Passover 2013 is in full swing, and here in Jew York, it’s impossible not to take note. Bits of every other overheard conversation on the train or on the street consist of key buzzwords, from “Passover” to “kosher” and “Seder.” Grocery store displays are lined with matzoh and wine. Two days ago, I was walking down West 43rd Street and happened to peer in a ground level apartment filled with a family sitting down for an elaborate meal together. I almost knocked on the door, prepared to describe myself as a distant cousin with an empty stomach, but luckily(?) an errant tourist walked directly into me at that exact moment and my idea bubble burst.
But in the midst of this food holiday in which I’ve never taken part, it just so happens that I ate my very first and very Jewish knish.
We’d had a long morning wandering from Brooklyn to Manhattan, and as we strolled down Houston Street, it seemed as if Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery presented itself just as we realized the extent of our delirium. We entered without hesitation, and took a seat in the almost-empty establishment, walls decorated with news clippings that can’t be less than thirty years old. The counter attendant eventually took our order: one mushroom, one mozzarella jalapeño, and one blueberry.
Five minutes and some highly questionable microwave action later, the waiter returned with our heated knishes. As the smells wafted, all our doubts about why a bakery used a microwave to warm their oven-baked product dissolved. We dug into all three at once. My life is forever changed. I am not kidding.
Despite having taken a college course entitled “Foods in Judaism,” I still feel I have much to understand about the religion and its food-related traditions — details that might make sense only if you’re a practicing Jew. But I do know one thing for sure: the knish is a holy baked marvel that is better experienced than described, and you really should experience them at NYC’s 113-year-old establishment: Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery.