I have no connection with the University of Michigan but I do have a strong tie to one of the elements of the story of the firing of its flirty president. You see, I’m an avid advocate, indeed, defender and consumer of the unfortunate third party in this affair.
If you’ve been following this story at all, you know of which I speak. If not, here’s what now-ex U of M President Mark Schlissel improperly emailed a subordinate in hopes of luring her to a rendezvous: “[I] can lure you to visit with the promise of a knish?”
Schlissel had apparently received a box of knishes as a gift and decided, apparently, the quickest way to a woman’s heart was through the promise of a potato pastry. The romantic beast!
Along with disgust for the overall behavior of the horny pedagogue preying on a subordinate I take offense at placing one of my favorite foods in the entire world in the middle of this scandal.
I don’t just like knishes, I chase them, capture them, cook them and devour them. It started during my upbringing in NYC where a hot, fresh knish filled with either potato, kasha, or a combination of potato and meat could bought from a street vendor in Manhattan.
The vendor wrap the knish in wax paper and, if you wished, I didn’t, would be happy to squirt mustard on it. Cost a quarter. The combination of the wonderful smell from his charcoal heater and the intoxicating fragrance of the hot pastry did what much more expensive edibles from you neighborhood dispensary can only partially achieve.
Whether in Manhattan or in Queens, where I actually lived, you could walk up to the takeout window of your neighborhood kosher deli. The window was strategically placed next to the grill so you could smell the Hebrew National frankfurters, not hot dogs, and knishes cooking as you fruitlessly attempted to just walk by.
A moment later, you had just coughed up a buck for a frank, knish and a Dr. Brown’s cream soda.
When my wife and I moved out of New York State to Tucson, Arizona we were hard pressed to find a kosher deli, let alone knishes. But not far from the University of Arizona there was, indeed, such a place.
My wife, who is not Jewish, and doesn’t look it either, went there one day to buy our Passover foods, including knishes. She used the proper pronunciation—kuh-NISH. The person behind the counter who may also not have been of the Tribe thought she made a mistake and attempted to correct my wife with, “Oh honey…it’s not kuh-NISH…it’s NISH! You know, the KN combo like Knife.”
To this day we laugh about that and sometimes just call them NISHES for the fun of it. We have a low bar for “fun.”
We’ve now lived in Michigan in suburban Detroit for 33 years where there’s a large and active Jewish population. You would think it would be easy to find knishes here. It used to be pretty easy. You could find decent frozen knishes in the grocery store, but no more.
For several years we would go across town to a kosher food store in Oak Park, an enclave of orthodox Jewish folks. You could find a box of a dozen small knishes for about $11. Not bad, except the knishes were these little round hockey-puck sized things with an armor-like crust and tasteless filling. But any knish in a sturm so we’d suffer with those.
At a gourmet food store you could find what looked like excellent knishes but 3 for $17? Oy! The kosher-style delis around town would sell you a pretty good knish for $4 or $5 apiece, but that still seemed a bit high if you’re just looking to stock up on a few to eat later.
We looked into buying knishes online. The initial price was fine but the shipping was as much as 30 bucks because they had to be packed in dry ice.
I finally found what amounts to a sort of traditional knish at a combo produce and food store—four knishes for about $7. Still more than the bargain box from across down. They’re not as big as those I enjoyed from New Yawk street vendors but the crust is just right, the potato filling is tasty and the store is only 15 minutes from my house.
I don’t know what brand knish was gifted ex-U of M prez Schlissel but I’d have to imagine if he was attempting to lure a potential paramour with a potato pastry he was pretty confident it was a winner.
But honestly, that’s pretty icky. Can you imagine believing you could score a date with the offer of spuds in a crust? “That’s all I got!. What, you wanna a frankfurter too?”
Hmm..well, it’s kept our marriage going for almost 50 years. There’s gotta be something to it, but I’m not one to knish and tell.