Are Knishes Ever Actually Good?

Staff Writer
They were intended to fill you up as cheaply as possible, not to taste good

Knishes come in several forms, but the most traditional variation is a potato mixture encased in pastry.

The author of a new book on the social and cultural history of the knish takes issue with my assertion that there may not be such a thing as a good knish.

 Laura Silver, the author of Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food insists that even those square pockets of fluff and grease sold at hot dog carts have a certain deliciousness to them. I say no. I say even the round pucks of potato and pastry vended by the venerable Yonah Schmimel Knishery on the corner of my Lower East Side street are not delicious at all. I say even Mark Russ Federman, the co-owner of the neighborhood's smoked-fish and herring emporium Russ and Daughters, agrees with me. Knishes, served a purpose in olden times, to fill the bellies of struggling folks for as cheap as possible.

Knishes were never sable. 

But Laura jousts back. She tastes the history of a people in every bite. She brings up the all but forgotten village in Poland which may have been the birthplace of the knish -- and even the birthplace of her ancestors. Laura may literally be made of knish on a genetic level. 

America's 10 Best Jewish DelisCalvin Trillin on Russ & DaughtersSandwich of the Week: New Catch Herring at Russ & Daughters in New York CityRuss & Daughters' Sturgeon: The Other Smoked FishNiki Russ Federman on Russ & Daughters' Upcoming Café

Whether or not you find either of us or knishes delicious you might find our sparring over the savory pastry entertaining. Sparks fly over knishes. Listen to our conversation here, the latest installment of my podcast, New Books in Food.

137 E Houston St (btw Forsyth & Eldridge)
New York, NY 10002