We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
For Passover, a friend sent along his reminiscences of growing up Jewish:
Brisket is not the same as Corned Beef!
This goes back 2 generations, 3 if you are over 50. It also explains why many Jewish men died in their early 60′s with a non-functional cardiovascular system and looked like today’s men at 89.
Before we start, there are some variations in ingredients because of the various types of Jewish taste (Polack, Litvack, Deutch and Gallicianer). Sephardic is for another time.
Just as we Jews have six seasons of the year (winter, spring, summer, autumn, the slack season, and the busy season), we all focus on a main ingredient which, unfortunately and undeservedly, has disappeared from our diet. I’m talking, of course, about SCHMALTZ (chicken fat).
SCHMALTZ has, for centuries, been the prime ingredient in almost every Jewish dish, and I feel it’s time to revive it to its rightful place in our homes. (I have plans to distribute it in a green glass Gucci bottle with a label clearly saying: “low fat, no cholesterol, Newman’s Choice, extra virgin SCHMALTZ.” (It can’t miss!) Then there are grebenes – pieces of chicken skin, deep fried in SCHMALTZ, onions and salt until crispy brown (Jewish bacon). This makes a great appetizer for the next cardiologist’s convention.
There’s also a nice chicken fricassee (stew) using the heart, gorgle (neck) pipick (gizzard – a great delicacy, given to the favorite child), a fleegle (wing) or two, some ayelech (little premature eggs) and other various chicken innards, in a broth of SCHMALTZ, water, paprika, etc. We also have knishes (filled dough) and the eternal question, “Will that be liver, beef or potatoes, or all three?”
Other time-tested favorites are kishkeh, and its poor cousin, helzel (chicken or goose neck). Kishkeh is the gut of the cow, bought by the foot at the Kosher butcher. It is turned inside out, scalded and scraped. One end is sewn up and a mixture of flour, SCHMALTZ, onions, eggs, salt, pepper, etc., is spooned into the open end and squished down until it is full. The other end is sewn and the whole thing is boiled. Often, after boiling, it is browned in the oven so the skin becomes crispy. Yummy!
My personal all-time favorite is watching my Zaida (grandpa) munch on boiled chicken feet.
For our next course we always had chicken soup with pieces of yellow-white, rubbery chicken skin floating in a greasy sea of lokshen (noodles), farfel (broken bits of matzah), tzibbeles (onions), mondlech (soup nuts), kneidlach (dumplings), kasha (groats), kliskelech and marech (marrow bones) . The main course, as I recall, was either boiled chicken, flanken, kackletten, hockfleish (chopped meat), and sometimes rib steaks, which were served either well done, burned or cremated. Occasionally we had barbecued liver done to a burned and hardened perfection in our own coal furnace.
Since we couldn’t have milk with our meat meals, beverages consisted of cheap soda (Kik, Dominion Dry, seltzer in the spritz bottles). In Philadelphia it was usually Franks Black Cherry Wishniak (vishnik).
Growing up Jewish - below the fold -
If you are Jewish, and grew up in city with a large Jewish population, the following will invoke heartfelt memories.
The Yiddish word for today is PULKES (PUHL-kees). Translation: THIGHS. Please note: this word has been traced back to the language of one of the original Tribes of Israel , the Cellulites.
The only good advice that your Jewish mother gave you was: “Go! You might meet somebody!”
You grew up thinking it was normal for someone to shout “Are you
okay?” through the bathroom door when you were in there longer than 3
Your family dog responded to commands in Yiddish.
Every Saturday morning your father went to the neighbourhood deli
(called an “appetitizing store”) for whitefish salad, whitefish “chubs”,
lox (nova if you were rich!), herring, corned beef, roast beef, cole
slaw, potato salad, a 1/2-dozen huge barrel pickles which you reached
into the brine for, a dozen assorted bagels, cream cheese and rye bread
(sliced while he waited). All of which would be strictly off-limits
until Sunday morning.
Every Sunday afternoon was spent visiting your grandparents and/or other relatives.
You experienced the phenomenon of 50 people fitting into a
10-foot-wide dining room hitting each other with plastic plates trying
to get to a deli tray.
You had at least one female relative who penciled on eyebrows which were always asymmetrical.
You thought pasta was stuff used exclusively for Kugel and kasha with bowties.
You were as tall as your grandmother by the age of seven.
You were as tall as your grandfather by age seven and a half.
You never knew anyone whose last name didn’t end in one of 5 standard suffixes (berg, baum, man, stein and witz).
You were surprised to discover that wine doesn’t always taste like cranberry sauce.
You can look at gefilte fish and not turn green.
When your mother smacked you really hard, she continued to make you feel bad for hurting her hand.
You can understand Yiddish but you can’t speak it.
You know how to pronounce numerous Yiddish words and use them
correctly in context, yet you don’t know exactly what they mean.
You’re still angry at your parents for not speaking both Yiddish and English to you when you were a baby.
You have at least one ancestor who is somehow related to your spouse’s ancestor.
You thought speaking loud was normal.
You considered your Bar or Bat Mitzvah a “Get Out of Hebrew School Free” card.
You think eating half a jar of dill pickles is a wholesome snack.
You’re compelled to mention your grandmother’s “steel cannonballs” upon seeing fluffy matzo balls served at restaurants.
Your mother or grandmother took personal pride when a Jew was noted
for some accomplishment (showbiz, medicine, politics, etc.) and was
ashamed and embarrassed when a Jew was accused of a crime as if they
You thought only non-Jews went to sleep-away colleges. Jews went to
city schools… unless they had scholarships or made an Ivy League school.
And finally, you knew that Sunday night and the night after any Jewish holiday was designated for Chinese food.
All right on target. Mouth wateringly good.
Except, how come our grandparents lived to 85 or 95, and mine at least never seemed to slow down until very near the end?
Over the years, and lots of trial and error, I've perfectly recreated some of my grandmother's recipes, my boys love them, and as once or twice a year treats "what can they hurt!" (said with the proper Yiddish inflection).
Years ago my father and I found a restaurant near the harbor in Ensenada that only served chicken soup with chicken feet. We glowed at the memory and how we chewed at the feet. The place was always packed. When they fixed up the harbor area for cruise ships, the restaurant closed. We looked and looked to see if it relocated, but never found it again. Deep loss.
BTW, at 67, my cholesterol is still fine. Must be a genetic resistance. (Plus, Nyafat is a reasonable substitute for schmaltz when I make chopped liver, turkey livers making a better one than chicken livers).
My grandmother was a great cook. I still remember the Sunday suppers with Borscht, Potato Soup w/dill and the crispy Latkes.
One of the local delis still makes Chicken liver with lots of chicken fat. It's easily the best in Montreal.