Some losses hurt more than others. They’re usually the ones where what’s gone is irreplaceable.
This story is not of a person who has been lost, or way of life, but rather a local institution that made a small part of the world a better place.
The first time I followed my nose into Oscar’s Deli at Warrawong it was like worship. I followed my nose because it usually enters places first, not because the aroma had drawn me in. I was new at the paper and a veteran photographer was showing me the essential sights.
There they were: hundreds of jamones, the unsurpassable Spanish ham, cured to perfection, hanging from the ceiling, tagged with date, price, and name of the customer who owned it.
Famous nationwide and in demand from anyone who knew how to pronounce the name of this sweet, luscious, nutty, melting-in-your-mouth delicacy.
Or should top billing go to the chorizo? The Iberian pork and paprika sausage is everywhere now, but nowhere this good. Smokey, handmade, with a flavour that once tasted is never forgotten.
There’s Manchego cheese, of course. Pedro Ximinez and proper Spanish sherry vinegar. Great tufts of dried herbs. And the loveliest fleshy green olives, unsullied by marinades and a meal on their own.
Oscar’s was so authentic it almost seemed strange stepping back out into the real world. So why did it take all year before I realised this greatest of delis had closed?
Why had I not actually crossed the threshold into the deli in so many months?
Sure, I live on the other side of town, but as a soccer and footy dad, and weekend adventurer, there are regular trips to the lakeside suburbs, and I’d habitually try and make Cowper St part of the itinerary.
I’d stopped there once and found it closed, which was a surprise given the time of day. Off I went, not looking into it any further, not realising Oscar’s was gone. With age teaming up with worldly demands, the owners had called it a day.
So adios, Oscar’s. Please accept my apologies for not giving you the public send-off in these pages that you so richly deserved.
Compared with the Spanish community who frequented the deli for the food, culture, or the language, I hardly knew you.
Gracias, y no olvidare.