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Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food (HBI Series on Jewish Women) Hardcover – May 6, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

Review

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


“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

Review

“For 70 years, Mrs. Stahl’s bakery in Brighton Beach served a 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. The reader is left with only one question: Where’s the nearest knish shop?” (Andrew F. Smith, author of New York City: A Food Biography)|“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.” (Joan Nathan, New York Times food writer and author of award-winning cookbooks, including Jewish Cooking in America)|“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.” (Arthur Schwartz, author of Arthur Schwartz’s Jewish Home Cooking: Yiddish Recipes Revisited)|“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)
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Product Details

  • Series: HBI Series on Jewish Women
  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Brandeis (May 6, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611683122
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611683127
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #145,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Laura Silver is a native New Yorker and an award-winning journalist whose writing on food and culture has appeared in the New York Times, the Forward, the Jerusalem Report and on NPR.

Laura has been a writer in residence at the Millay Colony, the Banff Centre and the New York Public Library's Wertheim Study. She has received fellowships from the Lilly Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, the New York Times Company Foundation and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, among others. She has delivered talks at international venues including the American Museum of Natural History, the Krakow Jewish Festival and TEDx.

In 2013, Laura was named the Barach Nonfiction Teaching Fellow at Wesleyan University's Writers Conference. Laura has been profiled in Haaretz and quoted by international news outlets including Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Gazeta Wyborcza (Warsaw) and The Jewish Chronicle (London). Al-Jazeera America featured her in a segment about the knish crisis of 2013.

Laura earned an MFA in creative writing from Brooklyn College (where she studied with Allan Ginsburg), a B.A. in French and Comparative Literature from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst/ She has worked as an outreach worker to homeless people on the streets of New York, a United Nations tour guide and a sports correspondent at the Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Laura has been on staff at the Museum of Jewish Heritage and UJA-Federation of New York and has taught writing at the City University of New York, the University of Virginia and in New York City public schools.

Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food, out from Brandeis University Press on May 6, 2014, is Laura's first book. In addition, she teaches "Jewish Food Through Song and Film" in the Department of Food Studies at the New School and is a research associate at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute. She lives in Brooklyn and is considered the world's leading expert on the knish.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ed Levy on May 21, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Growing up in New Jersey, we got our knishes at Tabatchnick's (now, like the knish, available in frozen), and it was only later when I discovered my roots in New York (and still later, like Ms. Silver, in Bialystock), that I began to see the connections between that warm, comforting feeling in the stomach only a knish can induce and the long rich history, the entire gestalt, from whence it came. This book continues that process for me, but while there is ample nostalgia, and even sadness for the lost world, there is also a kind of John McPhee-like celebration of the minute details of a subject, for its own sake. As with McPhee, the topic is in a way just a pretext for good writing, intelligence, wit, and a love for the particulars. It's the going back and forth between foreground and background that produces the effect. Reading Knish, I was reminded of Tabatchnick's, but I also got the same thrill I feel from Google Earth. You zoom way in on the tiniest corner of the world, a potato-filled pastry with too many calories that reminds you of your childhood, and then seamlessly and effortlessly out again, to the global context, to San Francisco, Jerusalem, Paris, Warsaw, Riga, and to a whole, global cast of characters past and present who are part of the human diaspora.--Ed Levy
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By calvados man on July 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I don't know from knishes...... This book is not just about knishes - read carefully and be attentive. This is not a "beginning middle end" "knishtory". Knish is about our past, about memories that are fading, about putting flesh on a fragment of memory, faces on shadows and meaning in our souls. Laura Silver skillfully takes on a journey - a trip to what is behind the fading memories of the voices of our parents, grandparents and all the faceless men and women who came before. This is a story about bakeries making Pasties for Copper Miners on the Michigan Upper Peninsula, now gone and mines desolate. The Amish "Sticky Bun" shop under the Frankford "El" stop in Philly, the Polish butcher making his sausages.. about things that were and are no more. No they're not in this book - they are our own "Mrs Stahl's Knishes. As you devour this literary delight you too will your favorite memory. Silver seduces us into these memories and we too add to the list of shadows.

Knish is about a time, a space, the humanity of place, of hopes, and about keeping the memories. America, Poland, Russia,dancing,singing, Seders, Eleanor Roosevelt, weddings, cocktail parties.... It is a story - an unfinished one - And there is a knish recipe in this "cook book".

I don't know from knishes - but I know a good read. Silver delivers this in abundance.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By George Rosinger on June 5, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Purchased this book for our daughter and she loved it. She also made knishes using the recipe provided in the book and they looked and tasted like they came right out of the best restaurant.
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Format: Hardcover
Laura Silver's dogged search for anything knish will appeal to anyone who's ever associated a specific food with a cherished memory. The author honors her late grandmother and the humble treat they would enjoy together by mulling the origins and histories of both. In the process she tells stories of families beyond her own, and as these lineages run parallel, intertwine, and continue in ways unknowable, previously feared ends are replaced with futures. This delightful book is much like its subject - a little flaky on the outside and deeply nourishing within.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ASLAW on February 20, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Repetitious and boring. We saw the author talking about the same subject and she was lively and interesting. Don't buy the book; book a seat at the author' lecture instead! (And avoid Gabila's frozen knishes! Feh!)
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Format: Hardcover
This book is the ultimate authority on knishs! The photos take the reader on a tour through history, and the depth of research / knowledge is incredible. This is a great gift for the historian or Jewish food lover in your life.
We also had the incredible pleasure of taking a KNISH BIKE TOUR through lower Manhattan with the author, Laura Silver. What a treat! Laura led us on bikes to 4 different locations around the Lower East Side and provided us with 4 very different experiences with different types of knish. We have lived in Manhattan for more than a decade, less than a mile from some of these locations, and never knew they existed. It was a delicious and educational experience - if you are in NYC we highly recommend you reach out to Laura to set up your own bike tour.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gloria Lomuscio on June 19, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The 'Knish' book is fun and nostalgic reading for all ages. The pictures and recipes inspire whether you are Jewish or not. And the research needed to write this book clearly was a labor of love. How wonderful to have this passion for your 'ethnic' background, and to write with such clarity. We await your next foray into your culture Laura Silver. Thanks !!!
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