Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food

Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food

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by Laura Silver
     
 

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When Laura Silver’s favorite knish shop went out of business, the native New Yorker sank into mourning, but then she sprang into action. She embarked on a round-the-world quest for the origins and modern-day manifestations of the knish.

The iconic potato pie leads the author from Mrs. Stahl’s bakery in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, to an Italian pasta

Overview

When Laura Silver’s favorite knish shop went out of business, the native New Yorker sank into mourning, but then she sprang into action. She embarked on a round-the-world quest for the origins and modern-day manifestations of the knish.

The iconic potato pie leads the author from Mrs. Stahl’s bakery in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, to an Italian pasta maker in New Jersey—and on to a hunt across three continents for the pastry that shaped her identity. Starting in New York, she tracks down heirs to several knish dynasties and discovers that her own family has roots in a Polish town named Knyszyn.

With good humor and a hunger for history, Silver mines knish lore for stories of entrepreneurship, survival, and major deliciousness. Along the way, she meets Minnesota seniors who make knishes for weekly fundraisers, foodies determined to revive the legacy of Mrs. Stahl, and even the legendary knish maker’s granddaughters, who share their joie de vivre—and their family recipe.

Knish connections to Eleanor Roosevelt and rap music? Die-hard investigator Silver unearths those and other intriguing anecdotes involving the starchy snack once so common along Manhattan’s long-lost Knish Alley. In a series of funny, moving, and touching episodes, Silver takes us on a knish-eye tour of worlds past and present, thus laying the foundation for a global knish renaissance.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A whimsical, mouthwatering and edifying odyssey through New York neighborhoods and beyond.”—Sam Roberts, New York Times

"If you need to know anything about the knish, this is your book."—Forward

“[T]he Mark Kurlansky of the knish”—New York Observer

“Silver’s single-subject work of social history has been shaped with skill and nuance and—to continue chewing on the metaphor—seasoned with sharp humor and deep affection, not just for the pastry but for all the people whose lives it has touched. . . . Her voice is energetic and deeply personal. . . . An accomplished piece of research shared in a delightfully readable way.”—Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
2014-04-11
When is a knish more than just a knish? When it is the repository of more than a century of Jewish immigrant culture.Silver's debut nonfiction book is itself like a knish—deceptively simple. A knish is a pastry stuffed with potatoes, kasha, vegetables, cottage cheese, jam or anything really; truth be told, if you can name it, it's probably been stuffed into a knish. On the surface, it's heavy peasant food—carbs, often plus more carbs—but the artistry that goes into rolling out the thin dough and flavoring the filling is considerable. Similarly, Silver's single-subject work of social history has been shaped with skill and nuance and—to continue chewing on the metaphor—seasoned with sharp humor and deep affection, not just for the pastry but for all the people whose lives it has touched. Silver starts with two memories: one of standing in the Polish town of Knyszen, where she had gone in search of the pastry's roots; the other of the ritual meals of knishes she enjoyed with her Brooklyn-born grandmother. Though the knish arrived in the New World with Jewish immigrants, America is its homeland now, as it is nearly forgotten in Eastern Europe and barely recognized in Israel. Silver then introduces the pantheon of American knish makers, most of them gone today: Mrs. Stahl's, Gabila's, Schatzkin's and others. Her loving, detailed portraits are bolstered by deep historical understanding. After the impressive beginning, the subsequent chapter "In Search of the First Knish" is rather thin and unsatisfying, as it winds haphazardly through Poland and Israel, Internet searches, and an interview or two. But Silver returns to surer ground as she explores pop culture and visits devoted knish makers in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her voice is energetic and deeply personal, and she's unafraid of puns or a Yiddish turn of phrase; occasionally, that means cleverness trumps clarity and historical details get lost in showy storytelling tropes, but her enthusiasm and knowledge still carry readers along.An accomplished piece of research shared in a delightfully readable way.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781611685459
Publisher:
Brandeis University Press
Publication date:
05/06/2014
Series:
HBI Series on Jewish Women
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
300
Sales rank:
886,440
File size:
5 MB

What People are saying about this

Arthur Schwartz
“Laura Silver’s at-times poetic meditation on knishes is not only a cultural history of this filled lump of dough, as meticulously researched as any doctoral thesis, but also a Proustian personal memoir that hints of James Joyce, no less, in the way Silver intones and uses the rhythms of Aramaic Jewish liturgy, Yiddishkeit, and Yiddish humor to tell her story. The knish has never been put to better use. I loved it.”
Joan Nathan
“Truly riveting, Laura Silver’s Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food weaves personal taste memories with the intricate past of knishes, making for a compelling, well-researched biography of these iconic Jewish pastries.”
David Sax
“A lovingly researched book that elevates the knish, arguably the humblest of Jewish foods, into a weighty symbol of history, identity, and family. Knishes haven’t met anything this good for them since the invention of mustard.”
Andrew F. Smith
“For 70 years, Mrs. Stahl’s bakery in Brighton Beach served adelicious array of knishes toJewish and gentile devotees. The bakery’s closing in 2005 filled one enthusiast—Laura Silver—with Proustian remembrances of knishes past. These nostalgic memories launched her on a global quest to pay homage to the knish. She has collected stories about her voyage in her deliciously appetizing book. The reader is left with only one question: Where’s the nearest knish shop?”

Meet the Author

LAURA SILVER is an award-winning journalist whose writing on food and culture has appeared in the New York Times and the Forward and on NPR. Laura has been a writer in residence at the Millay Colony, the Banff Centre, and the New York Public Library. She is considered the world’s leading expert on the knish.

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Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
funkymunky More than 1 year ago
This book tells the history of the knish or something..didn't have the patience to read it. No recipes in it so I returned it. Maybe it isn't bad if you want to read about knishes, but seriously, that's weird.