Arriving at the Carnegie Delicatessen in New York one day, two men sat down at a Formica table. "I'm going to order lox," said one of the gentlemen, a non-Jewish businessman from the midwest. "What is lox?" asked his companion. "It's a delicate Jewish fish, you'll like it, it's not dry," said the first with conviction. "Try it with bagels and cream cheese."
Had the surly delicatessen waiter overheard this conversation, he may have told the gentleman that "lox" comes from the German "lachs" for salmon, and it is not particularly Jewish. He may also have said that most people are eating the more expensive Nova, short for Nova Scotia salmon, and imported smoked salmon, often cured with salt and brown sugar, then smoked.
Before refrigeration was efficient and widespread, the salmon that went into the Jewish delicatessens of the eastern United States came form Alaska packed in salt-brine barrels. It was then soaked in water to remove a good bit of the salt before it was sliced and sold as lox. "In the beginning there was lox," said Mark Federman, owner of Russ & Daughters.
Since World War II the salmon that provides lox for the East Coast market usually arrives frozen and is treated with salt for three days to months, then desalted, lightly smoked, sliced, and sold. Today when people say lox, chances are they mean Nova.
Russ & Daughters in NY
Mr. Russ and his Daughers