like gefilte fish. if you’re jewish–or an “honorary jew,” as i say, i.e. you spend so much time w/us jews that you’re practically jewish yourself and “oy vey” with the best of us–you’re no stranger to this food. i didn’t realize it was…well, a little weird, until holly and i were together a couple years and i introduced her to it.
“what,” she whispered discreetly in my ear as we attended her very first seder, “is this?”
“it’s gefilte fish,” i whispered back. “it’s…” i paused. suddenly i didn’t know how to describe it.
how could i get this girl from western pee-ay to try a food made from a number of fish–man i didn’t even know what kind of fish were in it. hell, some gefilite fish has carp (overgrown goldfish, basically) in it, something i purposely ignore or else i wouldn’t eat it.
to add insult to injury, it’s preserved on dusty supermarket shelves nationwide in fish jelly. (yes! fish jelly) it also has eggs in it. and matzah meal. and it’s boiled. oh and you slather it with horseradish (horseradish w/beets) before you eat it. and…yeah.
“it’s good,” i assured her as she stared wide-eyed at her plate. “it’s a traditional jewish food. try it. you might like it.”
sport that she is, she tried it. and…didn’t like it.
how could this be? i wondered. how could she not like gefilte fish? and this was the homemade kind. not even a hint of the gross, translucent jiggly fish jelly. (ok, now i’m talking myself out of liking it. i’d better stop w/the jelly talk or else i’ll never eat it again.)
suddenly it dawned on me: gefilte fish is an acquired taste. one of those ethnic foods you just grow up with and ignore its inherant grossness/weirdness b/c it’s been a part of your life for so long.
i’m bringing this up now b/c it’s passover. passover is the holiday for gefilte fish and other odd foods such as chocolate-covered matzah (omg i LOVE chocolate-covered matzah; the exact reason i didn’t buy any this year. i will eat it all.) yeah, passover is basically the festival of gefilte fish. if you love gefilte fish, this is your time to shine, baby.
please share your acquired, ethnic foods w/me. let’s see if you can beat minced whitefish/pike/grown goldfish preserved in a translucent fish jelly served with horseradish and beets. happy passover!
My grandmother and great aunt used to make their own gefilte fish in big metal pans. They would spend days picking bones and grinding the fish up into a puree and blend it in with carrots and sugar, salt and vinegar. Aw man, those were the days. I actually just hounded cousin Jen for the recipe because I feel like it’s something I should do, just once!
I so love the gefilte! But I always had to go with the ones in the broth. The jelly made me totally ill!
you’re hardcore gefilte, j! i love it. happy pesach to you, too! xxo!
You know, as we learned in Fatimah’s BioAnth class, there are genetic reasons why people with similar lineage like certain foods. That being said, I feel like I am making my ancestors happy when I feed Netanya gefilte fish (which she happens to love) and chopped liver. I think the only Ashkenazic foods that I really don’t like are lox and herring.
When I was in Romania I was lucky enough to have real old skool gefilte fish (that was actually stuffed back into the fish skin, hence the name). It was to-die-for. I wasn’t actually supposed to have it because it was only at the “important people” table, but the cheif rabbi gave me his.
i am loving these stories! i agree about making the ancestors happy. i felt i was making my late grandma happy the first time i made her chicken soup.
p.s. shosh, you are such a bioanth. thru and thru 😉
Even though my mom has been making delicious home-made gefilte fish my entire life, even I didn’t start eating it until a few years ago.
See also: Manishewitz