One of the joys of my childhood was bagels, cream cheese, onions, and lox on Sunday morning, with fresh bagels from Silber’s (a Northwest Baltimore institution long since closed).
Bagels, of course, are now largely unavailable, though toroidal pillows called bagels are ubiquitous. I am not the only one to have noted, and mourned, their passing: when you’d eaten a real bagel, you knew you’d been in a fight.
By contrast, the disappearance of lox has not been widely commented on. Real Jewish lox (not, properly speaking, “smoked salmon” — lox is cured by a process different from smoking) is salty, fishy, and oily. It’s sometimes called “belly lox” to distinguish it from the much milder and more expensive “Nova”: Nova Scotia cold-cured salmon.
Now I have no ethical objection to Nova, but it seems to me a bad compromise between honest belly lox and the lovely, delicate flavor of gravlax. Actually, maybe I do have an ethical objection: I suspect Jews who eat Nova, especially if they call it “smoked salmon,” of “flattering themselves with contrarieties of pleasure,” trying to be yiddish and goyish simultaneously.
Anyway, belly lox is even harder to find than real bagels.
So here’s the good news: the Farmer’s Ranch Market where I get my produce — a market which I think is owned by Russian Jews — has something called “cold-smoked steelhead,” which seems to be a very close substitute for belly lox, and costs $5 a pound. So if you’re in LA, and jonesing for belly lox, your troubles are over. If not, check in your area for cold-smoked steelhead.