Cook the Book: Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House that Herring Built

This guest-post comes to us from food-writer Joy Hui Lin.

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A stroll around New York’s Lower East Side will lead you inevitably to the storefront of Russ And Daughters Appetizing with all its delights. After more than a century in the appetizing business handed down through four generations, Mark Russ Federman has put to page detailing the history of the family’s business and the Lower East Side.

 

Photo credit: Mark Russ Federman
Photo credit: Mark Russ Federman

Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House that Herring Built is more memoir than cookbook with bright and engaging anecdotes and voices of the family, owners, and staff (which were always intermingled), and their loyal customers, many of whom are generational as well. Federm

an quickly disabuses any sentimentality in the retelling. His immediate family and extended relations were all forcefully obliged to work at the store full-time six days a week. His aunts, which is where “The Daughters” from the store’s namesake comes from, refer back to their careers there as the “old days,” emphasizing that it was never an easy ride. Federman is an engaging narrator who constantly reminds the reader that his family’s fortunes improved out of a combination of fortitude and good luck. He continues the family tradition by strong arming both his children into helping out during the holiday rush. He once flew his daughter, Niki Federman (the current co-owner), all the way from Paris, and coaxed his son away from medical school to lend a hand. (Federman says he must be the only father who didn’t want his son to become a doctor.)

The memoir explains how food for struggling Jewish émigrés of the Lower East Side ghetto went from staple to upscale. All the while it offers an intimate recounting of the Russ family through the generations. While the memoir won’t send you running to the kitchen, it will certainly have you haunting the Russ & Daughter’s store counter to order your own appetizing plate.
 
Keep reading for a recipe for Russ & Daughter’s Lox Chowder…