My informant was my 59 year old father. He grew up in a Jewish household with many Jewish traditions that have been passed down through generations. My father’s grandmother was originally Russian. My entire family lived there until my great grandfather and great grandmother came to the United States through Ellis Island sometime around 1900. During this exchange between two countries, my ancestors brought many traditions to the United States as did many of the Russian Jews that came to the United States at that time. One of those was knishes.
Collector: “I know we have been eating knishes my entire life. Who was the first to make them?”
Informant: “Well, my mom had always grown up making them and I would also have them during my childhood. She learned from her mom, and her mom learned from her mom and so on. It went back for a long long time. It is a huge tradition in our family.”
Collector: “Is her recipe unique or are all knishes the same?”
Informant: “Usually a knish is supposed to be filled with some sort of stuffing whether it be meat, cheese, or maybe even fruit or something. Ours however, are just made out of the dough without all of the filling. This way you really get the flavor of the actual potato.”
Collector: “Do you still use the same exact recipe that was passed down through generations?”
Informant: “The same exact one.”
This was a very interesting interview. I did not know that the knishes that I have been eating my entire life stemmed back so far. After researching the origins of the knish and their presence in the United States, I found out that during about 1900, which is when my great grandmother came to the United States, knishes made an appearance. They became a popular snack food and special shops began to open up.