It was when my friend Sid took a razor to the smoked salmon sandwich that I realised being a 14-year-old Jew in London was more complicated than I’d assumed. He did a good job on it, too, slashing it to greasy ribbons in an adolescent frenzy of red-faced fury, impressive when the weapon was just a pencil sharpener blade. Once I’d got over the shock of the assault on Cohen’s finest Scottish hand-sliced, I tried to grab it back. The blade skidded across the palm of my right hand, opening a 3in wound below the fingers. I howled while dripping blood on to the rye with caraway but, many stitches later, I swaggered back, cocky with cred, to bestow magnanimous forgiveness on the glumly penitent Sid. Frankly, I blamed my mum. Smoked salmon sandwiches for lunch every day: how was that going to square me with the gentiles? There were days when I envied the goyim their mince, and their frogspawn tapioca; and hungered for the dark and dirty freedom from kosher. But the awful truth is that until the sandwich pogrom, it had never occurred to me that a daily smoked salmon lunch, worse, complaining about having to eat it all the time, might get up the nose of boys doomed to Shippams shrimp paste, or the steak’n’gristle glop served by Doris in the hairnet, and that they might think, as Sid did, just for that one moment, and never again so far as I knew, Christ, bloody Jews.
more from Simon Schama at the FT here.