Reflections and Recipes from The House that Herring Built
By Mark Russ Federman, Schocken Books
When you think of appetizing – yes that's the word most "real" New Yorkers used to describe smoked cold fish like lox, nova, herring, whitefish, one company comes to mind as pioneers and icons in the appetizing world, Russ & Daughters. We thoroughly enjoyed reading about the history of this store – and how, to this day it remains a family business. In 1976, the author, Mark Russ Federman, left his job as an Upper East Side trial lawyer, and spent 30 years, 6 days a week running it, and now his daughter and nephew have taken over.
The business was actually founded in 1907 by Grandpa Joel Russ, a Galician immigrant who rolled his herring pushcart down Hester street on the Lower East Side. The pushcart expanded to a store front in 1914. The book is a tribute to the entrepreneurial Grandpa Russ and to the three Russ daughters, Aunt Hattie, Aunt Ida and to his mother, Anne, who all worked side by side with their father, each sharing their various business talents.
Federman describes his "pedigree" by using the Yiddish word Yichis, referring to his lineage. In Jewish tradition, Yichis usually means having notable rabbinic ancestors who in the "old world" were community leaders or Torah scholars, mantles that were typically passed down from generation to generation along male lines. But as Federman explains, the Russ Yichis was passed down from father to daughters, and can be found in hard work, and the satisfaction in selling fish.
The book is a page-turner. If you are interested in business, Federman shares tips on how a business (ok - a fish business) should and should not be run. He shares his thoughts with both humor and earnestness. Both the customer and employee experiences he relates are fascinating as is his advice about the need for resilience during hard times. Managing a family business is also another aspect of his reflections, and his description of the family dynamics takes this book to another level. Who knew that the next generation, the one sent to college, would ever want to take over? And who knew that a Jewish father would be disappointed when his son chose to be a doctor instead of working in a fish store? Certainly not Federman.
We highly recommend this book – it is a classic story of a Jewish immigrant family, transitioning from a European shtetl to life in New York. Even if you don't cook, you will enjoy reading about the slicing and schmoozing in Russ and Daughters. But if you do cook, these coveted heirloom recipes are treasures, easy to prepare and oh so delicious.
And by the way, our wishes for a healthy happy new year to Aunt Hattie and Federman's mother Ida, who now reside in Florida. Be well, zie gezunt.
KosherEye Notes: Although the store, Russ and Daughters, is not certified kosher, nonetheless, this book is highly recommended -- as are the recipes when made with kosher fish. A "gift yourself, gift others" KosherEye selection.
Try these Russ & Daughters recipes. They are classic and family gems:
Mushroom and Barley Soup
We thank Schocken Books for sponsoring the KosherEye Featured Cookbook and the FREE Giveaway!
This Giveaway ended midnight, August 27, 2013. The lucky winner will be notified and announced shortly.
Giveaway limited to continental U.S. only. If not living in continental U.S, you can still enter and, if selected, "gift" your prize to a continental U.S friend or relative. Once notified, the winner must respond within 48 hours or the prize will be awarded to the runner-up.
Buy the book for your cookbook library, or as a gift! To purchase, click here: Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House That Herring Built"