September 25, 2020

Where Can I Get a Knish?

By Amy Sessler Powell – 

In the year since Laura Silver published Knish: In Search of Jewish Soul Food, became known as the world’s foremost authority on knishes, and occasionally strolled New York City dressed in a giant knish costume, Silver has been asked one question more than any other: “Where can I get a knish?”

As these conversations unfold, Silver sees something else – that people have strong opinions as well as fond memories of knishes. With the book already published, how does she harness all these knishisms? With an interactive knish map, of course. What else?

Silver unveiled her “Interactive Knish Map,” at the Association for Jewish Studies Conference in December as part of the Jewish Studies and Digital Humanities workshop. The map gives knish lovers a platform to share stories and memories of that “pillow of filling tucked into a skin of dough” as Silver defines it on page two of her book. There, knish lovers and readers will find a forum, not to settle, but at least to rehash the important questions: round or square, potato or kasha? But more important, the map will help answer the all-important question: Where can I find a knish?

The map is new and just getting started, but already there are sweet memories entered by knish fans that hearken back to a time in their childhood, recall a special relative or relive a frequent day trip from their past.

“When I was 12 years old, I worked for Mrs. Stahl probably in the year 1943. My best friend, Irv Rosen and I would fill the orders at the counter and ring up the bill at the cash register. 

What I wouldn’t give for a taste today!” writes one person.

Another shares, “Hi, I’m 68 years old. I remember the mid-to late 50s when I was a student at P.S.16 on Wilson Street in Brooklyn N.Y. There was an older gentleman who frequented the area around the school who sold knishes from a small cart for 10 cents a piece. Since that time I have never, ever tasted a knish as delicious as his. They were a soft yeast like bread, deep fried I think, filled with a mashed potato mixture to die for. I remember his beat up metal salt shaker when he would ask you if you wanted salt on your knish.

Ah, to be back there again.”

In a loving tribute, one son and brother writes, “My parents Myer & Marion Kaplan and brother, Gary Kaplan for many years operated Myer’s Kosher Kitchen in Revere, MA. While they made many kosher Jewish delicacies, their meat knish (the only kind they made) was perhaps the single most popular and best selling product.


It took several years to perfect the recipe, first for a flour which would withstand the manufacturing process, then the meat filling with the just right taste and texture, and then for the machinery which would produce a constantly shaped (oblong) product where the dough would not crack during the baking process.


Because they were federally inspected, they were able to ship in the New England area and to sell in super markets. 
As in most small businesses, the product was at first hand made with my mother the main person directing the women who rolled the dough in long sheets, filled it and cut the long roll into the individual knishes.

As the product became very popular, they knew they needed to acquire machinery to mass-produce the knishes. She and my brother went to Italy where they found a piece of machinery originally designed to produce ravioli. They were able to get the machine modified to make the knishes and they were then able to supply many thousands of dozens of kosher knishes to satisfy both the greater Boston area and New England. 


Alas, the business closed several years ago and Myer’s knishes are no more. A loss lamented by many for whom Myer’s kosher products were a necessity.”

Silver explains that the map is a work in progress that she hopes will catch on with fans of both knishes and the nostalgia that surrounds them. Those with a knish story now have an outlet to share with the knish-loving world. So, nu, what’s your knish story?

Amy Powell is the HBI Communications Director. Laura Silver is the author of Knish: In Search of Jewish Soul Food, published in the HBI Series on Jewish Women. Also visit her recent blog, “Oy to the World: A Song for the Yule-Averse at the Jewish Food Experience.

 

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