Laura Silver is a woman on a mission. When her favorite knish bakery, Mrs. Stahl’s, closed, she embarked on a round-the-world quest for the origins and modern-day manifestations of the knish that would take her from Brighton Beach to Jersey and across three continents. Her forthcoming book about her journey, Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food, will be available from Brandeis University Press on May 6, 2014. In this excerpt, we meet, and lose, Mrs. Stahl’s and Fritzie Silver, the author’s grandmother.

The knish situation in Brooklyn is not what it once was. I can say that because I’m third-generation Brooklyn, once removed. Queens, where I was born, had knishes, too, tons of them. I took them for granted, then they were gone.

More than latkes, matzoh, or the apple-and-walnut charoset that crowned the seder plate, knishes were my family’s religion. For knishes, we went on… More…

What is jewelry? We know what it is, of course. Jewelry is the pretty extras with which we adorn ourselves. But what is it really? There is no specific use to jewelry. Yet, humans in every culture on the planet wear jewelry of some kind. It is ubiquitous and pointless at the same time.

 

Here’s something Art Smith said about jewelry:

A piece of jewelry is in a sense an object that is not complete in itself. Jewelry is a ‘what is it?’ until you relate it to the body. The body is a component in design just as air and space are. Like line, form, and color, the body is a material to work with. It is one of the basic inspirations in creating form.

Art Smith was a Brooklyn man. He died in 1982 after… More…

A magnificent thing has been happening outside my window in Brooklyn. This past summer, I noticed vegetable gardens and fruit trees overwhelming the once-empty hull of yard behind my building. The paved patios have been blasted up and turned into thriving miniature farms. Gardens are being grown on the rusty fire escapes and tended by my young, overall-clad neighbors. Everything is getting greener, and leafier. Everything seems more… alive. A month ago, before the present frost hit, a gaggle of speckled birds I have never seen were casually tearing at the round fruits of a new tree. I’ve lived in my Brooklyn apartment for 14 years, long enough to turn from tenant to witness, so you’ll believe me when I tell you the change is considerable.

 

The results of the urban gardeners’ efforts are delightful and alluring. Even… More…