Why is the knish — that simple-yet-comforting food item made of mashed potatoes and encased in a puffy golden dough — such a ubiquitous New York food?
The answer will be revealed in a new exhibition at the City Reliquary called “Heroes of the Knish: Making a Living and Making a Life,” which dives into the lives of the men and women — the “knish kings and queens” — who made these savory potato pies.
The exhibition is curated by Laura Silver — the author of “Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food,” and a self-proclaimed knish scholar, who has been researching the knish for over a decade. On Sunday, February 12, there will be an opening reception, where Silver will deliver a talk focusing on the “sultry side” of the knish. (Like the fact that knish is Yiddish slang for vagina. Who knew?)
The knish, whose origins can be traced to the shtetls of Poland in the 1600s, has become a mainstay of New York City cuisine. Upon arriving on America’s shores, Jewish immigrants began selling them, and they were a hit. Now you can find knishes sold at sidewalk carts and Jewish delis all across the five boroughs.
The exhibit will highlight knish purveyors who made an impact on New York’s food scene over the past century. It will showcase archival materials — including a knish-related letter from Eleanor Roosevelt, a song about Ruby the Knishman and a stock certificate from Mrs. Stahl’s Knishes of Brighton Beach — to tell the story of knish kings and queens past and present.
Since this is a food exhibition, it is only right that the price of admission includes pickles and a single knish; they’re being supplied by Knishery NYC and Gabila’s Knishes. Drinks, including beer provided by Brooklyn Brewery, will be available for an additional suggested donation.
The City Reliquary is located at 370 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn, New York 11211
Hours: Thursday–Sunday, 12 p.m.–6 p.m.