About the book
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.
“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 with, no less, even hints of James Joyce 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.”
~Arthur Schwartz, author of Arthur Schwartz’s Jewish Home Cooking: Yiddish Recipes Revisited
“Truly riveting, Laura Silver’s Knish: In Search of 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.”
~ Joan Nathan, New York Times food writer and author of Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France
“Laura Silver has elevated the common knish to its rightful place in the pantheon of Jewish soul foods along side bagels and lox, pickles, and pastrami. She reminds us with equal parts passion and humor that the knish is much more than simple street food. It represents a whole culture worthy of admiration, preservation, and enjoyment.”
~ Mark Russ Federman, author, Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes From The House That Herring Built
“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.”
~ David Sax, author of Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen
“For 70 years, Mrs. Stahl’s bakery in Brighton Beach served an delicious array of knishes to Jewish 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, Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food. The reader is left with only one question: Where the nearest knish shop?”
~ Andrew F. Smith, author, New York City: A Food Biography