Foreword by Calvin Trillin
The former owner/proprietor of the beloved appetizing store on Manhattan’s Lower East Side tells the delightful, mouthwatering story of an immigrant family’s journey from a pushcart in 1907 to “New York’s most hallowed shrine to the miracle of caviar, smoked salmon, ethereal herring, and silken chopped liver” (The New York Times Magazine).
When Joel Russ started peddling herring from a barrel shortly after his arrival in America from Poland, he could not have imagined that he was giving birth to a gastronomic legend. Here is the story of this “Louvre of lox” (The Sunday Times, London): its humble beginnings, the struggle to keep it going during the Great Depression, the food rationing of World War II, the passing of the torch to the next generation as the flight from the Lower East Side was beginning, the heartbreaking years of neighborhood blight, and the almost miraculous renaissance of an area from which hundreds of other family-owned stores had fled.
Filled with delightful anecdotes about how a ferociously hardworking family turned a passion for selling perfectly smoked and pickled fish into an institution with a devoted national clientele, Mark Russ Federman’s reminiscences combine a heartwarming and triumphant immigrant saga with a panoramic history of twentieth-century New York, a meditation on the creation and selling of gourmet food by a family that has mastered this art, and an enchanting behind-the-scenes look at four generations of people who are just a little bit crazy on the subject of fish.
“When I was a child, my father and I would often stop at Russ & Daughters on Sundays, on our way to Brooklyn to visit cousins. It was there, in that friendly, wonderful store, that I learned the difference between nova and lox, poppy seed and plain, cream cheese and farmer cheese, sable and sturgeon. And now I am continuing the family tradition. Jude, my two-year-old granddaughter, just visited the store and started learning about the many types of herring, which she loves. I will start reading this book to her just as soon as she can enjoy a bagel with Baltic salmon and cream cheese.”
“The grandson of the founder of J. Russ Cut Rate Appetizing (the name changed to Russ & Daughters in 1935) tells a remarkable story of family foresight and resiliency, and gives fascinating details of early life among the teeming streets of New York’s Lower East Side in the first decades of the century. . . . Including precious pictures and recipes, this work offers a savory wealth of social history, told humorously and endearingly.”
“The best thing in the world is to go to Russ & Daughters. The next-best thing in the world is to read Russ & Daughters.”
“Forget the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty . . . New York City’s greatest living institution is very likely Russ & Daughters: a temple of uniquely New York deliciousness, Zen-like perfection, and a repository of generations of wisdom and experience. Mark Russ Federman’s book is a story not just about the food that made New York great, but a deeply felt personal history. When visiting a new city for the first time, I’ve always asked the question: ‘What do they do here better than anywhere else?’ When visiting New York City for the first time, the answer is always ‘Russ & Daughters.’ ”