July 19, 2001
A cherry cheese or pizza knish?
:: Previous Barry Lewis columns
By Barry Lewis
The Times Herald-Record
"Don't tell me you're out of pizza knishes," warned the woman towing her two children. She tightened her sweaty grip around their little hands.
She could not accept rejection for the second time in less than 24 hours.
"I don't see any pizza ones."
The children were silent.
"We have potato and kasha, we have broccoli . and . we have pizza. Yes, we have pizza knishes," teased Izzy, whose red shirt and face showed the flour battle scars that come with making .
"So Izzy, how many knishes did you make today?"
Izzy stood, silent.
How many brush strokes did Monet need to paint "The Bridge at Argenteuil"?
How many steps did Nureyev need to choreograph the "Nutcracker"?
How many notes are there in "Let It Be"?
Izzy doesn't count knishes. He just creates them. Dreams them up over the winter.
They are gourmet masterpieces.
How we yearn during the February frost for one bite of his heated fried potato - only to be awakened from our dreams by the sight of a frozen, prepackaged knish.
And there's one for every taste bud.
There's low fat, regular or sweet potato, cabbage and chili. You can have spinach or blueberry, cherry cheese or apple. There's even a chocolate cheese knish for those who throw caution and calories to the wind.
"We ship them all over the world," said Anita, Izzy's wife and the other half of this successful knish connection. "People come in, order and keep ordering. They've got to send home for the winter."
She remembers when this couple got engaged in their shop. Could a knish be an aphrodisiac?
No, but a little mustard wouldn't hurt.
Now, not all his knishes have been winners.
"We made a rice knish. It bombed," Izzy said, still trying to shake the taste.
Here's the skinny on Izzy: he doesn't make all the knishes.
Al makes Izzy's famous potato and kasha knishes in the city. He got the recipe from his dad, Ruby, who was given the secret ingredients by his mother-in-law, who Izzy suspects picked it up in the old country.
Which old country? Who really knows? All those countries are old countries.
If you summered in the area, you might remember Ruby, known around the Catskills as the Knish Man.
Along with Nutty Dan the Pickle Man (who also sold nuts), Ruby would travel the country roads, stopping at hundreds of hotels and thousands of bungalow colonies to peddle his knishes from the back of his van. His salt shaker was chained to the truck.
The only thing guaranteed to stop the afternoon mahjong games was the sound of Ruby on his portable P.A. system, alerting one and all that the Knish Man had arrived.
When Ruby wasn't schlepping around Sullivan, he was in Hurleyville and later Woodbourne, always pushing the potato.
The hotels closed. The number of bungalows dwindled. So Ruby stayed home and taught his son Al how to make the knishes.
Which brings us back to Izzy, who now sells Al's potato and kasha knishes in Loch Sheldrake, at his store, Izzy's Knishes, on Route 52. It's right on the lake.
Izzy said they're shipped to Sullivan at night. From the city. Real hush hush.
Where does Izzy keep them?
"We have a place."
Say no more.
He has the franchise to Al's Knishes. Imagine being the only person to sell Coke. Or having the sole rights to the Colonel's secret recipe.
Izzy has cornered the knish market.
And he's following in Ruby's tire tracks, driving his beat up station wagon with a pair of worn speakers to note the arrival of the Knish Man.
How many types of knishes do Izzy and Anita have in their heads?
"I say 'this is it' as I walk out the door in September. Every September," says Anita.
But Izzy says he still has a few knish combos up his sleeve.
Quiche knish anyone?
Barry Lewis is the Sullivan County editor for The Times Herald-Record. He can be reached at 794-6711 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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