Friday, May 29, 2009

Appetizing

Only for Jews, maybe only for New York Jews, maybe only for New York Jews of a certain age, is "appetizing" a noun as well as an adjective. I grew up with appetizing stores, places that sold smoked fish and pickled herring and bagels and bialys and cream cheese.

I thought about appetizing as I ate my bagel with smoked salmon last Sunday. The bagel was from The Bagel Hole in Park Slope, one of the only places where you can still get a classic, smallish, chewy New York bagel, not one of those humongous, bready things that pass for bagels these days, rolls in bagels' clothing. The smoked salmon was not classic, though. It was designer smoked salmon: Charlie Trotter's citrus-cured, and it was excellent.

When I was a kid I used to go out every Sunday morning to pick up bagels and lox and cream cheese for our Sunday breakfast. The local appetizing store was appropriately named The Bagel 'N' Lox. Sometimes I'd also pick up some fancy cookies from the Hungarian Bakery next door. And I also picked up the Sunday Times, which to an eight- or ten-year-old seemed as heavy as an anvil.

When I lived in the East Village, in the eighties, I frequented M. Schacht, on Second Avenue, for my appetizing. I'd occasionally go down to Russ & Daughters, on Houston Street, which is still there, but Schacht was closer. One time I asked the counter guy for some lox and he asked me if I really wanted lox, and not Nova, and did I know the difference? Did I know the difference? If you prick me do I not bleed? I don't even know how easy it is to find true lox these days, though I'm sure Russ & Daughters and probably Zabar's carry it. Lox (sometimes called belly lox) is salt-brine-cured salmon, as opposed to Nova, or Nova Scotia, or Novy, which is cold-smoked. Lox is much saltier than Novy, and a little goes a long way, especially if you're buying for one.

One day several months later I went into Schacht and asked the same guy for an eighth of a pound of lox. This time he didn't ask me if I knew what lox was. This time he said, "An eighth of lox! Are you havin' a party?"

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Anonymous Cook says:
And as I recall, it was for a party!
The other thing about lox v smoked (or nova) salmon is the weight factor. After smoking, 100 lbs of salmon will be reduced to about 80-85 lbs, whereas the brined salmon, unsmoked, will absorb water & yield 110 lbs or more. And at salmon prices, that's not chopped liver.

11:22 PM  
Anonymous Al said...

Yes, Russ & Daughters still carries real salt-cured belly lox. My father will eat nothing else.

5:14 AM  
Blogger BriBrom said...

I remember M. Shacht's -- the lox wasn't as good as what was available at Zabar's or Russ & Daughters, but it was more reasonably priced and the guys behind the counter knew how to cut lox.

3:41 PM  

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