At lunchtime on Friday, April 15, the first day of Passover, orders were running a bit behind at Kosher Cajun New York Deli and Grocery in Metairie, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans. “If you’re waiting on a pickup order, it’s not ready. Sorry,” announced Joel Brown, who opened the deli 35 years ago when he was just 19 years old. “If you have items to check out, line up here,” Brown continued, dividing the cluster of customers into two, a stand of Passover cookies serving as an island between them.
It was only a few minutes before large catering orders started streaming out of the kitchen, employees stacking trays of seder packages — matzo ball soup, gefilte fish, and brisket, as well as other meal essentials: a seder bone, parsley, salt water, romaine lettuce, horseradish root, charoset, and boiled egg. While they waited, customers said hello and wished each other a happy Passover — “Chag Pesach Sameach” — and a good seder, and also caught up on New Orleans Pelicans news.
Brown has been serving the Greater New Orleans Jewish community for Passover since 1987. It’s the only kosher Jewish deli in the area, so Brown really is feeding an entire community — many local seders will have at least some component from Kosher Cajun. People ordering their first night’s seder meal from Kosher Cajun is a tradition, such that Brown has to shut down preorders weeks in advance in order to meet demand.
Still, the deli serves the procrastinators, as well — a case stocked with whitefish salad, chopped liver, and charoset was a saving grace for one customer who came in expecting everything to be gone. Other customers roamed the narrow aisles, throwing Passover-friendly snacks into their baskets while someone on the other end of the phone made last-minute requests. Staff on the floor answered customer questions and rang people up, while their counterparts in the kitchen hustled to keep up with the remaining pickups scheduled for the afternoon.
And tomorrow, they rest.