Fish Stories from Russ & Daughters

Just before Passover, our good friend Josh Tupper at Russ & Daughters appeared on the Martha Stewart Show to tout the now famous "Super Heeb" sandwich. Even before it was called the Super Heeb, I was purchasing whitefish and baked salmon salad and horseradish cream cheese, bringing it home and schmearing it on a bagel. Tupper not unceremoniously named the sandwich after our magazine when we named it one of the best foods in the whole wide world in our 2006 Food Issue. Since 2006, the public hasn’t been able to get enough of the sandwich. The Heeb (the "Super Heeb" is topped off with wasabi flying fish roe) has gone on to become the most popular sandwich at Russ & Daughters (according to Tupper) and has garnered critical acclaim by people who know much more about food than we do.

To be sure, the origins of the sandwich have been widely acknowledged, though we gave the matter little thought because our informal collaboration was inspired not by the love of attention–but by the love of whitefish. And to their credit, Russ & Daughters have never hidden the sandwich’s origins. That’s why Tupper’s explanation of the name of the sandwich felt so strange when he explained it to Stewart. For some strange reason, just before the show, Tupper decided to change the name to "Heebster" in a naive effort to divorce the sandwich from the magazine. For those of you too lazy to click on the first link in this post, here are the highlights:
Martha Stewart: What’s a Heebster?
Josh Tupper: It’s kind of a combination of old and new. We have whitefish salad, which is the traditional thing we’ve served forever and we have wasabi roe…
Martha Stewart: (interrupting) But what does Heebster mean?
Josh Tupper: Heebster means nothing. Just kind of hipster. Sort of old school and hipster. We made it up.
Now, I’ve said plenty of stupid things when I’ve been interviewed over the years and can easily imagine misspeaking when put on the spot–especially by someone with as much power as Stewart. So, I asked Tupper why he went out of his way to conceal the true origins of the sandwich. He told me that he had quite a few discussions about it beforehand and then made the conscious decision to tell the fish story out of the fear of offending Martha’s people and potential customers.
Let’s put aside the argument that Tupper should have simply told Stewart that the sandwich was named after a satirical Jewish culture magazine that helped inspire it. Let’s also put aside the argument that the word "Heebster" isn’t any less "offensive" than the word "Heeb." Let’s also put aside the argument that Tupper’s apocryphal (and just plain weird) origins myth might have inspired more people to turn the channel than the claim that his sandwich was named after a magazine called "Heeb." Let’s also put aside the idea that Tupper has 12 other sandwiches on his menu to talk to Stewart about. (Why not show her how to make the one with sturgeon, sable and smoked salmon? I’m sure she’d love to utter it’s name–"Meshugge"–on the air.)
Put aside all of this because what is truly significant here is that Tupper was doing this for Martha. Yes, she has the power to move more fish sandwiches in one television spot than I could probably eat in my entire lifetime, but it is not just any old power. This was not Rachael Ray power. Or even Oprah power. Martha Stewart’s power is the power of WASP respectability. I don’t blame Tupper for wanting to keep a time-honored family business alive under the most brutal economic conditions in recent memory. I blame him for not being more self-conscious about the larger significance of his actions. Changing a name to fit in with the WASPs is an embarassing chapter in our cultural history–even if it was just the name you gave to your whitefish, baked salmon salad and cream cheese sandwich.

What do you think?

About The Author

Josh became an editor-at-large after accruing exorbitant legal fees as the publisher of Heeb in his efforts to trademark the word "irreverent." Follow him on Twitter @joshuaneuman.

15 Responses

  1. bakazyaanai

    I heard you crying about it to a few people last night (maybe try not to yell so much when bitching about people, it draws attention especially when you’re the host). Maybe you were drunk, or thought that since most of your party patrons were under the

  2. brainyfox

    Oh man — Josh Neuman, I’m with you, the other Josh’s cover-up is infuriating and such a shame! Gentiles, WASPs, whomever, would have enjoyed and related to the real story. Sad sad.

    And uh, bakazyaanai… WTF? You’re not making any sense… my dog must

  3. iconic

    You are too kind to Mr. Tupper. He did not just tell a ‘ fish story.’ He did more than simply exaggerate. .. He lied…
    And by doing so, he has compromised the authenticity and the integrity of the Russ & Daughters brand.

  4. Hungry_Jew

    This whole controversy wreaks of a bunch of Jews having too much free time on their hands–still, I just watched the clip of Tupper on Martha and it does make me want to throw up whitefish in my mouth a little bit. Truly cringe-worthy.

  5. mrnhghts

    You guys are being too harsh on Tupper. He probably had good reason to worry that if he publicly admitted association with Heeb on Martha Stewart, the unruly Cossack community in Soho would get drunk the following Saturday night, march east, and pr

  6. Hungry_Jew

    Yeah, the LES must be getting dangerous. Tupper & Daughters should move to the suburbs (and get nose jobs and join country clubs while they’re at it).

  7. jewdar

    Yeah, and that prick should totally get all the products in his store kosher certified (We just figured as long as we’re venting, we should throw that in).

  8. mrnhghts

    jewdar, just a block and a half away, you have the knishery, which is under the kashrut supervision of Rabbi Harry Cohen.

    And in the off chance that you fear his supervision of potatoes isn’t strict enough for you, they sell bottled water.

  9. Puck

    Well said, bakazyaanai, I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve cried myself to sleep over the plight of the heterosexual WASP community…stll, everyone has their cross to bare, no?
    More to the point, I think it’s a bit outrageous to claim that one ‘made

  10. jewdar

    mrnhghts, do you ever take a break from being a nudnik? Are you planning a scathing expose about how Jewdar is trying to pressure Russ and Daughters into submitting to the kosher mafia?

  11. mrnhghts

    mrnhghts, do you ever take a break from being a nudnik?

    Shabbos and 1st day yontiff. Even a nudnik needs his rest.

  12. Hungry_Jew

    Josh TUpper is checking with Martha to see if it’s okay to make his store kosher.


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