Russ and Daughters Press

The New York Times

September 22, 2003


So Pink, So New York

 

 

“The seriousness of fall, with its early twilights, overbooked restaurants and new television shows, has descended, and the simple, enduring rituals of city life that seemed impertinent in the heat are reviving. In other words, brunch is back. The quitessential New York brunch involves a deceptively simple trimverate: bagel, cream cheese and lox. It is salmon that lies at the heart of this classic dish, and salmon that lies at the heart of its mystery. Those innocent pink ribbons of flesh could tell a tale of battered nationl pride, ecological battles, ethnic inauthenticity, economic flux and jousting connoisseurs, a tale that spans the globe and the centuries. The history of a fish is bound to be blurry. But the story of where smoked salmon comes from and how it became a symbol of New York is especially elusive. A sign behind the cool glass counter at Russ & Daughters, a Houston Street delicatessen that began life in 1905 as a pickled herring pushcart, reads, “Lox et veritas.” Both are in short supply these days. Mark Russ Federman, the 57-year-old owner, grandson of the original Russ, pointed to a meaty, deep pink chunk of fish: lox, which in his store means that rich, brine-cured belly of a wild Pacific salmon. “That’s where it all started,” he said. But today, lox accounts for only a small fraction of his salmon sales. “People use lox as a general term—bagel and lox—but what is traditional and genuine lox is not smoked salmon at all,” said Mr. Russ Federman’s daughter, Niki, who also works at the shop. “It is salmon cured in salt brin. No refrigeration needed. When people come into the store, they ask for lox, and we say, “Are you sure?”


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