Last weekend we were invited to attend a special event all about knishes. Yes, this is the glamorous life of food bloggers. The event was called "Knish History 101: Life and Times of the Knish" and it was held at the Jewish Museum of Maryland as part of their "Chosen Food" exhibit.
For those of you who don't know, a knish is a dumpling of sorts - there's an outer skin of dough, and a filling. There are endless varieties on knishes, and as is true with most Jewish foods, there is debate over which is the "best" kind. They can be baked or fried (though we've never had the fried variety). The dough can be thin and chewy to pillowy and flakey (like puff pastry). Fillings include potato, kasha (a grain), meat, spinach, broccoli, etc.
|Image courtesy of Mostly Foodstuffs|
We grew up eating knishes from kosher bakeries, usually filled with potato, meat, or kasha. Our mother loves them. We had a "knish dog" at Zabar's years ago (I think we were visiting colleges in NYC, so approximately 1999?) that we all still remember as being fabulous. Unfortunately, on a recent return to Zabar's, we asked and they no longer make the knish dog. Tragedy.
We were excited for this event at the Jewish Museum solely dedicated to knishes. We didn't know what to expect but we were looking forward to learning more about this delicacy. We wandered into the beautiful building, noting that two famous Baltimore delis are just down the street (Attman's and Lenny's), and were greeted by the museum staff. We sort of stood out in this crowd, since we were under the age of 60. It was basically like being at synagogue with all the older adults and the schmoozing -- but in a good way! Then the main speaker, Laura Silver, took the stage.
Laura has been researching the history of knishes for years, and shared not only their history in the US starting in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, but she traveled all the way to Knyszyn, Poland (pronounced: "k-nish-en") to learn more about them. Technically she was researching her family history, but her search led her to Knyszyn, proving that knishes are truly a part of her make-up.
We learned all about the knish - different flavors, different ways to cook them, their history and different iterations all over the country, and even knishes on television (featured in an episode of "Welcome Back, Kotter" if you can believe it). After Laura's talk there was a Q&A with Anita Baum, one of the matriarchs of knishes in Baltimore, whose family owns the Knish Shop on Reisterstown Road.
|Laura and Mrs. Baum|
The talk concluded with - what else - a knish tasting!
|Knishes for the tasting|
We tried knishes from 5 different delis and bakeries around Baltimore. We took the tasting seriously, discussing the pros and cons of each variety amongst ourselves, vowing to try to make our own someday. Interestingly, we have never attempted to make knishes at home. We always thought of them as too much of a pain, plus neither of us enjoy the thin, gummy outer layer that so many knishes have. But some of the knishes we tasted were truly excellent - a great outer dough and creamy mashed potato fillings. We are inspired and are already thinking of a good excuse to try to make them at home.
After the talk, we checked out the "swag" - yes, there was knish swag, and we bought some bumper stickers:
The best part was this sign, so Jewish: "for you, only $8!"
Thanks to Amy Smith of the museum for inviting us, and thanks to Laura Silver for her wonderful talk! We had a great time and now we definitely have knishes on the brain...
Kisses and knishes,
EP & X