“I am Jewish, I’m a native of Flushing, Queens, and when I grew up there were a lot of stores where you could buy a knish,” Silver said. “It’s not so easy to find one now.”
For a time, she was able to satiate her cravings at a knish shop in Brooklyn, but when they went out of business, she was motivated to find out just what it was that drew her to this food above all others, leading to her new book, Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food.
Her quest took her from Brooklyn back into Queens, across the Atlantic to the northeastern Polish town of Knyszyn, where she found out her grandmother was born. “The knish is in my DNA,” Silver said.
“Growing up, I was very fond of this store called Mrs. Stahl’s,” she added. “As it turns out I was able to get in touch with Mrs. Stahl’s granddaughters. One lives in the Upper West Side and the other lives in California, and they taught me their grandmother’s recipe.”
Silver’s focus was less on the variety of preparations of knishes, and more on the history of the dish as a whole.
“There’s actually one recipe, but the book turned into a search for my family history, for my roots, and also for the knish in modern times,” she said. “I found some in Costa Rica, some in Argentina, and I call things like [samosas or empanadas] knishing cousins. Every culture has its food and inside that food is a story. This is more of a storybook than a cookbook.”
Edwin Moscara, who operates an insurance agency out of the Rockaways, won the first copy of the book a week before it was released as part of the raffle at the Taste of Queens festival.
“I don’t cook at all, it’s for my wife,” he said. “My wife does all the cooking and loves history, so she’s going to love it.”