Herring Thoughts

February 2nd, 2012 § 0 comments

When Hershele Zvi Freimann, HG’s late, beloved father, arrived in the United States in 1906, he immediately went to work in a Lower East Side sweatshop. Salary: $7 a week. He slept on a cutting table. Bathed in the public baths on Forsyth Street (fastidious HZF went every day). His principal meal of the day cost 12 cents. A schmaltz herring. A pumpernickel bread. A schooner of beer. Irving Howe, in his seminal book on the migration of East European Jews to the United States, World of Our Fathers: The Journey Of The East European Jews To America And The Life They Found And Made, notes that the pioneering labor union organizers plotted strategy over meals of herring and boiled potatoes.

HG honors these traditions of Labor and family. In years past, HG watched the Super Bowl while imbibing herring, boiled potatoes, raw onions and vodka straight from the freezer. This Super Sunday HG and BSK are invited to the home of friends so herring is off the menu, but BSK is curing some salmon — converting the fish into delicious, dill strewn gravlax. Even without the herring there will be abundant vodka so the day will be joyful even if the Giants lose.

In Europe, herring isn’t identified with Jewish cuisine. Most Paris brasseries have pickled herring on their menus (The best is at Stella and Le Vaudeville). At the excellent bistro, Chez Georges, The pickled herring is passed to customers in a big crock. Take as much as you want and seconds are given with a smile.

HG’s best herring memory: Raw herring filets in Amsterdam. Rolled the morsels in chopped, raw onion. HG threw his head back and downed them whole accompanied by Genever Gin and Dutch beer, of course.

A note to New York herring lovers: Russ & Daughters, the Lower East Side temple of smoked fish has these raw herrings in season as does the Grand Central Oyster Bar. Now, there’s the perfect meal. Raw Dutch herrings followed by the Oyster Bar’s wondrous Oyster Pan Roast. Precede it with some oysters and Long Island little neck clams on the half shell. A meal for sea lovers.

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