In the January issue of O – The Oprah Magazine, columnist Lisa Kogan tells of her perfect day that starts at Russ & Daughters, leads to some curious words from another customer while waiting in line at the counter, and ends with a resolution to either “breathe in and let go” or, if none of her attempts at happiness and harmony pay off, then to a plan to head back for halvah at Russ & Daughters.
Her story begins:
About three weeks after my daughter, Julia, was born, I was standing in line at Russ & Daughters, a lovely little shoebox of a shop that’s been serving the most exquisite Jewish delicacies ever since Mr. Russ loaded up his pushcart and headed for the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1908. I was ordering smoked butterfish and nova, sliced thinner than angel wings, as the guys behind the counter plied me with samples of apricot strudel and raspberry rugelach. It was spring, my baby was healthy, Russ & Daughters had just put out their marble nut halvah, and all was right with the world.
I was experiencing what the late, great Spalding Gray used to call “a perfect moment.” Please note, Mr. Gray didn’t talk about perfect days, he didn’t even refer to a perfect half-hour stretch. Nope, he only suggested that there are moments when life is inexorably sweet, but those moments are few and far between—and generally over before you can capture them on the teeny camera in your ridiculously tricked-out cell phone.
The adorable grandma to my left decided to strike up a conversation: “So, how long have you been coming here, dear?” She smelled like Pond’s Cold Cream and cinnamon, and I liked her immediately. “Well, ma’am, my aunt Bernice first brought me here when I was just a kid,” I answered between bites. She smiled warmly and told me she grew up right around the corner, on Orchard Street, and had shopped here since the 1920s. “I raised five children on this food,” she said, pointing to the baked blueberry farmer’s cheese. We were soulmates in sable, partners in pickled herring; we spoke the language of lox. And that’s when it happened.
My new buddy suddenly reached out her bony little liver-spotted hand, patted my baby-free middle, and asked the one question nobody should ever ask: “When are you due?”
It is Best Life Week on Oprah’s TV show now (though it seems more like Best Life Month or Best Life Year or Best Life Lifetime?!) And, we admit (well, one of us admits) to setting the DVR to record it for the past few days. I first read through the magazine to find our mention and now I might be hooked. I’d like Nate Berkus to decorate my apartment and Dr. Oz to figure out how I can find more Omega 3′s in my food. In fact, in a recent episode he mentions the wonders of salmon as a source, but I think we should have a little talk about the health benefits of herring as well.
- Jen Snow