“K” is for “Knish”

You’ve never heard of a knish you say? Don’t feel bad. I never did either until I was in my late twenties and my Bronx born-and-bred Hungarian Jewish husband introduced me to them. What is it? According to Wikipedia: “A knish /kəˈnɪʃ/ is a traditional Ashkenazi Jewish snack food consisting of a filling covered with dough that is typically baked or sometimes deep fried.” That mundane description doesn’t even begin to cut it.

A knish is a carb-loaded, piece-of-heaven, Jewish comfort food. It’s basically a mashed potato ball, traditionally filled with nut-flavored kasha groats or more mashed potatoes with caramelized onions. It’s either baked or fried. Nowadays knishes are also filled with meat, sauerkraut, cheese, or vegetables. Spinach knish is one of my favorites.

Yes, Wikipedia, it could be a snack food. One knish is filling enough that it could also be a meal or even a hand-warmer on cold winter days. In the early 1900s, Eastern European Jewish immigrants brought knishes to New York, where they were sold in ‘knisheries” that evolved into famous Jewish bakery/delicatessen/appetizing stores like Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery, Katz’s Delicatessen, and Russ & Daughters. Also sold by street vendors, knishes are a quintessential New York City street food like black & whites (cookies), hot pretzels with mustard, or slices (pizza).

Knishes may not be particularly well-known outside of the New York metropolitan area, but we in the hinterlands (100 miles from NYC) can find pretty good knishes at some grocery stores — such as New Jersey based ShopRite — local kosher markets, and New York style delis. Speaking of which, I think it’s time for a visit to Rein’s New York Style Deli.

Classic Potato Knish

Picture copied from The Jewish Kitchen; the link will also take you to a recipe.

 

 

 

 

“J” is for “John, Jean, and Judy”

In the 1950s and 1960s, while public school kids were reading the adventures of Dick, Jane, and Sally (DJS), parochial school tyros were following John, Jean, and Judy (JJJ). I haven’t compared the two series personally, but apparently JJJ were living their counterparts’ lives. JJJ originated in the 1940s, when a crusading Rev. John A. O’Brien, Ph.D., tinkered with the DJS stories, keeping the original book titles and character names but adding or creating moral or religious themed stories more in line with Roman Catholic values. By the 1950s, for some reason (copyright issues, perhaps?) his characters were reborn as JJJ.

Rev. O’Brien’s career as a children’s book author was very much in line with his main passions, Catholic education and conversion. In fact, his contribution to the world of children’s literature is primarily a footnote in his life. Beginning with the 1938 publication of his best seller “The Faith of Millions,” he wrote 45 books and hundreds of pamphlets and articles espousing Catholicism. He taught the first accredited courses in religion while earning his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois, where he remained for 22 years. Thereafter, he spent the rest of his life teaching and writing at the University of Notre Dame, devoting hectic summers to conversion campaigns in 50 American dioceses and preaching throughout the South. The late Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, former President of Notre Dame, said “perhaps no priest in the history of the Church in America was responsible for more Catholic converts.”

Of course, Rev. O’Brien’s proselytizing meant nothing to six-year-old me when I first encountered JJJ at St. Cecilia’s School. I came from a home with plenty of Catholic books and had learned to read our copy of the Little Golden Book Life of Jesus. While I was impressed that JJJ had a character named Judy, the JJJ reader wasn’t as impressive as the Nancy Drew library books I hid under my desk.

Choosing my own reading material was relatively easy, since upwards of 50 kids were packed into 1950s classrooms. Alphabetic seating meant I was usually in the middle or back of the room; out of sight of prying nuns’ eyes. Unfortunately, I blew it for myself because I basically talked/whispered non-stop to everyone around me. My alphabetic seat wasn’t enough to protect me from being moved to the front of the classroom under the nun’s nose. Never later than Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, I still remember my Nancy Drew stories but not JJJ.

Written for the A to Z Challenge and for these prompts: #YDWordPrompt tyro; The Daily Spurs’ rebirth; Word of the Day Challenge hectic; and Fandango’s #FOWC never. Research materials include The University of Notre Dame’s archives, Find A Grave memorial; Library Things’ Cathedral Basic Readers series description, and, of course, Wikipedia

Song Lyric Sunday — “Run” — Snow Patrol and Leona Lewis

Jim Adams’ challenge for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday is one word song titles. There are so many to choose from. The one that has been on my radar lately is “Run.” With lyrics by Gary Lightbody and music composed along with his bandmates Iain Archer, Jonathan Quinn, Mark McClelland, and Nathan Connolly, the Northern Irish band Snow Patrol released the song in 2004. It peaked on the Irish Singles Chart at 25 and on the UK Singles Chart at 5.

“Run” has been covered by multiple diverse performers, most notably English singer Leona Lewis, who first performed it on a live BBC Radio show in late 2007. She recorded and released it as a digital single in 2008 after she won the UK’s singing competition television show “X Factor.” Lewis’s version shot to number 1, becoming UK’s fastest selling digital release ever, with 69,244 downloads in the first two days. Following her success with the song, Snow Patrol’s original re-entered the UK Singles Chart at number 28.

The videos following the lyrics listed below are live versions recorded circa Snow Patrol’s and Leona Lewis’s original release dates.

Run

I’ll sing it one last time for you
Then we really have to go
You’ve been the only thing that’s right
In all I’ve done

And I can barely look at you
But every single time I do
I know we’ll make it anywhere
Away from here

Light up, light up
As if you have a choice
Even if you cannot hear my voice
I’ll be right beside you dear

Louder louder
And we’ll run for our lives
I can hardly speak I understand
Why you can’t raise your voice to say

To think I might not see those eyes
Makes it so hard not to cry
And as we say our long goodbye
I nearly do

Light up, light up
As if you have a choice
Even if you cannot hear my voice
I’ll be right beside you dear

Louder louder
And we’ll run for our lives
I can hardly speak I understand
Why you can’t raise your voice to say

Slower slower
We don’t have time for that
All I want’s to find an easy way
To get out of our little heads

Have heart, my dear
We’re bound to be afraid
Even if it’s just for a few days
Making up for all this mess

Light up, light up
As if you have a choice
Even if you cannot hear my voice
I’ll be right beside you dear

 

 

“I” is for “Ireland”

Ireland is in my blood, literally, confirmed by DNA testing. Originally lumping Ireland and Scotland together as 58% of my DNA, the current refined Ancestry.com algorithm reports my Irish and Scots DNA separately as 48% and 26%, respectively. Despite this heritage, although I have spent a bone-chilling weekend in Edinburgh, I have yet to set foot in Ireland. What courses through my veins is their common language — poetry, folklore, and, especially, music.

On “C” day of this A to Z Challenge, I wrote about Scotland’s unofficial anthem, “Caledonia.” Today, I’m thinking of what some consider Ireland’s unofficial anthem, “Ireland’s Call.” Written by Northern Irish Derryman Phil Coulter, “Ireland’s Call” was intended to unify Ireland’s rugby fans.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) commissioned the song for the 1995 World Cup, where teams are introduced and honored by the singing of their national anthems. The IRFU team represented the entire island of Ireland, and some Northern Irish IRFU members understandably objected to using the Republic of Ireland’s national anthem, “Amhrán na bhFiann” (Irish) or “the Soldier’s Song” (English). I say “understandably” because “Amhrán na bhFiann” is a “rebel song” which became a rallying cry for the Irish Volunteers during the War for Independence from England. That War ultimately resulted in the creation of the Irish Free State (now the Republic of Ireland), with Northern Ireland remaining as part of Great Britain.

Although I know nothing about rugby, “Ireland’s Call” stirs my blood. I first heard it when Celtic Thunder’s then-music-director, Phil Coulter, revised and added it to their setlist. Ironically, CT’s only Scotsman, George Donaldson, led CT onto the stage while singing the first words. It quickly became a fan favorite, especially after it evolved into a performance full of swirling kilts.

The first of the following two “Ireland’s Call” videos shows the entire lyrics as written for the IRFU. The second shows Celtic Thunder’s original performance before the theatrical addition of kilts.

The third video is a freebie: Luke Kelly and the Dubliners’ “Song for Ireland.”