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Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food by…
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Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food (2014)

by Laura Silver

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3310514,133 (3.7)8
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.… (more)

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It wasn't what I thought, but I plowed through. I was hoping for more recipes, but not even one. Just really the author's search for knishes and their history. If you really really love knishes, this is the book for you. Otherwise, pick up a good Jewish cookbook. ( )
  Juleswf | Apr 10, 2015 |
This would have been a good New Yorker article, but it's been ridiculously padded to book-length.
  lilithcat | Dec 26, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

I don't think I quite knew what I was getting in to when I received this book. Author, Laura Silver, lost her favorite knish shop. This leads to a 281 page fully footnoted book on knishes. As we Minnesotans say, UFF DA! I guess I expected a few more recipes of different knish variations. I certainly wasn't expecting globe trotting around the world to find the origin of the knish. While the book was well written, I was suffering from information overload.

Recommended for knish fans. The book is probably too much knish for the average reader. ( )
  fiberdzns | Sep 2, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Silver's writing evokes a longing for knishes so bone deep, it's catching.

In Knish, Laura Silver traipses this country and many more, sleuthing the history of the knish. Many European countries have a pastry that cousins the knish, a Jewish recipe that involves pulled dough wrapped around savory (originally) or sweet (updated to appeal to the masses) fillings. Silver includes interviews with bakers and eaters, photos, and facts with details so thorough and enticing they'll make your mouth water. In fact, the baker in me was disappointed to find the paltry recipe at the book's end, almost an afterthought. ( )
  cemming | Sep 2, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Knish

Full disclosure: I have never eaten a knish.

"Does it mention Mrs. Stahl's'?" was my mother-in-law's first question when I told my her that I had read Laura Silver's *Knish.* Yes, it's a major topic of the book. "What about Yonah Schimmel?" That too. As with Ms. Silver, knishes evoke memories for my mother-in-law.

I certainly understand the nostalgia that can connect to certain foods. There are foods that bring me back to my childhood, it's just that the knish isn't one of theme. Thanks to Laura Silver, I can understand my mother-in-law's reaction.

As a huge coincidence, this book arrived at my door while I was off in New York City. My steps took me on several occasions within an easy walk to Schimmel's. Had I read this book before this trip to New York, I undoubtably would have made it a stop on my travels. Next time.

In *Knish,* Silver gives the not only her personal history with knishes, but puts them into the larger context of the immigrant experience of New York City. Mrs. Stahl's was a Brighton Beach establishment, but Yonah Schimmel's was an establishment on the Lower East Side (somewhat ironically, on my most recent trip to New York, I was in the Lower East Side several times, getting a couple blocks from Yonah Schimmel's, though it wouldn't have meant anything to me then). And she goes further.

Silver takes us not only back in time, but far away from New York, since the knish, she notes, "like those who consumed it, was of European extraction." She did not make it to Chişinău, the site of the 1903 Kishinev pogrom, and she notes:
>"Pogrom," I have learned, is not necessarily part of the common parlance. The first time I discovered someone for whom the term was new, we were equally taken aback: she by the long trail of anti-Semitism that preceded the Holocaust, and I by the fact that she hadn't heard of it.

I had a similar experience recently. I had Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, and noticed that there was only the slightest reference to gay victims of the Holocaust. When I discussed this with an Israeli, she was shocked to find that when the camps were liberated, some gay men were sent to civil prisons on the rationale that homosexuality was against the law in Germany. One of the shocking parts of mankind's own inhumanity is how easily it is forgotten.

But I'm supposed to be talking about *Knish* here, although I think it's a mark of a good book (let me cut to the chase and say that *Knish* is very good book) that it makes you think of all sorts of things in a new context. Silver is able to to juggle everything from the Holocaust to the suburban diaspora of assimilated American Jews. And it is that assimilation that seems to be dooming the knish.

Near the end of the book, Silver tells that a businessman has bought the rights to the Mrs. Stahl's name and has created a Mrs. Stahl's knishes Facebook page. It's sad and somewhat telling that the page hasn't been updated since December 2012.

I promise that the next time I am in New York City (and the trip is already planned) I will take myself to a place that makes and serves knishes. Maybe I can make a small contribution to ensuring that the knish will persist.

This review also appears on my blog, impofthediverse.blogspot.com ( )
  jaidit | Aug 11, 2014 |
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Epigraph
Who will last? And what? The wind will stay, And the blind man's blindness when he's gone away, And a thread of foam--a sign of the sea--And a bit of cloud snarled in a tree.  "Ver Vet Blaybn?" From Poems from a Diary (1974), by Abraham Sutzkever Courtesy of Rina Sutzkever Kalderon
The receding world of our ancestors continues to shine because we are all from there.  Knyszyn town historian Henryk Stasiewicz
Who doesn't love a knish?  Joan Rivers
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To my parents BARBARA & MICHAEL SILVER with love
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The clouds came at me.
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