LES Live Jewish Book Group Un-lox the Secret to Russ & Daughters Appetizing Delights
LES Live Jewish Book Group convened at Manny Cantor Center on Tuesday evening for a special gathering replete with babka, bagels and shmears of fish, liver and cream cheese from Russ & Daughters. Mark Russ Federman, featured author and former proprietor of the shop joined the group to discuss his book, Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House that Herring Built .
The group opened with a clip from the film, Sturgeon Queens which documented the landmark business’s 100+ year history on the Lower East Side. After passing off the business to the fourth generation of Russes, Mark wasn’t quite finished.
“The thing about owning a business is it becomes you, you become it.” He decided that he wanted to write a book about Russ & Daughters and after many years in the shop, he had more than enough material to do it. True to form, the project took shape from behind the counter.
It was a customer who encouraged Mark to get an agent for his book. Three years later, after a few false starts, Mark found the right person for the book he wanted to publish and completed Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House that Herring Built. Despite his initial misgivings, he received rave reviews from those who mattered most, his mother and aunt, who read parts aloud to each other and delighted in the memories and challenges they experienced while building their business.
In the end, “Specialty, fancy food, was just hard work. There’s nothing romantic about selling food, but it helped Grandpa Russ get his family where they needed to be.” Through lox, herring, and pickles Mark’s book gives us a taste of the quintessential American dream and we love it.
Piece by Emily Hays