Answer Man: The school of hard lox

News-DemocratJanuary 10, 2014 

When I was in college (Illinois State University -- Go Redbirds!), my friends and I would walk to the local deli and get bagels with cream cheese and lox. They were great! Since then, I have been served smoked salmon with my bagel, but it doesn't seem the same. What is the difference between smoked salmon and lox? Is there a place locally to get lox? -- DRR

Pardon the pun, but it sounds as if you've become a student at the school of hard lox.

You see, as I thought about your question, it immediately reminded me of my complaint about macaroni salad. My mom made a mac salad to die for with just the right combo of noodles, eggs, celery, mayo, etc. I almost could clean out a bowl at one sitting. I've never found anything to match it -- probably because there are so many ways to fix the dish.

Apparently, the same is true for lox and smoked salmon, according to Max Protzel, whose grandfather started Protzel's Delicatessen in St. Louis 60 years ago. He tells me that any number of factors may produce a fishy treat that varies in taste from deli to deli.

That said, some websites do suggest two major differences between some types of lox and simple smoked salmon. As the name indicates, smoked salmon is just that -- smoked, whether cold-smoked or hot-smoked. Some say lox -- especially American lox -- is a fillet of salmon that has been soaked in a salt and sugar solution and cured, but not smoked.

In addition, purists apparently believe that true lox is made only from the belly portion of the salmon, which is usually the richest, fattiest and tastiest part of the salmon. It's also reportedly saltier and more "aromatic" than its milder counterparts.

"If you're lucky enough to try it on a bagel with cream cheese, it's hard to go back," reported one critic at www.foodrepublic.com. (The word "lox," by the way, apparently comes from "lachs," the German word for salmon.)

Protzel, however, said he is unaware of a smoked-unsmoked difference. As far as he knows, lox is salmon that has been brined, cured and smoked. However, he adds, various companies may use different brining solutions, different woods for smoking and various curing durations, all of which may produce tastes that differ from what you remember. There are also various varieties, including regular lox, Scottish lox, gravlax and Nova lox, which seems to be more popular in the U.S.

And, while I'm thinking about it, I don't know how old you are, but your question reminds me of how there sometimes seems to be a difference between how things taste later in life and how we remember them to taste. For example, I wonder if a Wainwright's hamburger would be as tasty today as what I recall after winning a first-place medal in an eighth-grade music contest.

Of course, that may not enter into at all, so you may just have to keep trying delis until you find something closer to your memories. (Protzel's is at 7608 Wydown in Clayton if you're so inclined.) Or you might try to make your own; search for "lox recipe" at www.myjewishlearning.com.

Otherwise, you may have to borrow Doc Brown's time-traveling DeLorean and head back to the Normal of your college years. Lox of luck!

Icing the question: In my recent answer to whether Sonja Henie skated in St. Louis, I found only one documented instance on April 7, 1936.

But an 83-year-old woman called to assure me that Henie returned for encore performances after that with the ice shows she started. The woman remembers because before her 60-year marriage, her boyfriend bought some great seats at the old Arena to see the Olympic great.

"So she was definitely there in the '50s," the woman said on her message.

Today's trivia

Who is thought to be the first singer to record an album on magnetic tape? The year was 1946.

Answer to Thursday's trivia: No wonder U.S. senators need a six-year term -- it may take them that long just to become acquainted with their ethics manual. It's a monster that runs more than 500 pages as it covers gifts, conflicts of interest and just about any other potential trouble-making item you can imagine. (You wonder how any senator could possibly run afoul of the law after reading it.) One 16-page section focuses on the franking privilege -- rules that must be obeyed to send mail without postage. One of those rules on page 168 states that "Personal references (i.e. the use of a Senator's name or the word 'Senator' in place of the Senator's name) may not appear in a newsletter or other mass mailing more than an average of eight times per page." The section then goes on to define page size, use of pictures and other no-nos. Read it yourself if you wish at www.ethics.senate.gov. Click on "Publications."

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

Belleville News-Democrat is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service