More than a few adherents of the Semitic faith insist that Christmas day is best observed within the hallowed halls of a movie palace and cozied up with copious amounts of food of Chinese extraction.
But that needn’t be the sole solution. This Noel, once you’ve taken a break from dashing, dancing and prancing among vexing crowds; once you’ve finished with Comet®, OKCupid, donned your seasonal apparel and watched Wolf Blitzer, consider a new tradition: a smorgasbord of celluloid Knishmas treats.
A knish, as you probably know, is a lump of filling—most commonly spiced mashed potatoes, never coal—nestled snug in a blanket of baked (and sometimes fried) dough. The wrapped pastry stuffs the stomach, doubles as a hand warmer and is veritable sleigh of stories. This list (checked twice, with flicks occasional naughty, and overwhelmingly nice) introduces a flickering feast for the eyes that can challenge any Yule log. If you’re skeptical about consuming hefty servings of spud-influenced films, start small, pace yourself and take a moment to cool off between courses.
Feature Films and a Short
1. If These Knishes Could Talk, 2013, 53 minutes
This film about the New Yawk accent includes close-ups of homemade knishes and Alan Dershowitz, lawyer, scholar and a founder of the late, beloved Maven’s Deli in Cambridge.
2. Whatever Works, 2009, 92 minutes
Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side gets a cameo in this film featuring Larry David as a curmudgeon and knish eater of the highest order.
3. A Walk on the Moon, 1999, 107 minutes
The summer of the lunar landing and Woodstock as seen from a Bungalow Colony in upstate New York, where the “Knish Man is on the premises,” albeit off screen.
4. Wise Guys, 1986, 100 minutes
A pair of low-level, klutzy Mafiosos set out to fulfill their joint dream of opening the first Jewish-Italian delicatessen on the planet.
5. The Night They Raided Minsky’s, 1968, 99 minutes
An Amish young woman comes to New York, encounters her first knish and gets wrapped up in a striptease racket.
6. Grand Luncheonette, 2005, 5 minutes
A portrait of a Times Square hot dog counter owner, Fred Hakim, who explains that a knish is “Potatoes inside, outside, every side.”
7. The Golden Girls: Sophia’s Wedding, Parts 1 and 2, 1988, 50 minutes
Sylvia makes a condolence call that reveals the truth behind an ill-fated pizza-knish business and sets the scene for a renaissance.
Songs and Videos
8. Potato Knishes, 2013, 1 minute
This psychedelic animation takes a peek inside a production facility to present “the magic and the mystery” of you-know-what. By Ratboy Genius.
9. Ruby’s Knishes, 2006, 4 minutes
A musical tribute to the man who sold potato patties to a generation of kids in Brooklyn and the Catskills and left a lasting imprint.
10. 1 Potato, 2 Potato, 3 Knish, 2008, 2 minutes
Black-Jewish rapper SD3 (Sammy Davis the III) performs a tater-infused riff in honor of a bar mitzvah boy.
11. Sid Knishes, 1996, 1 minute
A spud with a blue Mohawk was a solo act on Muppets Tonight as a send-up of punk rocker Sid Vicious. Alas, his mosh pit turned to…mashed.
12. Knish Doctor, 1958, 2 minutes
Mickey Katz, parody predecessor of Weird Al Yankovic, turns the “Witch Doctor” into an MD who specializes in treating “pipik troubles.”
Still hungry? Laura Silver created her own video homage to the knish.
Top photo: Natalie Portman called herself and Scarlett Johansson the “hot knishes.” See here.