comrades among the peonage: the restaurant deliverymen, the tarot readers, the no-gun security guards and the DVD bootleggers.

The owner of the deli is a distressingly perky woman named Mrs. Yu. She's frizzy-haired and victimized by an excess of teeth, and she's wearing the Korean deli owner's official uniform: a puffy vest and a Yankees cap settled snugly over her Asianfro. Her age—approximately mid-fifties—is the same as Kay's, which makes her part of the generation of Koreans who came to America in the 1980s and became the most successful immigrant group ever—ever: the people who took over the deli industry from the Greeks and the Italians, the people who drove the Chinese out of the dry-cleaning trade, the people who took away nail polishing from African-Americans, and the people whose children made it impossible for underachievers like me to get into the same colleges our parents had attended.

"My name Gloria Yu," she says when we walk in. "My store make you rich." She winks at me. "Cost only half million dollar."

It seems hard to imagine how any convenience store, even one that can get away with charging twelve dollars for a six-pack of Bud Ice, could be worth half a million dollars, but Gloria Yu's store probably deserves it if any of them do. Like a ship squeezed inside a bottle, a full-sized supermarket has somehow been folded into the space meant for a restaurant or a flower shop. Thousands of items line the shelves, seemingly one of everything. In my general state of paranoia, it occurs to me that if I were to be trapped in this place by some sort of prolonged emergency, such as a flood or a toxic cloud, I could survive for months, maybe even a year, and find something new to eat each day.

"So," Gloria Yu says to me, her voice quivering with excitement, "this your first store?"

"Yes, it is," I confess guiltily.

"I knew it!" she says, practically jumping up and down with excitement. "I knew it! I knew it! You not look like normal deli owner." A few customers glance nervously our way.

"So where you from?" Gloria Yu asks me.

"Um, Boston."

"Boston? Like the Boston, Massachusetts? No, no, no. No, no, no."

"What do you mean, 'no, no, no'?" I ask impatiently. "That's where I grew up."

"Not where you grow up, where your family from?" Gloria Yu says.

"Oh, you mean originally? Like where are my ancestors from? Here, I suppose. Here as much as anywhere else."

"Hmm . . ." says Gloria Yu, massaging her chin thoughtfully. "Very interesting. Okay, time to show deli!"

Now Gloria Yu thinks I am some sort of freak. Hopefully it will prevent her from selling us her store.

"You two go ahead," I say. "I'm going to wander around alone."

Am I a freak? Why does the steam table scare me so much?

On an even deeper level, though, I wonder, Is fear of the steam table a fear of commitment? A fear of going all the way? Maybe I just need to get it over with and eat a plateful of American chop suey.

"Hey you!" a voice says.

I look around, but there's no one. Kay and Gloria have moved several paces ahead. I'm standing in the drink section, an area filled with glass-doored refrigerators and a rainbow assortment of fluids.

"Hey mister!" the voice commands.

Still nothing.

"Over here," the voice says. "Look inside." And now I see. Next to me, apparently imprisoned within a soda refrigerator, is a balding Korean man in a puffy vest.

"I'm you," the man says, banging meekly on the glass.

"I'm sorry?" I say, yanking the door open. The prisoner stands behind a rack of soft drinks, only his right hand poking through.

"I'm Yu," he says. "Mr. Yu. Store owner. You come to buy store, right?"

"Oh," I say. "Nice to meet . . . you." I speak these words, as far as anyone watching is concerned, to nothing but a rack of soda. (The refrigerator is one of those models that open up from behind, so you can stock the shelves from back to front. Except for his hand, Mr. Yu remains hidden.)

"This store very good," Mr. Yu says cheerily, his hand gesturing dramatically and at one point seeming to lunge straight for my crotch. "Eight thousand a day no problem. You like something to drink?" The hand starts pointing at different flavors. "Which one your favorite? Have any one. Try many different color."

"Thank you," I say to the hand, while taking out a bottle of Code Red. "It's a nice store." Mr. Yu wants to continue the conversation, but before he can, I gently close the door. Then, in an unplanned gesture, I bow solemnly to the walk-in refrigerator.

"Okay, Mr. Original American,...

 

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