Annals of cultural diversity: B&H Dairy

The latest episode in the tale of B&H Dairy, in NYC’s East Village: from yesterday’s NYT, a triumph: “B&H Dairy in the East Village Reopens After Months of Red Tape” by Jim Dwyer:

At lunchtime Thursday, there wasn’t an empty stool or seat to be had at B&H Dairy, a venerable 400-square-foot restaurant in the East Village that survived the Second Avenue gas explosion in March but appeared doomed when it was bound and gagged in red tape. The place managed to reopen a few days ago, and everyone has come back.

… Working the cash register, Ola Smigielska, who owns B&H with her husband, Fawzy Abdelwahed, greeted each customer who stopped to chat and wondered how they had lasted so long without the stick-to-the-kishkes blintzes.

… B&H is a kosher dairy restaurant created 80 years ago for a generation of Jewish immigrants that has long since moved on. It is now run by a Polish Catholic, Ms. Smigielska, and an Egyptian Muslim, Mr. Abdelwahed. They sell T-shirts printed with the words “Challah! Por favor.”

A triumph of cultural diversity, pretty much possible only in a cosmopolitan city: a highly culture-specific resource maintains itself even after the people who originally used and staffed it have moved elsewhere, only to be replaced by people from other cultures. It’s as if Kosher Dairy Restaurant had taken on a life of its own. B&H Dairy is now staffed by a Polish Catholic and an Egytian Muslim (who are, wonderfully, married to one another) and its clientele, all devoted to the food, are drawn from a huge slice of urban groups.

Ah yes, stick-to-the-kishkes blintzes. Along with the food comes a certain amount of Yiddish. The food vocabulary, of course, but also more. From NOAD2 on kishke:

a beef intestine stuffed with a seasoned filling.

– (usu. kishkes) US informal   a person’s guts.

So: stick-to-the-kishkes is the idiom stick-to-the-ribs with a Yiddish accent.

From the Texas Jewish Post (Fort Worth, Tex.), Vol. 64, No. 35 (9/2/10),”Jewish Foodie: All about brisket” by Annabel Cohen:

Anyway you slice it, brisket is one of the “it” foods of every Jewish holiday. It’s stick-to-the-kishkes comfort food that many would never exclude from the table.

Leave a Reply